Skip to comments.SPECIAL: Popes Pius XII, John Paul II declared 'venerable'
Posted on 12/19/2009 9:00:05 AM PST by Pope Pius XII
In a series of decrees issued on December 19, the Vatican has approved miracles allowing for the canonization of five people and the beatification of five others. The Vatican also recognized the 1984 murder of Father Jerzy Popieluszko by Communist intelligence officers as a martyrdom, preparing the way for his beatification.
The decrees, approved by Pope Benedict XVI during a private audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, also proclaimed that ten other candidates for sainthood had lived lives of heroic virtue. Those decrees make the candidates eligible for beatification if a miracle is attributed to their intercession.
The two decrees commanding the greatest public attention were those recognizing the heroic virtue of Pope Pius XII, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, and Pope John Paul II, who reigned from 1978 to 2005.
Five of the December 19 decrees testified to the authenticity of miracles attributed to candidates who have already been beatified, and are now qualified for canonization. They are:
Bl. Stanislaus Soltys (Kazimierczyk) (1433-89), whose liturgical cult was formally recognized by Pope John Paul in 1993 Bl. André Bessette (1845-1937), a Canadian renowned for his devotion to St. Joseph who developed a reputation as a miracle worker in his lifetime Bl. Mary MacKillop (1842-1909), who founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart and will become Australias first canonized saint Bl. Giulia Salzano (1846-1929), foundress of the Congregation of the Catechetical Sisters of the Sacred Heart Bl. Camilla Battista da Varano (1458-1524), a Poor Clare nun
The Congregation also approved miracles for five other candidates who, like Father Popieluszko, will now be scheduled for beatification:
Father José Tous y Soler (1811-71), a Capuchin Franciscan Brother Leopoldo de Alpandeire (1866-1956), a Capuchin Franciscan Manuel Lozano Garrido (1920-71), a Spanish layman Teresa Manganiello (1849-76), a Third Order Franciscan Chiara Badano (1971-90), a laywoman of the Focolare Movement
In addition, the Congregation declared the heroic virtue of Bl. Giacomo Illirico da Bitetto, a Franciscan.
The Congregation also proclaimed the heroic virtue of nine others, who now qualify for the title "Venerable" and may be beatified with the approval of a miracle:
Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli) (1876-1958) Pope John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla) (1920-2005) Father Louis Brisson (1817-1908), founder of the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales Father Giuseppe Quadrio (1921-63), a Salesian Sister Mary Ward (1545-1615), an Englishwoman who founded the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loreto Sisters) Sister Antonia Maria Verna (1773-1838), foundress of the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception of Ivrea Sister Francesca Farolfi (Maria Chiara Serafina of Jesus) (1853-1917), foundress of the Missionary Franciscan Clarists of the Blessed Sacrament Sister Enrichetta Alfieri (1891-1951) Giunio Tinarelli (1912-56), a layman and member of the Silent Workers of the Cross
A long deserved recognition of Pius XII Sainthood
THE GOOD SAMARITAN: JEWISH PRAISE FOR POPE PIUS XII
Inside the Vatican has given considerable space in its pages to coverage of the fierce debate over the wartime role of Pope Pius XII and his alleged silence in the face of the Nazi persecution of the Jews (see particularly our June 1997 and our October 1999 issues). We will continue to do so as long as the debate rages.
The article we print here brings together a considerable amount of previously scattered evidence for how Jews during Piuss lifetime viewed Piuss conduct. Reading Cavallis piece, it is striking to see how different the general Jewish opinion of Pius XII was in the years during and immediately following the war from what it is today. This prompts a fundamental question: Were the Jews who praised and thanked Pius after the war all mistaken or insincere, or are the attacks on Pius today unfair?The Editor
During World War II, many Jews around the world had the chance to observe Pope Pius XIIs conduct. They listened to his every word, and scrutinized his every action. Instead of seeing Hitlers Pope, most Jews concluded that Pius XIIs public statements were directed against the Nazis, and that he and his subordinates in many Nazi-occupied and Axis countries were trying to save Jewish lives. The many extraordinary and eloquent tributes that the Pope once received from Jews show that the allegations that he was a Nazi collaborator and indifferent toward the extermination of Jews would have seem completely unjustified and unjust to those who closely following his career.
Allegations that Pope Pius XII was pro-Nazi are often supported by his time in Germany from 1917 to 1929 as the papal nuncio and his direct role, as Secretary of State, in negotiating the Vaticans concordat with Germany in 1933. These facts were universally known when Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli was elected Pope on March 2, 1939. How did Jews around the world react to his election? Were they concerned by his former ties to Germany?
In a March 6, 1939 editorial, Leadership for Peace, the Palestine Post in Jerusalem said: Pius XII has clearly shown that he intends to carry on the late Popes [Pius XI] work for freedom and peace... we remember that he must have had a large part to play in the recent Papal opposition to pernicious race theories and certain aspects of totalitarianism...
In praising Cardinal Pacellis election, the Jewish Chronicle in London on March 10, quoted an anti-Nazi speech he delivered in Lourdes in April 1935 and the hostile statements expressed about him in the Nazi press. It is interesting to recall... on January 22 , the Voelkischer Beobachter published pictures of Cardinal Pacelli and other Church dignitaries beneath a collective heading of Agitators in the Vatican against Fascism and National Socialism, the Jewish Chronicle noted.
Also on March 10, the Canadian Jewish Chronicle commended the College of Cardinals for resisting Nazi attempts to influence the election and prevent Cardinal Pacelli from becoming Pope. The plot to pilfer the Ring of Fisherman has gone up in white smoke, the editorial quipped.
Many Jewish organizations also expressed their enthusiasm for the new Pope. According to the Jewish Chronicle in London (March 10), the Vatican received congratulatory messages from the Anglo-Jewish Community, the Synagogue Council of America, the Canadian Jewish Congress, and the Polish Rabbinical Council.
Pius XIIs decision to appoint Luigi Cardinal Maglione as the Vaticans new Secretary of State also brought favorable reactions. The March 16, 1939 Zionist Review in London said that the Cardinals appointment confirms the view that the new Pope means to conduct an anti-Nazi and anti-Fascist policy.
Certainly, such statements made by Jewish newspapers and organizations show they considered the newly elected Pope Pius XII a friend of democracy and peace, and an enemy of racism and totalitarianism. Cardinal Pacellis role in negotiating the concordat with the Nazis did not cause any concern. Instead, many Jews cited his anti-Nazi speeches, and his role as Vatican Secretary of State, which helped produce the 1937 anti-Nazi encyclical, Mit brennender Sorge, and numerous protests against the persecution of the Catholic Church in Germany.
Less than two months after World War II broke out, on October 27, Pius XII issued his first encyclical, Summi Pontificatus. On the same day, the New York-based Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the equivalent of the Associated Press, reported that, the unqualified condemnation which Pope Pius XII heaped on totalitarian, racist and materialistic theories of government in his encyclical Summi Pontificatus caused a profound stir... Although it had been expected that the Pope would attack ideologies hostile to the Catholic Church, few observers had expected so outspoken a document...
In a November 9, 1939 editorial, Endowed with Reason, the American Israelite in Cincinnati also discussed the encyclical. In decrying totalitarianism, Pope Pius XII called the individual the end and the state the means of bringing out the fundamental equality of men because men are endowed with reason, the editorial said. This concept of democracy is reiterated in the Popes Encyclical, stressing again the inviolability of the human person as a sacred being...
In January 1940, the United Jewish Appeal for Refugees and Overseas Needs donated $125,000 to the Vatican in order to assist its efforts on behalf of all victims of racial persecution. On January 19, the Jewish Ledger in Hartford, Connecticut described the United Jewish Appeals gift as an eloquent gesture, which should prove an important step in the direction of cementing the bonds of sympathy and understanding between Catholics and Jews. An account of how the money was spent is in the Vaticans official wartime documents, Actes et documents du Saint Siege relatifs a la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, (Vol. VI, pp. 282-283.)
On January 26, 1940, the Jewish Advocate in Boston reported, The Vatican radio this week broadcast an outspoken denunciation of German atrocities in Nazi [occupied] Poland, declaring they affronted the moral conscience of mankind. Exiled Polish Cardinal August Hlond of Gnezo and Poznan had given the Vatican detailed reports about the Nazi persecution of the Church in Poland. On the Popes orders, Vatican Radio broadcast the cardinals reports. The front-page story quoted one Vatican Radio broadcast as saying, Jews and Poles are being herded into separate ghettos, hermetically sealed and pitifully inadequate for the economic subsistence of the millions designed to live there. This broadcast was also important because it gave independent confirmation of media reports about Nazi atrocities, which were previously dismissed as Allied propaganda.
Also, on January 26, the Canadian Jewish Chronicle published a brief item about Jacob Freedman, a Boston tailor. Mr. Freedman was concerned about the fate of his sister and nephews in German-occupied Poland. He wrote the State Department and the Red Cross, but they were unable to provide any information. Mr. Freedman then sought Pope Pius XIIs assistance.
Several months later, Cardinal Maglione informed Mr. Freedman that his family were alive and well in Warsaw. I dont know the words to express what I feel, that they should take an interest in us with all the other things in the world to worry them, said Mr. Freedman. I think its the finest, most wonderful thing. According to Pinchas Lapides 1967 book, Three Popes and the Jews, the Vatican Information Office helped tens of thousands of Jews locate missing relatives in Europe.
On March 14, 1940, the Jewish Chronicle in London commented on Pope Pius XIIs conditions for a just and honorable peace, which he articulated in his 1939 Christmas message. The Chronicle said that the Popes conditions, especially the protection of racial minorities, were a welcome feature, and praised him for standing up for rights of the common man.
Also, in March, Italys anti-Semitic laws went into effect, and many Jews were dismissed from the government, universities, and other professions. In response, Pius XII appointed several displaced Jewish scholars, including geographer Prof. Roberto Almagia, to posts in the Vatican Library. The March 29 Kansas City Jewish Chronicle said that the Popes actions showed his disapproval of the dastardly anti-Semitic decrees.
On April 29, 1941, a group of Jewish refugees interned at an Italian concentration camp thanked Pius XII after being visited by Bishop Francesco Borgognini-Duca, the papal nuncio in Italy. The prisoners wrote that the nuncios visit gave them new courage to go on living, and they described the Pope as a revered personality who has stood up for the rights of all afflicted and powerless people. (Actes, VIII, pp. 178-179).
On January 2, 1942, the front page of the California Jewish Voice published a report on the Popes 1941 Christmas address. Religious persecution and oppression of minorities must have no place in the world of the future, declared Pope Pius XII in his annual Christmas Eve message, the article said.
By early 1942, the Nazis began to implement their plans to exterminate the Jews. The Vatican had no practical way of bringing these plans to a halt, but sought to assist endangered Jews and other victims on a case-by-case basis.
This assistance ranged from actively opposing the deportations to meeting the material and spiritual needs of refugees. For example, on April 14, 1942, Rabbi Naftali Adler and Dr. Max Pereles, the representatives of thousands of Jewish refugees interned at the Ferramonti concentration camp in southern Italy, sent a letter of thanks to the Pope, who sent an abundant supply of clothing and linen to the children at the camp, and took care of the prisoners other needs. This noble and generous gift proves anew what the whole world knows and admires that Your Holiness is... also the paternal guardian and promoter of the ideal of humanity for all mankind, they wrote. (Actes, VIII, pp. 505-507).
In 1942, Croatias Jews were being brutally persecuted by the Nazi-installed dictatorship. On August 4, Chief Rabbi Miroslav Freiberger of Zagreb, Croatias capital, sought more assistance from Pius XII. Already, the Vaticans unofficial diplomatic representative in Croatia, Msgr. Joseph Marcone, who was acting on Cardinal Magliones instructions, and Archbishop Alois Stepinac opposed the anti-Jewish persecutions.
In his letter, Chief Rabbi Freiberger appreciated the limitless goodness that the representatives of the Holy See and the leaders of the Church showed to our poor brothers. (Actes, VIII, p. 611). Throughout the war, the Chief Rabbi continued to express his gratitude to the Vatican for helping Croatian Jews.
The deportations of French Jews also began in late July 1942. Msgr. Valerio Valeri, the papal nuncio in France, protested the deportations with Marshall Henri Philippe Petain and Prime Minister Pierre Laval in August. The nuncios intervention became publicly known by the end of the month. On August 28, the California Jewish Voice said, Pope Pius XII has asked the Papal Nuncio at Vichy to protest to the Laval Government against the inhuman arrests and deportations of Jews in France... Previously, reports from Geneva had indicated that the Pope had tried, though vainly, to use his good offices in Slovakia to prevent deportations and other cruelties.
The Voices account is confirmed by the Actes. On October 31, 1941, Cardinal Maglione had given Msgr. Valeri and Pierre Cardinal Gerlier of Lyon a blank check to tone down the practical application of the anti-Semitic laws, which would include any deportations. In April 1942, the Vatican protested the deportations of Slovak Jews with a note to the Slovak Government.
Although Msgr. Valeri actually made the protest, the Jewish press understood that he was acting on behalf of Pius XII. In a September II editorial, the Jewish Chronicle in London said, The Popes action is also a striking affirmation of the dictum of one of the Popes predecessors that no true Christian can be an anti-Semite...
In his 1942 Christmas message, the Pope condemned the treatment of hundreds of thousands who, without any fault on their own, sometimes only by reason of their nationality or race, are marked down for death or a progressive extinction. The Popes defenders argue that this was a clear reference to the Holocaust. The Popes detractors insist that he didnt go far enough, and should have condemned the Nazis by name. But the Nazis understood the Pope very clearly. In a manner never known before the Pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order, complained a January 22, 1943 report by the Reich Central Security Office. Here he is virtually accusing the German people of injustice towards the Jews, and makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals. (Anthony Rhodes, The Vatican in the Age of Dictators (1973), pp. 272-273).
I was unable to find any references to the Popes address in the many Jewish newspapers that I examined. However, in a January 20, 1943 letter to Msgr. Arthur Hughes, the apostolic delegate in Egypt, Chaim Barlas, the Jewish Agencys Turkish Representative, wrote, The highly humanitarian attitude of His Saintety [meaning, Holiness] expressing His indignation against racial persecutions, was a source of comfort for our brethren. (Actes, IX, p. 90). If Pius XII was silent in the literal sense of the word, then the Reich Central Security Office and Chaim Barlas could not have made these conclusions.
In late 1942, Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog of Jerusalem sought the Popes intervention to rescue Jews from the Nazis. On February 12, 1943, the Vaticans reply to Chief Rabbi Herzog was noted on the front page of the California Jewish Voice. The Vatican this week cabled Chief Rabbi Herzog, assuring him that it is doing everything possible for all the victims of Nazi persecution, including the Jews, the article said. The Jewish Chronicle in London and the Australian Jewish News also reported the Vaticans assurance to the Chief Rabbi.
On April 16, 1943, the Australian Jewish News published a brief article about Cardinal Gerlier, who had strongly opposed the deportations of French Jews, and was sheltering Jewish children. The article quoted the cardinal as saying that he was obeying Pius XIIs instructions by continuing to oppose Frances anti-Semitic measures.
In his June 2 address to the College of Cardinals, Pope Pius XII spoke up again. He referred to persons tormented as they are, because of their nationality or their race... delivered, without any fault on their part, to measures of extermination. The July 16, 1943 Jewish Chronicle in London published a slightly different version of these words on its front page under the title, The Popes Solicitude.
On September 24, Alex Easterman, the British representative of the World Jewish Congress, contacted Msgr. William Godfrey, the apostolic delegate in London. Easterman informed him that about 4,000 Jewish refugees from Croatia were safely evacuated to an island in the Adriatic Sea. I feel sure that efforts of your Grace and of the Holy See have brought about this fortunate result, Easterman wrote. (Actes, IX, pp. 488-489).
After Benito Mussolinis fall from power, the new Italian government surrendered to the Allies in September 1943. German troops occupied Italy, including Rome, in order to stop the Allied offensive. During the occupation of Rome, the Nazis threatened to arrest Roman Jews unless their leaders paid them 50 kilograms of gold. When the Roman Jews were able to raise only 42 kilograms of gold, they turned to the Pope, who agreed to provide the balance. Meanwhile, the Jews raised the balance from ordinary Catholics and informed the Vatican that the Popes contribution was not needed. On October 28, 1943, however, the Palestine Post in Jerusalem noted Pius XIIs offer on the front page under the headline, The Popes Gift to the Jews.
On October 16, the Nazis also seized about 1,000 Jews and deported them to Auschwitz. On October 29 Jewish Chronicle in London reported the Vaticans response to the arrests: The Vatican has made strong representations to the German Government and the German High Command in Italy against the persecution of Jews in Nazi-occupied Italy...
This account of the Vaticans actions was exactly correct. On Pius XIIs orders, Cardinal Maglione made an immediate protest with Germanys Ambassador. Bishop Alois Hudal, the Rector of the German Catholic Church in Rome, protested the arrests of Jews with the German Military Governor of Rome. Along with the Vaticans protests, 4,700 Jews disappeared into Romes convents, monasteries and the Vatican itself.
The remaining 2,300 Jews were able to find shelter elsewhere because Vatican protests brought the round-ups to an end.
By 1943, the Vaticans many rescue efforts on behalf of Jews were being universally acknowledged. In the fall of 1943, the Jewish communities of Chile, Uruguay, and Bolivia sent letters to Pope Pius XII, and thanked him for assisting Jews (Actes, IX, pp. 498, 501-502, and 567).
The 1943-1944 American Jewish Yearbook said that Pius XII took an unequivocal stand against the oppression of Jews throughout Europe. In his February 18, 1944 letter to Msgr. Amleto Cicognani, the apostolic delegate in Washington, D.C., Rabbi Maurice Perlzweig, the political director of the World Jewish Congress, wrote that the repeated interventions of the Holy Father on behalf of Jewish Communities in Europe has evoked the profoundest sentiments of appreciation and gratitude from Jews throughout the world. (Actes, X, p. 140).
Two important Jewish leaders who worked with the Vatican to save Jews also expressed similar sentiments. The people of Israel will never forget what His Holiness and his illustrious delegates, inspired by the eternal principles of religion which form the very foundations of true civilization, are doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters in this most tragic hour of history, which is living proof of divine Providence in this world, Chief Rabbi Herzog declared on February 28. (Actes, X, p. 292).
In his April 7 letter to the papal nuncio in Romania, Chief Rabbi Alexander Shafran of Bucharest wrote, It is not easy for us to find the right words to express the warmth and consolation we experienced because of the concern of the Supreme Pontiff, who offered a large sum to relive the sufferings of deported Jews... The Jews of Romania will never forget these facts of historic importance... (Actes, X, pp. 291-292).
In June 1944, two separate events helped establish the Popes reputation as a rescuer of Jews, at least temporarily. When the Allies liberated Rome, thousands of Jews came out of their hiding places, and told the world of their salvation by the Vatican. On June 25, the Pope openly protested the deportations of Hungarian Jews.
The many tributes to Pius XII began in July. It is gradually being revealed that Jews have been sheltered within the walls of the Vatican during the German occupation of Rome, reported the July 7 Jewish News in Detroit. A July 14 editorial in the Congress Weekly, the official journal of the American Jewish Congress, added that the Vatican also provided Jewish refugees with kosher food.
Also on July 14, American Hebrew in New York published an interview with Chief Rabbi Israel Zolli of Rome. The Vatican has always helped the Jews and the Jews are very grateful for the charitable work of the Vatican, all done without distinction of race, Rabbi Zolli said. After the war, Rabbi Zolli converted to Catholicism, which brought him much severe criticism from some Jews. Dr. Zollis conversion was widely attributed to his gratitude for what the Pope did for Jews. In his 1954 memoirs, Before the Dawn, however, Dr. Zolli strongly denied this assertion. Instead, he claimed to have witnessed a vision of Christ, who called him to the faith.
A week later on July 21, the Vatican received telegrams from the National Jewish Welfare Board and the World Jewish Congress. The National Jewish Welfare Board expressed its gratitude to the Pope for the aid and protection given to so many Italian Jews by the Vatican... (Actes, X, pp. 358-359). The World Jewish Congress also acknowledged the Vaticans noble humanitarian work on behalf of Hungarian Jews. (Actes, X, pp. 359).
The deportations of Hungarian Jews horrified the Allied and neutral nations. The American Jewish Committee and other Jewish groups organized a rally in Manhattans Madison Square Park on July 31 to mobilize public opinion against the deportations. In his address, Judge Joseph Proskauer, the Committees president, declared, We have heard... what a great part the Holy Father has played in the salvation of the refugees in Italy, and we know from sources that must be credited that this great Pope has reached forth his mighty and sheltering hand to help the oppressed of Hungary. (Speech obtained from American Committee Library in Manhattan).
During the following months, Rabbi Stephen Wise, the president of the American Jewish Congress, Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz of the British Empire, composer Irving Berlin, Congressman Emmanuel Cellar of Brooklyn, the Emergency Committee to Save the Jews of Europe, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, and the World Agudas Organization also lauded Pius XII for helping endangered Jews.
At the time, Rabbi Wise also condemned Christian indifference toward the extermination of Jews.
With Rome liberated, the Pope frequently greeted Allied soldiers. During one meeting, he blessed a Jewish soldier from Palestine in Hebrew. In the Congress Weekly (October 20, 1944), Elias Gilner found great significance in this event. Gilner wrote that the Popes blessing becomes a memorable act, a far-flung message of good-will, an expression of the Christian spirit at its highest. Gilner added that Pius XII by this blessing also began a new course in Catholic-Jewish relations.
The tributes to Pope Pius XII from Jews continued after the war in Europe ended. On April 22, 1945, Moshe Sharrett, the future Foreign Minister and Prime Minister of Israel sent a report of his meeting with the Pope to the Executive of the Jewish Agency. Sharrett wrote that my first duty was to thank him, and through him, the Catholic Church, on behalf of the Jewish public, for all they had done in the various countries to rescue Jews, to save children, and Jews in general. (Lapide, pp. 225-226)
On October 11, the World Jewish Congress donated $20,000 to Vatican charities. According to the New York Times (October 12, 1945), the gift was made in recognition of the work of the Holy See in rescuing Jews from Fascist and Nazi persecution. Although the current leaders of the World Jewish Congress have a much different view of the Vaticans wartime actions, they never retracted that recognition.
During a St. Louis conference on the plight of displaced Jewish refugees on March 17, 1946, William Rosenwald, the chairman of the United Jewish Appeal for Refugees, Overseas Needs and Palestine, said, I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Pope Pius for his appeal in behalf of the victims of war and oppression. He provided aid for Jews in Italy and intervened in behalf of refugees to lighten their burden. (New York Times, March 18, 1946.) The previous week, the Pope granted Mr. Rosenwald an audience. According to Mr. Rosenwald, the Pope said that Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees should be allowed to resettle in the United States.
In an article for Commentary (November 1950), French scholar and Holocaust survivor Leon Poliakov discussed the Vaticans conduct during the war. Poliakov suggested that the Vatican during the Holocaust retreated to its medieval tradition of protecting Jews from state persecution. There is no doubt that secret instructions went out from the Vatican urging the national churches to intervene in favor of the Jews by every possible means, Poliakov wrote. In fact, according to Volumes VI, VIII, IX, and X of the Actes, these instructions were sent to the Vaticans many diplomatic representatives.
Still, Poliakov was troubled because he believed that Pius XIIs public statements were too vague. But Poliakov conceded the argument that public protests would have brought no help to the victims, and might have produced contrary effects. He cited the tragic case of Holland where the protests against the deportations of Jews by the Dutch Catholic bishops in 1942 led to the arrest of Catholic Jews, who were previously spared for deportation by the Nazis.
In 1955, the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, which was composed of Jewish refugees from many nations, toured Italy. The Orchestra performed a concert at the Vatican on May 26, 1955. According to the Jerusalem Post (May 29, 1955), Conductor Paul Klecki had requested that the Orchestra on its first visit to Italy play for the Pope as a gesture of gratitude for the help his Church had given to all those persecuted by Nazi Fascism.
In 1957, the Pope received a delegation from the American Jewish Committee. The New York Times on June 29, 1957 reported that the Committees representatives described the Pope as a great friend in the battle against racism and anti-Semitism in the United States. The Pope also praised the Committees work, and issued a strong statement condemning anti-Semitism.
Pope Pius XII died on October 8, 1958. Many Jewish organizations and newspapers around the world mourned his passing, and recalled his wartime efforts to rescue Jews. At the United Nations, Golda Meir, Israels Foreign Minister, said, When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the Pope was raised for the victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out on the great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. The Zionist Record (October 17) in South Africa published Meirs moving eulogy along with tributes from Jewish organizations to the late Pope.
Adherents of all creeds and parties will recall how Pius XII faced the responsibilities of his exalted office with courage and devotion, declared the Jewish Chronicle in London on October 10. Before, during, and after the Second World War, he constantly preached the message of peace. Confronted by the monstrous cruelties of Nazism, Fascism, and Communism, he repeatedly proclaimed the virtues of humanity and compassion.
In the Canadian Jewish Chronicle (October 17), Rabbi J. Stern recalled that Pius XII made it possible for thousands of Jewish victims of Nazism and Fascism to be hidden away... In the November 6 edition of the Jewish Post in Winnipeg, William Zukerman, the former American Hebrew columnist, wrote that no other leader did more to help the Jews in their hour of greatest tragedy, during the Nazi occupation of Europe, than the late Pope.
Representatives of the World Jewish Congress, American Jewish Congress, American Jewish Committee, Synagogue Council of America, New York Board of Rabbis, the Anti-Defamation League, Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, Rabbinical Council of America, National Council of Jewish Women, and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations also gracefully eulogized Pope Pius XII. The Chief Rabbis of London, Rome, Jerusalem, France, Egypt, Argentina and many other Jewish newspapers also paid tribute to the late Pope.
How do Pius XIIs detractors explain these many statements of praise from Jews? They prefer to ignore them. Any acknowledgment of these tributes immediately undermines the case against him.
Instead, critics always focus on the Popes silence without discussing what he actually said during the war, and how his addresses were received by all sides; insist that the Pope did little or nothing to help Jews escape from the Nazis; exclusively cite authors who attack him while ignoring those who defend him; and assign him sinister motives by using suspicion and a selective interpretation of evidence.
Recently, in Commentary (July/August 1999), Prof. Robert Wistrich argued that it is unfair to cite these tributes from Jews because damaging evidence against the Pope was discovered after his death. But that argument ignores the fact that many post-war revelations have been very favorable toward the Pope. In 1946, the Vatican newspaper confirmed that Pius XII in 1940 had acted as an intermediary between a group of German generals who wanted to overthrow Adolf Hitler and the British government.
The release of documents from the British Foreign Office years later also confirmed his role in The Generals Plot. The 1953 publication of The Undeclared War by William Langer and S. Everett Gleason disclosed the Popes surprising 1941 concession to President Franklin Roosevelt that American Catholics could support the extension of the Lend-Lease program to the Soviet Union.
The conclusions of the first generation of authors critical of the Pope like Rolf Hochhuth, Guenther Lewy, Saul Friedlander and Carlo Falconi were invalidated by the complete publication of the 11 volumes of the Actes.
Unfortunately, these volumes, which detail the Vaticans relations with all the belligerent governments and assistance given to all the victims of the war, have been either ignored or downplayed by historians and journalists.
Many Jewish organizations had no reservations about attacking Father Charles Coughlin, the anti-Semitic radio broadcaster. If these same organizations were actually displeased with Pius XIIs actions, as Father John Pawlikoski suggested in Commonweal (July 17, 1998), then why did they continue to publicly honor the Pope throughout the war and beyond? How could Jews on six continents have been so tragically mistaken about one man? Could they all have been either blissfully ignorant or extremely disingenuous?
Many Catholics have been puzzled by the fact that many of the same Jewish organizations that condemn Pius XII today once never passed up an opportunity to praise him. What could have caused the vast shift in Jewish attitudes toward the late Pope?
Some Catholic writers point to the influence of Rolf Hochhuths 1963 play, The Deputy, which presented the Pope as a cold-blooded Nazi collaborator who did nothing as six million Jews went to their death. However, allegations that the Vatican collaborated with the Nazis did not begin with Hochhuth. While Pius XII was still alive, anti-Catholic authors like Avro Manhattan (The Vatican in World Politics, 1949) and Paul Blanshard (American Freedom and Catholic Power, 1949) condemned his actions during World War II. Although Manhattan and Blanshard found isolated audiences in some Protestant and fundamentalist Christian circles, many Jews continued to have a favorable impression of the wartime Pope.
Other cultural shifts in society ensured that Hochhuths demonic portrait would become accepted as conventional wisdom. Shortly after Hochhuths play made its appearance, the movement known as the New Left marched across college campuses. The New Left was more than a political movement; it was also a cultural movement whose members seized influential positions in the universities, the media and the entertainment industry.
The Catholic Church strongly opposed the New Lefts social agenda of legal abortion, contraception and sexual promiscuity. Activists needed a weapon to undermine the Catholic Churchs moral authority and influence. The silence of Pius XII provided such a powerful weapon, and it was used at every possible opportunity. What right would a Church that failed to oppose the mass murder of Jews have to teach morality to anyone? A few years ago, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops criticized US Surgeon General Dr. Jocelyn Elders for her pro-abortion views. Dr. Elders responded by noting the Catholic Churchs indifference toward both slavery and the Holocaust.
Unfortunately, Jewish organizations have never sufficiently explained why they changed their minds about the Pope. A clear answer may never be known unless Jewish organizations finally provide honest and convincing explanations after nearly 40 years of evasion.
Could attitudes shift again? Its possible. In the last several years, many Catholic newspapers and magazines have been zealously defending Pius XIIs reputation. The Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights has also been successful in bringing the debate over the Vaticans wartime role into the mainstream media.
In his new book, Never Again: A History of the Holocaust, acclaimed Holocaust historian Sir Martin Gilbert identifies the Vatican as one of the European governments that protected Jews. Prof. William Rubinsteins book, The Myth of Rescue (1997), which received substantial attention and criticism, argues that the Allies and Vatican could not have saved more Jewish lives. Rubinsteins sobering conclusion that the, responsibility for the Holocaust lies solely and wholly with Adolf Hitler, the SS and their accomplices, and with no one else, represents a return to reason.
It may take a generation to restore Pope Pius XIIs good name. However, more and more people today are recognizing that he acted like a Good Samaritan during World War II. When the Pope failed to prevent the start of the war, he immediately devoted himself to alleviating the physical and spiritual suffering of countless numbers of innocent victims regardless of their race or faith. As the late Father Robert Graham, S.J. wrote, the many tributes the Pope received from Jews around the world are a witness to both his efforts and his character.
(Cavalli is a freelance writer based in New York, with an M.A. from Catholic University. He is grateful to the Rev. Matthew Flood, S.J. of Fordham Prep in the Bronx, New York and to Angelo Sedacca for translating a number of documents from the Actes into English. The Jewish newspapers cited are on microfilm at the New York Public Librarys Jewish Division.)
I am all for anything going for JPII. We was the kind of man, not just Pope, that you rarely see in a lifetime. There will never be another like him.
Pious...well, there was that whole Nazi mess that swarmed around him. Nice gesture, but he wont be a saint for a few centuries.
TESTIMONIALS ON PIUS XII FROM WORLD LEADERS.
The fact is, as affirmed Graham, that even before 1944, the world Jewish organizations had recognized in the Vatican a friend who was willing- and often able- to help their people during their tragic ordeal in occupied Europe. The concerns of the Jewish organizations were also those of the Holy See. Sometimes The Church acted on the appeal of a Jewish organization, at other times, they acted on the basis of reports received from its own representatives in the occupied territories where they held a relationship of confidence with the local Jewish leaders. In many instances, the Holy See had already acted upon information received from its own nuncios before the appeals from Jewish organizations arrived at the Vatican.
Pope Paul VI, who was a close collaborator with Pius XII, authorized in 1964 the publications of the documents of the Holy See relating World War II. In Volume X, there is a day-by-day record of the Holy Sees correspondence with the most active international Jewish organizations. Among the more important of these are the ones from the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Congress, Agudas Israel World Organization, Vaad Hahatzala of the Unions of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, Hijefs (Schweizerischer Hillfsverein fur Judische Fluchling im Ausland), the Jewish Agency for Palestine and the American Jewish Committee.
In November, 1943, Herzog, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, wrote to Cardinal Roncalli, (the future Pope John XXIII) then Apostolic Delegate to Turkey and Greece, stating: I take this opportunity to express to your Eminence my sincere thanks as well as my deep appreciation of your kindly attitude to Israel and of the invaluable help given by the Catholic Church to the Jewish people in its affliction. Would you please convey these sentiments which come from Sion, to His Holiness the Pope (Pius XII) along with the assurances that the people of Israel know how to value his assistance and his attitude. (24) The American Jewish Welfare Board wrote to Pius XII on July 1944 to express their appreciation for the protection given to the Jews during the German occupation of Italy.
In 1944 the War Refugee Board came into existence as the united effort of several American Jewish organizations. During and after the war, the War Refugee Board publicly acknowledged its close relationship with the Holy See. The documentation includes the correspondence from eminent rabbinical leaders who made special appeals to the Holy See; among them are the Grand Rabbi of Jerusalem, Dr. Issac Herzog; the Grand Rabbi of the British Empire, Dr. Joseph Hertz; and Rabbi Abraham Kalmanowitz, leader of the rabbinical school of Mir, in Lithuania.
Fr. William Saunders has quoted Dr. Raphael Cantoni, a leader in Italys Jewish Assistance Committee, declaring that The Church and the Papacy have saved Jews as much and insofar as they could Christians. Six million of my co-religionists have been murdered by the Nazis
but there would have been many more victims had it not been for the efficacious intervention of Pius XII. (25)
The Founders of the State of Israel express their condolences at the death of Pius XII
Among those who mourned the death of Pius XII pronouncing heartfelt tributes were the President of Israel Ben-Zevi, Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress and the World Zionist Organization, and many Rabbis including Dr. Israel Goldstein of New York. Rabbi Elio Toaff, Chief Rabbi of Rome, said: More than anyone else, we have had the opportunity to appreciate the great kindness, filled with compassion and magnanimity, that the Pope displayed during the terrible years of persecution and terror, when it seemed that there was no hope left for us. Rabbi Israel Zolli stated: What the Vatican did will indelibly and eternally engraved in our hearts Priests and even high prelates did things that will forever be an honor to Catholicism. (29)
The Israelis Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs.Golda Meirs cablegram to the Vatican read; We share in the grief of humanity at the passing away of His Holiness Pope Pius XII. In a generation afflicted by wars and discords, he upheld the highest ideals of peace and compassion. When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the Pope was raised for the victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out on the great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace. (30)
Unfortunately, today we are witnessing a campaign against this great benefactor of Humanity. His memory is being slandered and dishonored through falsehoods and innuendoes. This matter should be open to honest analysis and discussion. Legitimate discrepancies might exist while studying historical facts, but that should not be of excuse for those people who are moved by the same great evils of ignorance, hatred, and bigotry that made possible the brutal onslaught of innocent people by the Nazis and the Communists.
The relationship of trust and collaboration during WW II between the Holy See, the Jewish organizations, the Allies intelligence services and their governments, including the anti-Nazi German Generals, is well proven and documented. However, there is not the slightest thread of evidence to substantiate the preposterous and vicious allegations raised against Pius XII and the Catholic Church of collaboration or sympathizing with the Nazis.
Did the Church do enough to save the Jews? As usual those who do the less complain the most and those who do the most always think they could have done even more. When Michael OCarroll, author of the scholar book Pius XII: Greatness Dishonoured related in the Foreword that in 1957 he met Dr. Isaac Herzog, Chief Rabbi of Israel, and he told him with emotion of an audience he had with the Pope and how they discussed the prophet Ezechiel. My blessing to him said the saintly old man, and OCarroll promised to be the bearer of the message of his goodwill. When OCarroll gave the message to Pius XII he added I think Jews everywhere are grateful for what you did for them during the war. I wish I could have done more was the Popes reply.
On February 28, 1945, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Isaac Herzog, sent a letter of gratitude to the
Apostolic Nuncio in Rumania, Msgr. Andrea Cassulo, stating that: The people of Israel will never forget what His Holiness and his illustrious delegates, inspired by the eternal principles of religion which form the very foundations of civilization, are doing for us unfortunate brothers and sisters in the most tragic hour of our history, which is living prove of divine Providence in this world. (31)
Rabbi Herzogs heartfelt words should suffice to forever end the slanderous attacks to the memory of the great protector of the Jews, Pius XII and the Catholic Church.
Those testimonies aforementioned, as powerful as they might be, are just a few samples of the hundreds of messages of gratitude sent to Pius XII by Jews from around the world. There are at least 4 to 5 million descendants of those 860,000 Jews around the world whose lives were saved by Pius XII and the Catholic Church. They should be able to bring to light much more valuable documentation if they were to delve into their familys historical records, the Israelis archives, and so many other serious, unbiased, Jewish scholarly research in this matter.
In Pius XIIs own words in an address given on June 13, 1943, he said: Our speeches and messages will not be able to be crossed out or run down by anyone, neither in their intentions nor essence. Everyone has been able to hear them as words of truth and peace The Church is not afraid of the light of truth, neither of the past, the present, nor the future. (32)
To those seeking the truth, what a better witness than the testimony of Albert Einstein, the great Jewish physicist, who had first hand experience of the horrors of Nazism? In 1944 he said: Being a lover of freedom, when the Nazi revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, but the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of newspapers, but they, like the universities were silenced in a few short weeks. Then I looked to individual writers they too were mute. Only the Church, Einstein concluded, stood squarely across the path of Hitlers campaign for suppressing the truth I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel great affection and admiration and am forced thus to confess that what I once despised, I now praise unreservedly.(33)
New York Times praises Pius XIIs Christmas Messages in 1941 and 1942
On Christmas Day 1941, the editorial of the New York Times, commenting on Pius XIIs Christmas Message, said: The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas as we realize that he is about the only ruler left on the Continent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all In calling for a real new order based on liberty, justice and love, to be attained only by a return to social and international principles capable of creating a barrier against the abuse of liberty and the abuse of power. The Pope, said the NYT, put himself squarely against Hitlerism, he left no doubt that the Nazi aims are also irreconcilable with his own conception of a Christian peace.
On Christmas Day 1942, the New York Times editorialized on Pius XIIs Christmas Message and again praised the Pope for his moral leadership. This Christmas, said de NYT, more than ever he (Pius XII) is a lonely voice crying out of the silence of a continent. The Pulpit whence he speaks is more than ever like the rock on which the Church was founded, a tiny island lashed and surrounded by a sea of war (Pius XII) condemns as heresy the new form of national state which subordinates every thing to itself, he declared that whoever wants peace must protect against arbitrary attacks the juridical safety of individuals. The Pope assailed the violent occupation of territory, the exile and persecution of human beings for no other reason than race or political opinion. The address also contained the first formal enunciation of human rights made by a Pope.
Pope Pius XII, said the NYT, expresses as passionately as any leader on our side of the war aims of the struggle for freedom when he says that those who aim at building a new world order must fight for free choice of government and religious order. They must refuse that the state should make of individuals a herd of whom the state disposes as if they were a lifeless thing.
Just as the evils of the Holocaust must never be forgotten, neither should the kindness of those spiritual brothers from another faith who tried to help the Jews, at the risk of their own lives, under the most enormously dangerous travails be forgotten. The truth will prevail and with it, a greater understanding and brotherhood among Jews and Catholics.
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