Pope Pius XI dies

Pope Pius had been ailing for a while, when, on 25 November 1938, he suffered two heart attacks within several hours.

He had serious breathing problems and had to stay in his apartment. There he developed the idea of labelling two of his best bottles of wine to “my successor in the year 2000”. It is not known, if Pope John Paul II ever received them. He gave his last address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which he had founded. He spoke without prepared text on the relation between science and the Catholic religion. This is considered to have been his last major pontifical address. A young priest tried to influence him to take his medicine, reminding him of the old Roman saying Principiis obsta (Resist the beginnings) but the pope smiled and said, "you forgot the second part, sero medicina paratur, it’s too late for medicine". In February 1939, the situation of the pontiff visibly degenerated. Pius had major pain and difficulties walking. When he tried to raise from his bed, he was unable to do so, because of increased breathing problems. On 7 February the team of doctors announced to the papal staff, that the pontiff would soon depart from them. He was now aided by a team of several doctors, the professors Milani, Rocchi, Bonamone, Gemelli and Bianchi, specialists from all over Italy. They informed Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli and Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini that heart insufficiency combined with bronchial attacks had hopelessly complicated the already poor outlook. The Pope himself made plans for continued audiences with Domenico Tardini, as if he would regenerate within short time, although, unable to breathe normally, he lost his ability to move and even to turn in his bed. His last words to those near him were spoken with clarity and firmness: My soul parts from you all in peace Pope Pius XI died at 5:31 a.m. (Rome Time) of a third heart attack on 10 February 1939, aged 81. He was buried in the crypt at St. Peter's Basilica, in the main chapel, close to the Tomb of St. Peter.

He died of natural causes at age 81, only months before the outbreak of World War II. Pius XI chose for his tomb a spot in the Papal Grotto occupied by some of the Jacobite kings of England. They were moved to another location in the Grotto, however, when workers were digging in the Grotto for Pius' tomb, they unearthed ancient archeological sites and tombs, included what is believed to be the tomb of St. Peter. Today it is called the Necropolis. Pius XI's tomb is just to the right as you enter the Grotto.