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Pascalina Lehnert

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1983pasca

One of the last pictures of Madre Pascalina, taken when she was 88 in 1983.

Madre (Mother) Pascalina Lehnert (August 25, 1894—November 13, 1983), born Josefina Lehnert, was a German Roman Catholic nun who served as Pope Pius XII's housekeeper and secretary from his period as Nuncio to Bavaria in 1917 until his death as pope in 1958. She managed the papal charity office for Pius XII from its beginning in 1944 to 1958. She was born in Ebersberg.

She died from a brain hemorrhage in Vienna, at age 89.

Households

"Madre Pascalina", as she was called, led the Pacelli household in the nunciature in Munich, Bavaria from 1917 to 1925 and 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 March 2, elected Pacelli to become the successor of Pope Pius XI.

Undocumented Roman stories called her Virgo Potens, powerful virgin; Romans described the "power" of the first women in the Vatican in colourful ways at the time. Few stories are documented. Many anecdotes about the Pope are in the below-mentioned autobiography of Madre Pascalina, which is actually a biography of Pius XII.


Papal charities 1944-1958

Pius XII responded to Madre Pascalina and the human tragedies 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 Magazino, 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, 12000 packages were delivered to the children of Rome alone, many of which were handed over by Pope Pius XII himself.[5] Pascalina 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. 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. Pascalina 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 was personally involved, constantly asking bishops from the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Switzerland, Canada, Mexico, and other countries for help. Cardinals and Bishops freely visited Madre Pascalina, who by now was nicknamed Virgo Potens, powerful virgin.

Autobiography

Madre Pascalina wrote her autobiography in 1959. Church authorities permitted its publication only in 1982.[6] In some 200 pages she describes the human qualities and sense of humor of the late Pope, whom she served for 41 years. It includes numerous personal impressions on the personality of Eugenio Pacelli, 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 Pope Pius XII. Historically significant are the detailed descriptions of the personality of Pius XII, for whom she worked over forty years. Madre Pascalina also published several articles, in which she described the daily life and routine of the pontiff.

Honors

Madre Pascalina received in 1958 the Papal Order Pro Ecclesia and Pontifice from Pope John XXIII. In 1969 she received the Bundesverdienstkreuz from the Federal Republic of Germany and in 1980 the Bavarian Order of Merit. In 1981, the Austrian President awarded her the Goldenes Ehrenzeichen für Verdienste um die Republik Österreich.

During her lifetime, the influential Madre Pascalina was not without adversaries in the male dominated Vatican, which gave rise to much gossip and stories. Her communication style was clear, determined, more Prussian than Austrian, not always soft or diplomatic like the normal communication of the Holy See was. Madre Pascalina died in 1983. She is buried at the Vatican Camposanto (cemetery). Several bishops and cardinals, among them Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, himself a Bavarian too, attended her funeral.

References

  • Lehnert,Pascalina Ich durfte Ihm Dienen, Erinnerungen an Papst Pius XII. Naumann, Würzburg, 1986
  • Lehnert Pascalina Brief (Letter of Madre Pascalina), Archiv Institut Menzingen, 1.2.1944
  • Lehnert Pascalina (BriefLetter of Madre Pascalina), Archiv Institut Menzingen, 16.2.1944
  • Lehnert Pascalina (Brief Letter of Madre Pascalina), Archiv Institut Menzingen, 7.4.1944
  • Lehnert Pascalina Brief (Letter of Madre Pascalina), Archiv Institut Menzingen, 19.5.1944
  • Lehnert Pascalina, La Giornata del Pontifice Pio XII., Osservatore Romano,Citta del Vaticano, March 22, 1952
  • Mazzolari, Primo, La Carita Del Papa, Pio XII.e la ricostruzione dell’Italia, Edizione Paoline, 1991
  • 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
  • Schad Marta, Gottes mächtige Dienerin, Schwester Pascalina und Papst Pius XII. Herbig, München, 2007

Notes

  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. For a short interval, she stayed in private quarters due to renovations of the Vatican quarters of the Secretary of State, which was interpreted by both Cornwell and Murphy that her position in Rome was not secure Cornwell, John. Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII. Viking. (1999). ISBN 0-670-87620-8. 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. During this time Pacelli’s sister Elisabetta reportedly displayed some rivalries to Madre Pascalina. Martha Schad, Gottes Mächtige Dienerin, Schwester Pascalina und Papst Pius XII. Herbig, München, 2007
  3. Primo Mazzolari, La Carita Del Papa, Pio XII.e la ricostruzione dell’Italia, Edizione Paoline, 1991)
  4. Pascalina Lehnert, Ich durfte Ihm Dienen, Naumann, Würzburg, 1986, p.104)
  5. Martha Schad, Gottes Mächtige Dienerin, Schwester Pascalina und Papst Pius XII. Herbig, München, 2007, p.112
  6. Pascalina Lehnert, Ich durfte Ihm Dienen, Naumann, Würzburg, 1982, 1986.


la:Paschalina Lehnert

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