Petrus Canisius J. van
Lierde, O.S.A., born April 22, 1907 † March 12, 1995,
served forty years from 1951 to 1991 as Vicar General of the Vatican State, and
was the longest serving Vatican official in that
Canisius J. van Lierde was born in Hasselt, Belgium to a Dutch
Petrus Canisius Van Lierde in
After his education, he joined the Order of Saint Augustine
May 30, 1931. After receiving
doctorates in theology and philosophy, he headed the Augustinian
College Saint Monica in Rome, where he
was hiding many refugees including military officers, Jews and
anti-fascist politicians during he war years. Pope Pius XII
named him Titular Bishop
of Porphyreon in 1951 and
of the Vatican State.
October 1958 he gave the last rites
the Pope and presided over his funeral in Saint Peter Basilica. He
functioned as Sacristan in four Papal
, 1958, 1963 and twice in 1978. After having served
forty years and one day, Pope John
accepted his resignation in 1991 and named him Emeritus
Vicar General, with the privilege to maintain his residence inside
the Vatican near the papal quarters.
Sacristan of the Popes
In 1954, when Pope Pius XII
seemed to be
without hope of survival, he asked for Petrus Canisius Van Lierde
to anoint him. Miracuously, the Pope recovered and lived another
four years. In May 1963, Pope John
was asking for him. On May 31 it had become clear that
the cancer had overcome the resistance of the Pope. At 11 A.M.
Petrus Canisius Van Lierde as Papal Sacristan was at the bedside of
the dying pope, ready to anoint him. The Pope begins to speak for a
very last time: “I had the great grace to be born into a
Christian family, modest and poor, but with the fear of the
Lord. …My time on earth is drawing to a close.
But Christ lives on and continues his work in the Church.
Souls, souls, Ut omnes unum sint,
(that all may be one).
Van Lierde then anointed his eyes, ears, mouth, hands and feet.
Overcome by emotion, he forgets the right order of anointing. Pope
John gently helps him. Then the Pope bid him and all the other
bystanders a last farewell.
Van Lierde and Pope Pius XII
Throughout his life, Van Lierde was an ardent admirer of Pope Pius XII
, whose determination and courage
to save lives during the German occupation of Rome he repeatedly
possessed a sharp,
penetrating intelligence, an extraordinary memory, a methodical
way, and strong will to work, a deep love of God and of people,
whom he loved through God and because of Him. Pius XII lived simply
when alone, and displayed friendly reluctance, when he met
strangers. He had instant capacity to understand the other person
and showed great tact towards those who may have been very direct.
From 1958 to 1995, he presided over the annual liturgical
celebrations for Pope Pius XII in the crypt of Saint Peter
Basilica. In presence of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he led the funeral
services of Madre Pascalina
Lehnert in the Vatican's Campo Santo.
Petrus Canisius J. van Lierde died March
12, 1995, on the anniversary of the coronation
of his favourite Pope.
- Pontificio Annuario, Vatican City, 1951-1992
- Peter Pham, Vatican Heirs of the Fisherman behind the
scenes of Papal Death and succession, Oxford University Press
- Petrus Canisius J van Lierde, Pius XII, in Herbert
Schambeck, Pius XII, Butzon & Becker, Kevelaer, 1986
- Petrus Canisius J van Lierde The Holy See at work, how the
Catholic Church is governed, [Translated by James Tucek.
Hawthorn Books New York, 1962
- Petrus Canisius J van Lierde, Prayers and devotions from
John Paul II London. Penguin. 1998. 466 S.. ISBN
- Petrus Canisius J. van Lierde, What is a Cardinal,
Hawthorn Books, New York, 1964
- Pham 259
- www.catholic-hierarchy.org/events/b1951.html - 61k
- Peter Hebblethwaite, John XXIII, Pope of the Council, Revised
edition, Harper Collins, Glasgow,1994 502
- Van Lierde 69
- Van Lierde 69