Pascalina Lehnert

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Madre Pascalina in 1983 at age 88

Madre (Mother) Pascalina Lehnert (25 August 1894, Ebersberg, Kingdom of Bavaria, German Empire – 13 November 1983, Vienna, Austria), born Josefina Lehnert, was a German Roman Catholic nun who served as Pope Pius XII's housekeeper and secretary from his period as Apostolic Nuncio to Bavaria in 1917 until his death as pope in 1958. She managed the papal charity office for Pius XII from 1944 until the pontiff's death in 1958. She was a Sister of the Holy Cross, Menzingen order.

Households[edit]

"Madre Pascalina", as she was called, led the Pacelli household in the nunciature in Munich, Bavaria from 1917 to 1925 and in the nunciature to Germany and Prussia in Berlin from 1925 to 1929, where Nuncio Pacelli was Dean of the Diplomatic Corps. There she became known for organizing the Pacelli parties, "which were auspicious, tastefully sprinkling glitter with the strictest European etiquette.... The nunciature was soon a major center of Germany’s social and official worlds. Streams of aristocrats, including President Paul von Hindenburg (one of Germany’s Field Marshals during World War I), were frequent callers, blending with students and workers, anyone whom Pacelli, the shrewdest of diplomats, chose to smile upon".[1]

Pacelli was recalled to Rome in 1929 to become Cardinal Secretary of State. Madre Pascalina soon resided as housekeeper with two other sisters in the Vatican.[2] and were the only women inside the Papal conclave, which, on 2 March 1939, elected Pacelli to become the successor of Pope Pius XI.

Papal charities 1944-1958[edit]

Pius XII responded to Madre Pascalina in the aftermath of the war by organizing a two tier papal charity. Monsignore Ferdinando Baldelli, Carlo Egger and Otto Faller started on behalf of the pope the official Pontificia Commissione di Assistenza[3] Madre Pascalina was asked by the Pope to direct his personal charity efforts, officially under Monsignor Montini, later Pope Paul VI, with whom she seemed to have a complicated relationship. To assist the pope in the many calls for his help and charity, Pascalina organized and led the Magazzino, a private papal charity office which employed up to 40 helpers and continued until 1959. "It started from modest beginnings and became a gigantic charity".[4]

By Christmas 1944, housing had been provided at the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo, a papal residence in Castel Gandolfo, for 15,000 refugees from the invading Nazi forces. Inside the Vatican, Mother Pascalina was in charge of housing, clothing and food for the as many Jewish refugees as the walls could hold. By the end of the war, no less than 200,000 Jews had been sheltered and fed inside the Holy City under her supervision.[5] In addition to this, 12,000 packages were delivered to the children of Rome alone, many of which were handed out by Pope Pius XII himself.[6] Lehnert organized truck caravans filled with medicine, clothing, shoes and food to prison camps and hospitals, provided first aid, food and shelter for bomb victims, fed the hungry population of Rome, answered emergency calls for aid to the Pope, sent care packages to France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Germany and Austria and other countries.[citation needed]

After the war, the calls for papal help continued in war-torn Europe: Madre Pascalina organized emergency aid to displaced persons, prisoners of war, victims of floods, and many victims of the war. She distributed also hundreds of religious items to needy priests. In later years, priests with very large parishes received small cars or motor bikes. The Pope would ask bishops from the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Switzerland, Canada, Mexico, and other countries for help.[citation needed]

Autobiography[edit]

Madre Pascalina wrote her autobiography in 1959. Church authorities permitted its publication only in 1982.[7] In some 200 pages she describes the human qualities and sense of humor of Eugenio Pacelli (Pope Pius XII), whom she served for 41 years. It also describes historical events such the papal conclave of 1939, occurrences during World War II, the consistory of 1946, beatifications, the Holy Year 1950, and the illness and death of the pope. Madre Pascalina also published several articles, in which she described the daily life and routine of the pontiff.[citation needed]

Honors[edit]

In 1958 Madre Pascalina was awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (For the Church and the Pope) medal by Pope John XXIII. In 1969 she received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz) from the West Germany and in 1980 the Bavarian Order of Merit. In 1981, the Austrian President awarded her the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria (Goldenes Ehrenzeichen für Verdienste um die Republik Österreich).

Death[edit]

Madre Pascalina died from a cerebral hemorrhage in Vienna, aged 89, in 1983. She is buried at the Vatican Camposanto (cemetery). Several bishops and cardinals, among them Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, also Bavarian, attended her funeral.[citation needed]

Works[edit]

  • Lehnert, Pascalina. Ich durfte Ihm Dienen, Erinnerungen an Papst Pius XII. Naumann, Würzburg, 1986
  • Lehnert, Pascalina; Susan Johnson (transl.). His Humble Servant: Sister M. Pascalina Lehnert's Memoirs of Her Years of Service to Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII. Saint Augustine's Press, South Bend. February 2014. ISBN 978-1-58731-367-7. (first English translation)

Sources[edit]

  • Lehnert, Pascalina. Ich durfte Ihm Dienen, Erinnerungen an Papst Pius XII. Naumann, Würzburg, 1986
  • Lehnert, P. Brief (Letter of Madre Pascalina), Archiv Institut Menzingen, 1 February 1944
  • Lehnert, P. Brief (Letter of Madre Pascalina), Archiv Institut Menzingen, 16 February 1944
  • Lehnert, P. Brief (Letter of Madre Pascalina), Archiv Institut Menzingen, 7 April 1944
  • Lehnert, P. Brief (Letter of Madre Pascalina), Archiv Institut Menzingen, 19 May 1944
  • Lehnert, P. La giornata del pontefice Pio XII, Osservatore Romano, Città del Vaticano, 22 March 1952
  • Mazzolari, Primo. La carità del papa, Pio XII e la ricostruzione dell’Italia, Edizione Paoline, 1991
  • Murphy, Paul I. and Arlington, R. Rene. La Popessa: The Controversial Biography of Sister Pascalina, the Most Powerful Woman in Vatican History. Warner Books, New York. 1983. ISBN 0-446-51258-3
  • Schad, Marta. Gottes mächtige Dienerin, Schwester Pascalina und Papst Pius XII. Herbig, München, 2007

References[edit]

  1. ^ Murphy, Paul I. and Arlington, R. Rene. (1983). La Popessa: The Controversial Biography of Sister Pascalina, the Most Powerful Woman in Vatican History. New York: Warner Books Inc. ISBN 0-446-51258-3. p. 59
  2. ^ Cornwell, John (1999). Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII. Viking. ISBN 0-670-87620-8. Murphy, Paul I.; Arlington, R. Rene (1983). La Popessa: The Controversial Biography of Sister Pascalina, the Most Powerful Woman in Vatican History. New York: Warner Books Inc. ISBN 0-446-51258-3. For a short interval, she stayed in private quarters due to renovations of the Vatican quarters of the Secretary of State, which Cornwell and Murphy take as an indication that her position in Rome was not secure. Schad, Martha (2007). Gottes Mächtige Dienerin, Schwester Pascalina und Papst Pius XII. Herbig, München. During this time Pacelli's sister Elisabetta reportedly displayed some rivalry toward Madre Pascalina.
  3. ^ Mazzolari, Primo. La Carita Del Papa, Pio XII.e la ricostruzione dell’Italia, Edizione Paoline, 1991
  4. ^ Lehnert, Pascalina. Ich durfte Ihm Dienen, Naumann, Würzburg, 1986, p. 104
  5. ^ Murphy, Paul. La Popessa. Warner Books, 1983. pp. 209–229
  6. ^ Schad, Martha. Gottes Mächtige Dienerin, Schwester Pascalina und Papst Pius XII. Herbig, München, 2007, p. 112
  7. ^ Pascalina Lehnert, Ich durfte Ihm Dienen, Naumann, Würzburg, 1982, 1986.