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From Pius XII to Vatican II: The Hidden History of a Key Church Epoch

Updated: Jan 8

Fr. Charles Theodore Murr, in this Interview Concerning His Book on Mother Pascalina Lehnert, Unveils the Mysteries of the People and Events in the Church in the Mid-1900s

By Kevin Symonds

In this interview, Inside the Vatican talks with Fr. Charles Theodore Murr, author of The Godmother: Mother Pascalina: A Feminine Tour de Force (2017). Fr. Murr is a former secretary to Edouard Cardinal Gagnon and worked at the Vatican in the 1970s. During this time, Murr befriended Mother Pascalina Lehnert, the housekeeper of Pope Pius XII for 41 years, from his time as Papal Nuncio in Germany to his death as Pope in 1958. The Godmother recounts many of their encounters in the 1970s, with topics ranging from serious Church news and issues to a lighthearted and humorous attending of a stage performance of The Pirates of Penzance. Fr. Murr sits with Inside the Vatican and gives us a look into his life, the life of Mother Pascalina, and a bird’s-eye view of events that happened inside the Vatican.

This is Part 1 of a 2 Part Interview.  Part 2 can be found here.

Fr. Murr, thank you for sitting with Inside the Vatican for this interview about your book The Godmother: Mother Pascalina: A Feminine Tour de Force. Before going into the book, would you mind telling us a little about yourself?

FR. CHARLES THEODORE MURR: Saint Paul, Minnesota is my birthplace. I was born in 1950, the eldest of seven children. I attended grammar schools and high school in Minnesota and college in Wisconsin, majoring in Romance languages. 

When did you enter the seminary and who would you say was your biggest influence in getting you to consider the priesthood? 

MURR: The rector of the Pontifical Mexican College in Rome admitted me as a lay student in 1972, when I was 22. I was in Rome to study classical philosophy, especially Aristotelian logic, and Latin and Italian, and to absorb every bit of European culture I could manage to take in. 
It was Don Mario Marini, a minutante [a kind of secretary] of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, who invited me to become a priest. This great personal mentor and outstanding example of a priest made it very clear, late one evening in 1975, that he was calling me to become a priest. I answered positively. Archbishop Francisco Javier Nuno y Guerrero of Guadalajara, the first bishop of San Juan de los Lagos, invited me to be ordained a priest for San Juan. I continued my studies at the Gregorian University and I was ordained in Rome on May 13, 1977, in the Basilica of Saints John and Paul, Monte  Celio. Later, I worked in the Archdiocese of New York at the invitation of Cardinal O’Connor.¹ 
The Godmother: Mother Pascalina, A Feminine Tour de Force by Fr. Charles Theodore Murr, is available through Amazon. It was also recently translated into Italian and Spanish. Those editions are also available on Amazon.

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