The Vatican announced that Pope Pius XII is to be declared Venerable, which is an honorific that both acknowledges the recipient's holiness and serves as a step on his journey toward beatification.
Pius was Supreme Pontiff from 1939-1958. He reigned during a period of great persecution against the Church, and he was a tireless opponent of totalitarian regimes such as communism and nazism. In 1950 he infallibly declared that the long-accepted teaching of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was dogmatically certain and true.
These days probably the most discussed period of his pontificate are the war years. Under the direction of Pope Pius, the Catholic Church saved nearly 900,000 European Jews. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, the Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem, Rome, and Budapest, the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish community, and numerous others praised Pius for his relief efforts and public denunciation of racial persecution -- in fact, work is afoot to have Yad Vashem name him as a "righteous gentile."
Pope Pius died of acute heart failure. His doctor said: "The Holy Father did not die because of any specific illness. He was completely exhausted. He was overworked beyond limit. His heart was healthy, his lungs were good. He could have lived another 20 years, had he spared himself." He died as he lived, not counting the cost, lovingly dedicated to shepherding the flock entrusted to his care.