Aug. 29, 1894 Ebersberger Landkreis Bavaria (Bayern), Germany
Nov. 13, 1983 Vienna Vienna (Wien), Austria
La Popessa (Lady Pope) She was a nun...a member of the "Holy Cross of Menzingen" an order whose purpose was teaching. Her official title was housekeeper. Sister Mary Pascalina spent forty years caring for Pope Puis XII, from when he was the papal nuncio in Munich (1917-1929), then Vatican secretary of state (1930-1939) and finally Pope.(1939-1958) Secretly, she was more... Sister Pascalina was his secretary and adviser during his pontificate dictating his agenda while ruling the Vatican with an iron fist. She became the most influential woman in Vatican history with her own quarters in the Papal Apartments, Sister Pascalina wielded the widest of powers in her supportive role. Puis did not make any decisions without conferring with the low profile mystery nun. No one was granted an audience without her approval and she made every one of his appointments. Cardinals were made to wait, and then she decided which would be given an audience. Sister Pascalina garnered powerful enemies among Vatican clergy who labeled her 'La Popessa'. Sister Pascalina was at the side of Pope Pius XII upon his death at Castel Gandolf. Within two hours, she was evicted from the Papal apartments with only one small suitcase and the Pope's two pet birds. She was relegated to the North American College, given a small room and was again a housekeeper. She was born Josefine Lehnert on a small farm in Ebersberg, Bavaria, Germany the youngest of six family members. During her childhood, she begged her parents to allow her to work in the fields. She was an authority in the home, taking charge during the absence of her parents. She attended the Catholic parochial school in the village where she was an excellent student. At age nineteen, Josefine over the objections of her parents, became a full fledged nun. Her first assignment was to The Stella Maris retreat house at Rorschach, Germany where Catholic clergy came to recuperate after bouts of ill health. Here, sickly Monsignor Pacelli came to recuperate after World War I, falling under Sister Pascalina's able care. After his release, the papal nuncio at Munich returned to request her appointment as his housekeeper. In 1917, rampaging Communist stormed the Munich nunciature confronting the Monsignor with the nun by his side with death. Greeted by Sister Pascalina, Adolph Hitler was a frequent caller seeking funds and support from the nuncio. He promised to stop godless communism, the mortal enemy of the church, when in power. Under her direction, he pledged support while giving Hitler a large amount of Church money. Her influence continued and became greater...She accompanied Pacelli, then Vatican secretary of state, on his historic and controversial visit to the United States. With the death of Puis XI, Sister Pascalina was sealed in the cell with Pacelli as the conclave deliberated and selected him Pope. In 1943, the nun was instrumental as the Pope turned down an allies offer to move the Vatican and the curia to a safer place. While the war raged, the Vatican was ringed by Nazi troops but did not penetrate the sanctity of Vatican City and officials were allowed to leave and re-enter. However, orders from Hitler to take the pope with the Curia, its archives and art treasures to Germany were met with resistance by Catholic German Commanders. Under Sister Pascalina's' direction , the Pontifical Relief Committee was formed with her appointment as head. It is deemed the greatest aid program in the history of the church. Under its guise, many Jews were saved by falsely issued identity cards which allowed them to enter the Vatican as Catholics and receive safe shelter. Papal buildings were packed with humanity. Castel Gandolfo alone harbored over 15,000. Post Vatican Days...She was soon active again founding 'Casa Pastor Angelicus', a home for elderly women located outside of Rome where she reigned Mother Superior until her death. Her diaries were published as well as a biography 'La Popesa' published in 1985 by Paul I. Murphy. Knowledgeable with Vatican procedures, she lobbied and helped bring Pius to the brink of sainthood which is pending. Sister Pascalina died after returning to Rome after a ceremony in Vienna to commemorate the twenty fifth anniversary of Pius XII's death.