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Pius XII defender Sr. Margherita Marchione dies at 99

Sister Margherita Marchione

Italy in US | Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

John Burger - published on 05/31/21

New Jersey-based nun sought to counter accusations against wartime pope.

One of the most ardent — and prolific — defenders of Pope Pius XII, Sister Margherita Marchione, has died at the age of 99. Sr. Margherita, who had been a religious for 82 years, died on May 19 at her home in Morristown, New Jersey.

Sr. Margherita, who was a member of the Religious Teachers Filippini and who wrote about an Italian immigrant of the Revolutionary War period, took up the cause of Pius XII when she was approaching her 80s. She ended up publishing six books and countless articles about his efforts during the Second World War to save European Jews from Hitler’s plans to eliminate them. 

She often pointed to the fact that in the years after the war, many Jews, including former prime minister of Israel Golda Meir, themselves upheld Pius as someone who did his best to save those the Nazis threatened. But, following the debut of a theater production called The Deputy, by playwright Rolf Hochhuth, Pius gained a reputation as being someone who sympathized with Hitler at worst, or did nothing in response to the threat, at best. 

Sr. Margherita found evidence to dispute the calumnies, eventually documenting it in books such as: 

  • Yours Is a Precious Witness: Memoirs of Jews and Catholics in Wartime Italy (1997)
  • Pope Pius XII: Architect for Peace (2000)
  • The Fighting Nun: My Story (2000)
  • Consensus & Controversy: Defending Pope Pius XII (2002)
  • Shepherd of Souls: A Pictorial Life of Pope Pius XII (2003)
  • Crusade of Charity: Pius XII and POWs 1939-1945 (2006)
  • Did Pope Pius XII Help the Jews? (2007),
  • The Truth Will Set You Free: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Death of Pope Pius XII (2009)

Born in 1922 in Little Ferry, New Jersey, of Italian immigrants, Sr. Margherita entered the Religious Teachers Filippini in 1935. She received the habit in 1938, and made her religious profession in 1941. 

After receiving a B.A. degree from Georgian Court College, Sr. Margherita continued her studies in Italian at Columbia University, earning an M.A. and Ph.D. Sr. Margherita served as President of Walsh College for six years and as President of Corfinio College for 10 years. 

As professor of Italian Language and Literature at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey, for 20 years, Sr. Margherita authored numerous books on Philip Mazzei, an 18th-century Florentine who moved to Virginia, fought in the American Revolution, and became a lifelong personal friend of Thomas Jefferson. Sr. Margherita’s books have been donated to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello along with materials and artifacts. They describe a mostly unknown and neglected Italian Founding Father of America, as well as the Italian influence on the U.S. Constitution.

Sr. Margherita was the recipient of countless national and international honors and awards, including the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross, given her by Pope St. John Paul II. 

Sr. Margherita’s collection of research papers, books and artifacts of Pius XII has been placed in the special collections room in the Msgr. James C. Turro Seminary Library in Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology at Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey.

Donations in Sr. Margherita’s memory can be made to the St. Joseph Hall Infirmary, c/o Sr. Patricia Pompa, MPF, Provincial Superior, Villa Walsh, 455 Western Avenue, Morristown, NJ 07960.

Church HistoryWorld War II
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