Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
Soldier of Christ

Soldier of Christ

The Life of Pope Pius XII

Robert A. Ventresca

ISBN 9780674049611

Publication date: 01/15/2013

Request exam copy

Debates over the legacy of Pope Pius XII and his canonization are so heated they are known as the “Pius wars.” Soldier of Christ moves beyond competing caricatures and considers Pius XII as Eugenio Pacelli, a flawed and gifted man. While offering insight into the pope’s response to Nazism, Robert A. Ventresca argues that it was the Cold War and Pius XII’s manner of engaging with the modern world that defined his pontificate.

Laying the groundwork for the pope’s controversial, contradictory actions from 1939 to 1958, Ventresca begins with the story of Pacelli’s Roman upbringing, his intellectual formation in Rome’s seminaries, and his interwar experience as papal diplomat and Vatican secretary of state. Accused of moral equivocation during the Holocaust, Pius XII later fought the spread of Communism in Western Europe, spoke against the persecution of Catholics in Eastern Europe and Asia, and tackled a range of social and political issues. By appointing the first indigenous cardinals from China and India and expanding missions in Africa while expressing solidarity with independence movements, he internationalized the church’s membership and moved Catholicism beyond the colonial mentality of previous eras.

Drawing from a diversity of international sources, including unexplored documentation from the Vatican, Ventresca reveals a paradoxical figure: a prophetic reformer of limited vision whose leadership both stimulated the emergence of a global Catholicism and sowed doubt and dissension among some of the church’s most faithful servants.


  • This beautifully written biography will become the standard account of Pope Pius XII's life. In Ventresca's hands, this enigmatic Pope is neither lionized nor demonized. Instead, we see Pius XII as a soldier mired in the trenches, neither advancing nor wholly retreating into silence.

    —Charles R. Gallagher, author of Vatican Secret Diplomacy: Joseph P. Hurley and Pope Pius XII


  • Robert A. Ventresca is Associate Professor of History at King's University College at the University of Western Ontario.

Book Details

  • 432 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press