Testament of Pope Pius XII

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Pope Pius XII signed his testament (will) on May 15, 1956, some fifteen months before his death. Unlike the testaments of his predecessor Pius X and successor John Paul II, it is a very short document, omitting names, details and designations of individual material belongings.

Supporters of Pope Pius XII view the testament as a testimonial of his modesty and spiritual holiness.[1] It has been quoted at memorial events in his honour and is allegedly a part of the documentation of his beatification process underway in Rome.

Noteworthy is the first sentence in Latin: Miserere mei, Deus, secundum (magnam) misericordiam tuam (Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your great mercy; Psalm 50). When the Pope pronounced these words after his election March 2, 1939, the word magnam was a part of the cited Psalm. However the new 1956 translation left out this word. In order to be correct in his 1939 quote, Pope Pius put (magnam) in parentheses.


Miserere mei, Deus, secundum (magnam) misericordiam tuam

These words, which, aware of my unworthiness and insufficiency, I pronounced at the moment, in which with trepidation I accepted the election as Pope, I now repeat with even greater justification, because I am even more aware of my unworthiness and insufficiency after inadequacies and errors during so long a pontificate and so serious an epoch. I humbly ask pardon from all those, whom I have hurt, harmed or discomforted by word or deed.

I ask those, whose affair it is, not to bother any monuments to my memory. It is sufficient, that my poor remains are buried in a sacred place, the more hidden the better. It is not necessary that I ask for prayers for my soul. I know, how many prayers are the custom of the Apostolic See, and the piety of the faithful, for every Pope who dies.

Nor is it necessary that I leave a “spiritual testament” as so many zealous prelates in praiseworthy fashion used to do. The numerous writings and speeches which I published or delivered while executing my office, suffice, for whoever might like to know my thoughts on different questions of religion and ethics.

Having said this, I name as my universal heir the Holy Apostolic See, from which I have received so much as from a loving mother

May 15, 1956

Alternative translation[edit]

Another translation of the Testament was given by Dorothy Day in Catholic Worker magazine.[2] The naming of faults has an extra phrase: "sins committed". This is a significant inclusion, knowing Day's admiration of Pius XII (She calls him "our dear Holy Father" in the article giving the alternate translation). Dropping the strong words "sins committed" would need to be explained. Also interesting is the translation "scandalized". The complete listing of faults follows:

I now repeat with even more foundation at a time in which knowledge of the deficiencies, of the failures, of the sins committed during so long a pontificate and in so grave an epoch has made more clear to my mind my insufficiency and unworthiness.

I humbly ask pardon of all whom I may have offended, harmed or scandalized by word or by deed.


  1. ^ Raomondo Spiazzi, on October 9, 1992 Campo Santo Vaticano[vague]
  2. ^ Day, Dorothy (November 1958). "The Pope is Dead. Long Live the Pope/Viva John XXIII". The Catholic Worker (1): 2. Retrieved 3 November 2016.