The Global Pontificate of Pius XII. Catholicism in a Divided World, 1945–1958

PD Dr. Simon Unger (Principal Investigator)

Pius XII, visit to the San Lorenzo district of Rome after a bombing, 13 August 1943 (© Wikimedia Commons).

We are a group of historians analyzing newly available sources on Pope Pius XII in the Vatican Archives. Our team unites scholars from the German Historical Institutes in Rome and Warsaw, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the University of Oxford, KU Leuven, Fribourg University, and Collegium Carolinum Munich.
While the opening of the Apostolic Archive in 2020 has been accompanied by strong media attention and many questions about the Church's actions during the Second World War, this group will focus on the post-war period and the Vatican's role in globalization. How did it react to the Cold War, to decolonization, the historical memory of the Holocaust, and to the democratization of the Western world?
These are the questions that the scholars in this group will be researching not only in the Vatican, but also in archives in Europe, Israel, Africa, and Latin America. Ultimately, our project aims to transcend classical thematic labels such as "church history" or "religious history". Instead, it engages with newer approaches of global, transnational and postcolonial history. Thereby, this research will re-introduce questions about religion into the modern post-war historiography. It will demonstrate that an adequate understanding of the Vatican's political and cultural role is crucial to explain the great transformative processes of the twentieth century.

Project within the framework of a Transnational Research Group funded by the Max Weber Foundation
Cooperation partners

Project team

Podcast "Die Rolle von Papst Pius XII. und der katholischen Kirche in der europäischen Nachkriegszeit" (#14 Wissen entgrenzen – Der Podcast der Max Weber Stiftung)