Light in our darkness – celebrating Divino Afflante Spiritu

Adrian Graffy

Seventy-five years after the publication of Pope Pius XII’s ground-breaking encyclical on the Bible, Adrian Graffy examines its contents and assesses its impact. The author is chair of the Scripture Working Group of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

On 19 July 1943 Pope Pius XII made a visit to the Tiburtino quarter of Rome. Allied bombing had flattened the ancient church of San Lorenzo. Having emptied his bank account, the Roman pope rushed to the area, prayed with the people and provided practical assistance. Some weeks later, in the early hours of 16 October, the Jews of Rome were rounded up by the Nazi occupying forces. Pius immediately telephoned the German ambassador, and instructed the Cardinal Secretary of State, Luigi Maglione, to lodge a formal protest with the German authorities. As a result of Pius’ quick intervention the arrests were brought to an end by 2 pm on the same day.1 Furthermore, Pope Pius immediately gave orders to parishes, convents and monasteries to provide places of refuge for the Jews.2 Pope Pius XII, who had become pope just before the beginning of the Second World War, would lead the Catholic Church until his death at Castelgandolfo on 9 October 1958.

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