Saturday, September 29, 2012

Frank Coppa's biography of Pius XII

Earlier this month I was approached to write a "blurb" for Professor Frank Coppa's new biography on Pope Pius XII.  I was honoured to do so. 

The book will be published by the Catholic University of America Press in February 2013.

I endorse it for several reasons.  Most significantly, this is a work that follows in the manner set out by Jose Maria Sanchez in his important book Pius XII: Understanding the Controversy (2002).  Coppa sets out to produce the life story of Pacelli using the available historical record. He treads a careful line between incorporation of essential material and exclusion of interesting but tangential information.  There is an excellent "setting of the scene" in the opening chapter that makes clear just how important context/s are in order to obtain a valid and historically accurate biography of the man and pope.

Placing the war years into the fuller context of Pius' 82 years, Coppa has helped the general reader and historian alike, gain perspective, something sorely needed, and does much to help ease the tensions surrounding study of Pacelli.  The lessons I learned revolved around two points: firstly, the articulate examination of papal politics including the much misunderstood neutrality; and secondly, the equally articulate presentation of the greater part of Pacelli's pontificate, the post-war and Cold War years 1945-1958.

I enjoyed reading Coppa's book.  I have placed it alongside Sanchez.  It should have a place on the book shelf of anyone seriously interested in a balanced and authoritative biography of Pope Pius XII.

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