Past Conclaves and reluctant Popes: “Look what they have done to me!”

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The 1939 Conclave was the shortest in the twentieth century, lasting only two days and having three ballots.  Eugenio Pacelli was elected on the third ballot. Perhaps betraying a certain reluctance to assume the papal office, Pacelli insisted upon a final ballot to make certain that he was elected Pope.

His reluctance was further indicated when his housekeepers saw him arrayed as Pope and he told them with tears in his eyes, “Look what they have done to me!” 

With Europe being engulfed by Fascism and Communism and the world on the brink of another Great War after only a two decade respite, it is easy to understand  Pacelli’s reluctance to step into the shoes of the Fisherman at such a time.  However, reigning as Pius XII, he proved equal to all the many daunting challenges he confronted.

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