Archbishop Lefebvre and Pius XII

Papst Pius XII verfolgt mit Interesse und Bewunderung das Werk der Missionen in Afrika

Each year Archbishop Lefebvre went to Rome. He met with the Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, and sometimes he had to be insistent to obtain subsidies.

Most importantly, he paid a visit to the pope. Pius XII told him about his fears of a Communist takeover in Africa, like the one in China, from which the missionaries were expelled: “Prepare an African Church,” the Pontiff said. Archbishop Lefebvre listened and shared this concern. But when he gave the pope a report on his activity, Pius XII was astonished at the growing number of priests, men and women religious belonging to all sorts of institutes, from Europe and America, whom Marcel Lefebvre was attracting to Dakar and whom, following his example, his colleagues were bringing into their dioceses.

Roman idealism and African reality

The archbishop then made the Supreme Pontiff understand the African situation:


Most Holy Father, an indigenous Church cannot grow all alone. The reason why I bring so many missionary or teaching congregations to Africa is to accelerate the development of this Church of Africa: Africa will still need missionaries and Europe’s influence.

That, however, was not the opinion generally held in Rome.... In later years he said:


Pius XII was a man whom one approached only with great respect. But he knew how to listen; a certain sympathy developed between us. He understood my combat.

As for Pius XII, one day he said to a visitor:


Did you see that man who just left my residence? That is Archbishop Lefebvre, the best of my apostolic delegates.