read in Andrew Brown's review of Gerard Noel's book Pius XII: The Hound of Hitler the assertion who Pius XII contributed to causing the First World War and also contributed to causing the Second World War.
Before Gerard Noel tells us (unless he already has) that it was Pius XII that sank the Titanic, it will be as well to call to mind what Pius X11 was actually like.
In what follows. I am wholly indebted to Owen Chadwick's masterly work Britain and the Vatican During the Second World War (Cambridge University Press, 1986).
The most sensitive and illuminating portrait of Pope Pius XII is that by his assistant Mgr Domenico Tardini (later a cardinal) who worked with him under the previous Pope, Pius XI, and then through all the agonies of the Second World War and its aftermath.
Mgr Tardini wrote a biography of Pius XII published in 1959, Tardini's portrait of Pius XII was consistent: "refined, amiable, obliging, affectionate". The intelligence was quick, versatile, even brilliant. The memory was extraordinary. The dedication to duty was absolute. The Pope was capable of hours of work at a stretch.
Pius XII was shy of people, especially perhaps of bishops. He was a solitary, with very few intimates, with a touch of aloofness. And he was very gentle, so gentle that he hated a fight. He avoided controversial interviews. He postponed and postponed controversial decisions.
Altogether he was a very gentle, cultured, shy, very controlled, very prayerful, lonely man with a yearning Christian heart.
Sir D'Arcy Osborne, Britain's Ambassador to the Holy See, who lived in the Vatican during the war, and who saw Pius XII frequently, wrote a letter about him to the Times published on May 20 1963. It said: "So far from being a cool (which, I suppose, implies cold-blooded and inhumane) diplomatist, Pius XII was the most warmly humane, kind, generous, sympathetic (and incidentally saintly) character that it has been my privilege to meet in the course of a long life. I know that his sensitive nature was acutely and incessantly alive to the tragic volume of human suffering caused by the war and. without the slightest doubt, he would have been ready and glad to give his life to redeem humanity from its consequences, And this quite irrespective of nationality or faith. But what could he effectively do?"
Yours faithfully, SEAN O'CONNOR Tonbridge , Kent