It is clear from Coppa's meticulous account that Papa Pacelli, as he at time calls him, was not indifferent to the evils of fascism and Nazism, especially the latter. Circumstances would, he felt, be made worse for Catholics and others if he adopted a directly confrontational role with these tyrannical regimes.
Cardinal Pacelli did, behind the scenes, do much to ameliorate the situation of the Jews, especially in Italy. But as Coppa notes, historians to this day have differing judgments on whether he could have done more or whether a more public condemnation of Nazism would have helped or worsened the situation not just of Jews but also, for example, Polish Catholics.
Coppa does make some mistakes, such as ignoring the crucial change in Vatican policy in 1967, when it began pushing for "international guarantees" for Jerusalem and the holy places rather than "internationalization."
Overall, Coppa does an excellent job of narrating the post-World War II policies of Pius XII, showing how these paved the way for the Second Vatican Council with its emphasis on world peace and justice.
In sum, this book joins what is now, thankfully, a growing list of balanced studies of Pius and his times, moving the discussion from the attack/counterattack mode that prevailed since the mid-1960s to a period in which objective scholarship is raising, if not yet definitively answering, the right questions in a more balanced manner.
Fisher is distinguished professor of Catholic-Jewish Studies at St. Leo University in Florida.