The Global Papacy of Pius XII

Catholicism in a Divided World, 1945-1958

Following public debates about the role of the Catholic Church during the Second World War, a new research group of the Max-Weber-Foundation will now retrace the Vatican’s history after 1945. Although a period of accelerating secularization, the pontificate of Pius XII witnessed the re-emergence of the Catholic Church as an influential global force. In these conflict-laden, but also dynamic years, the Vatican occupied a central role in international politics. Simultaneously, it took strong positions in ideological conflicts and thus actively shaped the international political landscape.

The new Transnational Research Group will build a long-lasting team of scholars who conduct research on Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Israel. The Research Group is a collaboration between the German Historical Institutes in Rome and Warsaw. Further institutional partners are the LMU Munich, the Collegium Carolinum Munich, the Latin American Centre/University of Oxford, the École Française de Rome, the Hebrew University/Sicsa, the University of Leuven/KADOC and the University of Fribourg.

Overall, the group will cover four large research areas:

1.   The Cold War

2.   Decolonization in the Global South

3.   Historical Memory of WWII and the Holocaust

4.   Democratization of the Western World

Together, these four themes form an interconnected field of research in which historians face a multitude of questions: What were the major institutional, social, and religious changes in the global Catholic community under Pius XII’s papacy? What was the Vatican’s attitude towards democracy and human rights as well as totalitarian and authoritarian regimes? How did Pius XII and the curia cope with the legacies of fascism, collaboration, and the Shoah within the Catholic Church? How did the Holy See react to the foundation of Israel or to movements of de-colonization in Africa and Asia?

These are some of 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, the 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.

Find out more about the Transnational Research Group “The Global Papacy of Pius XII” here.

The funding format of the Max Weber Foundation’s Transnational Research Group was set out in 2012. The format aims to create cross-border humanities networks, above all with regions where German institutions have until now been underrepresented. In addition, the Transnational Research Groups are meant to help develop sustainable research infrastructures even beyond the project period. To achieve this, an institute of the Max Weber Foundation can receive financial support in the amount of EUR 500,000 per year for up to five years.

The first Transnational Research Group of the Max Weber Foundation on “Poverty Reduction and Policy for the Poor between State and Private Actors: Education Policy in India since the Nineteenth Century” (2013-2017) was established by the German Historical Institute London in New Delhi, India. The second Transnational Research Group “The Bureaucratization of African Societies” (2017-2021) was established by the German Historical Institute Paris in Dakar, Senegal.



Dr. Simon Unger-Alvi


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I-00165 Roma; Italy