number 6 - weekly edition in English


Wednesday, 10 February 2010 - page 13

When the American Bishops explained why they should help the Russians

The Nazis knew Pius XII well which is why they feared him
Bernard-Henri Lévy's article – written after Benedict XVI's visit to the Jewish community of Rome and in which he juxtaposes as scapegoats the figures of Pope Ratzinger and Pope Pacelli – has fuelled a debate. Published in “Corriere della Sera” on 20 January and launched anew that same day by “L'Osservatore Romano” and in Spain on 24 January by “El País”, the piece by the French intellectual has been extensively commented upon. The following article that responds further to the accusations levelled at Pius XII appeared on 22 January in the weekly supplement of the Israeli daily, “Haaretz”. DIMITRI CAVALLI Some things never go away. The controversy over Pope Pius XII's actions during World War II was recently reignited when Pope Benedict XVI signed a Decree affirming that his Predecessor displayed “heroic virtues” during his lifetime. When the Pope visited the Great Synagogue of Rome on Sunday, Riccardo Pacifici, president of Rome's Jewish community, told him: “The silence of Pius XII before the Shoah still hurts because something should have been done”. This was not the first time the wartime Pope, who is now a step closer to beatification, has been accused of keeping silent during the Holocaust, of doing little or nothing to help the Jews, and even of collaborating with the Nazis. To what extent, if any, does the evidence back up these allegations, which have been repeated since the early 1960s? On April 4, 1933, Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, the Vatican Secretary of State, instructed the Papal Nuncio in Germany to see what he could do to oppose the Nazis' anti-Semitic policies. On behalf of Pope Pius XI, Cardinal Pacelli drafted an Encyclical, entitled Mit brennender Sorge (With Burning Anxiety), that condemned Nazi doctrines and persecution of the Catholic Church. The Encyclical was smuggled into Germany and read from Catholic pulpits on March 21, 1937. Although many Vatican critics today dismiss the Encyclical as a light slap on the wrist, the Germans saw it as a security threat. For example, on March 26, 1937, Hans Dieckhoff, an official in the German Foreign Ministry, wrote that the “Encyclical contains attacks of the severest nature upon the German Government, calls upon Catholic citizens to rebel against the authority of the State, and therefore signifies an attempt to endanger internal peace”. Both Great Britain and France should have interpreted the document as a warning that they should not trust Adolf Hitler or try to appease him. After the death of Pius XI, Cardinal Pacelli was elected Pope, on March 2, 1939. The Nazis were displeased with the new Pontiff, who took the name Pius XII. On March 4, Joseph Goebbels, the German propaganda minister, wrote in his diary: “Midday with the Führer. He is considering whether we should abrogate the concordat with Rome in light of Pacelli's election as Pope”. During the war, the Pope was far from silent: In numerous speeches and Encyclicals, he championed human rights for all people and called on the belligerent nations to respect the rights of all civilians and prisoners of war. Unlike many of the Pope's latter-day detractors, the Nazis understood him very well. After studying Pius XII's 1942 Christmas message, the Reich Central Security Office concluded: “In a manner never known before, the Pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order.... Here he is virtually accusing the German people of injustice toward the Jews and makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals.” (Pick up any book that criticizes Pius XII, and you won’t find any mention of this important report.) In early 1940, the Pope acted as an intermediary between a group of German generals who wanted to overthrow Hitler and the British Government. Although the conspiracy never went forward, Pius XII kept in close contact with the German resistance and heard about two other plots against Hitler. In the fall of 1941, through diplomatic channels, the Pope agreed with Franklin Delano Roosevelt that America's Catholics could support the President's plans to extend military aid to the Soviet Union after it was invaded by the Nazis. On behalf of the Vatican, John T. McNicholas, the Archbishop of Cincinnati, Ohio, delivple, who were the innocent victims of German aggression. Throughout the war, the Pope's deputies frequently ordered the Vatican's diplomatic representatives in many Nazi-occupied and Axis countries to intervene on behalf of endangered Jews. Up until Pius XII's death in 1958, many Jewish organizations, newspapers and leaders lauded his efforts. To cite one of many examples, in his April 7, 1944, letter to the Papal Nuncio in Romania, Alexander Shafran, Chief Rabbi 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 relieve the sufferings of deported Jews.... The Jews of Romania will never forget these facts of historic importance”. The campaign against Pope Pius XII is doomed to failure because his detractors cannot sustain their main charges against him – that he was silent, pro-Nazi, and did little or nothing to help the Jews – with evidence. Perhaps only in a backward world such as ours would the one man who did more than any other wartime leader to help Jews and other Nazi victims, receive the greatest condemnation.

ered a well-publicized address that explained that the extension of assistance to the Soviets could be morally justified because it helped the Russian peo-

Account of a confidential Audience in 1942 with Pope Pacelli

The Pope's silence was not out of fear
On 28 June 1964 “L’Osservatore della Domenica” published the account by Fr Paolo Dezza, SJ – Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University from 1941-1951 – of a highly confidential Audience granted to him by Pope Pius XII. Fr Dezza was later PAOLO DEZZA In December 1942, I preached the spiritual exercises in the Vatican for the Holy Father. On that occasion I had a long Audience at which, speaking to me of the Nazi atrocities in Germany and in the other occupied countries, the Pope expressed his sorrow and anguish because, he told me. They are complaining that the Pope the confessor of Paul VI and of John Paul I, and was created a Cardinal by John Paul II at the Consistory in 1991. The following is a translation of his article, which was written in Italian. but inform me that they cannot publish these Letters because they would aggravate the situation”. And he mentioned the example of Pius X who said, when faced with some trouble in Russia: “You must be silent precisely in order to prevent greater evils”. Moreover the falsity of those who say he kept quiet because he wanted to support the Nazis against the Russians and Communism was also clear on this occasion. And I remember that he said to me: “Yes, the Communist threat exists but the threat of the Nazis at this time has become even more serious”. And he talked to me about what the Nazis would have done had they won. I remember him saying this to me: “They want to destroy the Church and crush her like a toad. In the new Europe there would no longer be room for the Pope. They are saying that he can go to America. But I am not afraid and I shall stay here”. And he said so in a very firm and assured manner which is why it could be clearly seen that if the Pope remained silent it was not out of fear or for his own interests, but solely because he dreaded aggravating the situation of the oppressed. For while he was speaking to me of the threat of the invasion of the VatCONTINUED ON PAGE 14

does not speak. But the Pope cannot speak. Were he to speak it would be worse”. And he reminded me that he had recently sent three Letters, one to the man he described as “the heroic Archbishop of Krakow”, the future Cardinal Sapeha, and two others to two other Polish Bishops in which he deplored these Nazi atrocities. “They answer me”, he said, “with thanks,

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