HOW SOON WE FORGET!!!
“Why is everybody always picking on me?”
Pope Pius XII is most likely the most maligned pope in history
Pope Pius XII (born March 2, 1876; died October 9, 1958) was pope from 1939 until 1958. He was born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli. During and after the war there was much praise given to Pope Pius XII by the Jewish leaders of that day.
However, recently Pope Pius XII has been accused of furthering the Nazi atrocities during WWW II by being silent in regards to the horrors committed by the Third Reich. And the testimonies of the Jewish leaders of that time have been ignored as if their reliability as to what actually happened during WWW II was somehow questionable. However, more recently several historians including many Jews have documented Pope Pius XIIs valiant behavior as had been attested to by the Jews of that time.
These attacks are a microcosm of all anti-Catholic charges. As you will see they resemble the Original Sin in Gen 3 where Satan beguiled Eve with a half-truth. In fact, almost every attack on the Church has as its foundation a truth. This truth is then buried under a mountain of lies till you no longer recognize the truth, only a poor misguided attempt to destroy the Church God has made. As the Lord said “What God hath joined, lat no man put usunder.” And so it is with these charges. They will not only not destroy the Church, but in the long run, will only facilitate her growth.
what are these charges being leveled against the saintly Pope Pius
XII? (He is in the canonization process, you know) 1.)He was silent
during the Holocaust thus being responsible for the lost of hundreds
of thousands of Jewish lives. 2.) He signed a “concordat”
with Germany thus sided with the Nazi’s in these atrocities.
3.) John Cornwell latest book (Hitler’s Pope, the Secret
History of Pius XII) accuses Pius XII of knowing everything that
went on, not only was silent, but did nothing about it. 4.)
The NY Times, in 1998 wrote: “"A full exploration of Pope
Pius's conduct is needed.... It now falls to John Paul and his
successors to take the next step toward full acceptance of the
Vatican's failure to stand squarely against the evil that swept
across Europe." Lets look at these charges, and the
Catholic response to them. Was Pius XII silent? Yes and no.
Remember what I said about a little truth and lots of error mixed
in. "When fearful martyrdom came to our people, the voice of
the pope was raised for its victims."
Golda Meir, Israeli Foreign Minister (October 9, 1958). Does that sound like silence to you? Pius XII did indeed speak up as is evidenced by this quote and others like it. The fact of the matter is that prior to his becoming pope, the then Cardinal Pacelli drafted an encyclical for Pius XI called “Mit Brennender Sorge.” In this encyclical, the pope blasted the Nazi ideology. “God’s commandments are independent of time, space, or nation. As God’s sun shines on all the human race without distinction, so His law knows no privileges, no exceptions. Rulers and ruled, great and small, rich and poor, depend equally on His word. The fundamental fact is that man as a person possesses rights given him by God, which must be preserved from every attempt by the community to deny, or hinder their exercise. The Bishops of the Church of Christ must watch that such pernicious errors find no support among the faithful.” A later encyclical, the first encyclical of his pontificate Summi Pontificatus (1939), repeated the same theme. The Gestapo promptly seized all copies of this encyclical and destroyed the printing presses so no more could be duplicated. The fact of the matter is, the more someone spoke out against Hitler and the Nazi party, the more the atrocities increased. When the Dutch Bishops put out a pastoral letter condemning Nazism, more Jews (110,000 or 79%) were deported from Holland to the concentration camps than any other country. Thus you see speaking out freely against this evil only aggravated the situation. Pius XII knew that. In his book “Pius XII and the Holocaust”, Robert Graham S.J. says “The need to refrain from provocative public statements at such delicate moments was fully recognized in Jewish circles. It was in fact the basic rule of all those agencies in wartime Europe who keenly felt the duty to do all that was possible for the victims of Nazi atrocities and in particular for the Jews in proximate danger of deportation to “an unknown destination.” A Jewish couple from Berlin who had been held in concentration camps but escaped to Spain through the help of the Pope stated “None of us wanted the Pope to take an open stand. We were all fugitives, and fugitives do not wish to be pointed at. The Gestapo would have been more excited and would have intensified its inquisitions. If the Pope had protested, Rome would have become the center of attention. It was better that the Pope said nothing. We all shared this opinion at the time, and this is still our conviction today.” "The Italians are certainly well aware of the terrible things taking place in Poland. We might have an obligation to utter fiery words against such things; yet all that is holding Us back from doing so is the knowledge that if We should speak, We would simply worsen the predicament of these unfortunate people".3 Consequently, "Every word from Us ... to the competent authorities, every public allusion, should be seriously considered and weighed in the very interest of those who suffer so as not to make their position even more difficult and more intolerable, even though unwillingly" .4
Attack #2, Did Pius XII sign the “Concordat”? Yes he did. However, the concordat was not what the attackers think it was. With the Church being persecuted even at that early date, the then Nuncio Pacelli signed it in order that Catholic’s may go about their lives normally. Catholic marriages, education, and their diocese’s would go on without Nazi interference. "Pius XII? That is the only human being who has always contradicted me and who has never obeyed me." These are the words of one Adolf Hitler. Doesn’t sound like Pius XII was the friend of the Third Reich does it? Dr. Joseph Lichten, a Polish Jew wrote: “Pacelli had obviously established his position clearly, for the Fascist governments of both Italy and Germany spoke out vociferously against the possibility of his election to succeed.” When he was elected Pope on March 2, 1939, The German press accused Pius XII of being “anti_German.” The day after his election, The “Berlin Morgenpost” wrote “The election of Cardinal Pacelli is not accepted with favor in Germany because he was always opposed to Nazism and practically determined the policies of the Vatican under his predecessor. Fr Scavizzi says after reporting to the Pope on the outcome of his aid mission to the persecuted, a mission made secretly for the Pope himself, and on the Nazi horrors in Austria, Germany, Poland and Ukraine: "The Pope, standing beside me, listened to me with great emotion and agitation. He raised his hands to heaven and said to me: Tell everyone, as many people as you can, that the Pope is in agony for them and with them! Tell them that many times / have thought of excommunicating Nazism, of denouncing to the civilized world the bestial extermination of the Jews. We have heard very grave threats of reprisal not only against our person, but against our poor children who are under Nazi rule, We have received very strong recommendations through various intermediaries that the Holy See not take a drastic stance. After many tears and prayers I have decided that a protest on my part not only would not help anyone, but would arouse even more ferocious wrath against the Jews and would have greatly increased the acts of cruelty because they are defenceless. Perhaps my protest would bring me praise from the civilized world, but it would bring down on the poor Jews an even more relentless persecution than the one they are suffering!".
Church Historian Peter Gumpel notes what we have already pointed out what Pacelli as early as 1929 thought and said about Hitler. He added that he repeatedly went on record saying that Hitler’s victory in World War II would mean the end of the Catholic Church in Europe. Likewise, if he was indeed Hitler’s Pope, why did he transmit to the English government the proposal of a group of anti-Nazi German generals with the espress purpose of infiltrating Hitler’s rank to bring his demise. It was not a low-ranking officer who was responsible for this proposal, but Colonel-General (four star general) Ludwig Beck. The latter had been the chief of the German General Staff, but in 1938 resigned from this new post since he had become convinced that Hitler was a criminal who against all promises and treaties would attack other nations. Pacelli had known Beck when he was nuncio in Berlin and highly esteemed his honesty and integrity. If Pius XII would have been "Hitler’s Pope" he would never have undertaken this highly dangerous mediation. And again: when the United States after Pearl Harbor became allies with Russia, many American Catholics had problems of conscience whether they could help produce weapons which would go to communist Russia. Pius XI had, in fact, in his 1937 encyclical "Divini Redemptoris," forbidden Catholics to do anything in favor of the communists. Pius XII informed about this situation, ordered the Apostolic Delegate in Washington, Archbishop Amleto Cicognani (who later became Secretary of State) to induce one or more prestigious U.S. bishops to publish the following statement: the position of the Catholic Church with regard to communism remains what it has always been. However, the Church has nothing against the Russian people. It is now the Russian people who have been attacked and thus Catholics should not have any problems in helping a people who have been unjustly attacked. This statement was made public by at least one U.S. bishop and endorsed by others. It was, of course, understood on whose initiative this problem was solved. How then can Pius XII be called "Hitler’s Pope?" If he had been that, he would obviously never have given the above order. He could have even proclaimed a crusade against communist Russia, which, of course, notwithstanding the pressure of Nazi Germany, he steadfastly and courageously refused to do. So much for the accusation that Pius XII was friendly towards the Nazi’s.
So what about that NY Times quote. I’ll repeat the title of this talk, “How soon we forget my friends.” I’ll simply respond to that with another NY Times quote, this one originating in 1941; "The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas.... He is about the only ruler left on the Continent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all." --Editorial, The New York Times, Dec. 25, 1941.
So what did Pope Pius XII accomplish during those turbulent years? Pinchas E. Lapide, in his book “Three Popes and the Jews” says that “The final number of Jewish lives in whose rescue the Catholic Church had been the instrument is thus at least 700,000 souls, but in all probability it is much closer to . . . 860,000." "In all these painful matters, I referred to the Holy See and afterwards I simply carried out the Pope's orders: first and foremost to save human lives." Angelo Cardinal Roncalli, Patriarch of Venice, Later Pope John XXIII (1957). It is well documented by Jewish scholars like Joseph Lichten of B'nai B"rith that Pius used the assets of the Vatican to ransom Jews from the Nazis and that the Vatican under Pius ran an extensive network of hide-outs. Even the Pope's summer residence, Castel Gondolfo, was used to hide fugitive Jews. The Pope, moreover, took personal responsibility for the children of deported Jews.” And again “It is well known in consonance with the Pope’s direct urging, hundreds of convents, monasteries, and other religious buildings were opened, not only in Italy, but also in Poland, France, Belgium, and Hungary, to hide and shelter thousands of men, women, and children from Nazi atrocities.” Sr. Margaret Marchione, in her article defending the Pope notes how Pius XII set up the “Vatican Information Bureau”, which in the end had to hire thousands of personnel, was used to help individuals locate a lost loved one. The number of requests seeking response reached nearly 10 million! The returning communications surpassed that figure, over 11 million. She also notes how this bureau transmitted some 20 million messages, despite the great obstacles the Fascist governments put up, to help alleviate the pain and suffering of many individuals.
Dr. Joseph Lichten again recalls that on Sept 27, 1943, the Nazi’s commanded payment of one hundred pounds in gold from the Jewish community in Rome within 36 hours or 300 Jews would be taken prisoners. When the Jewish community could not come up with whole total, they turned to the Vatican. At the direction of Pius XII, Vatican employees filled the remaining deficit with gold vessels taken from the treasury. Folks, what else can we say? The fact that I’m here defending Pius XII is a statement about the hatred society has for the Catholic Church. The evidence in Pius XII’s favor is so overwhelming it’s incredible that any rational human being could think of criticizing him. However, as Jesus said “If they hated me, they will hate you.”
The icing on the case, I mean cake, is that immediately following WWII, the Chief Rabbi of Rome Israeli Zolli converted to the Catholic faith. Not only that, he took the name of Eugenio as his baptismal name, in deference to all Pius XII had done for the Jews. Lapide writes “When Zolli accepted baptism in 1945 and adopted Pius’s Christian name of Eugene, most Roman Jews were convinced that his conversion was an act of gratitude for wartime succor to Jewish refugees and, after repeated denials not withstanding, many are still of this opinion. Thus Rabbi Barry Dov Schwartz wrote in the summer issue, 1964 “Many Jews were persuaded to convert after the war, as a sign of gratitude, to that institution which had saved their lives.” (Conservative Judaism).
And finally, the most famous Jew of all time, who himself had barely escaped death at the hands of the Nazi’s, Albert Einstein had this to say; “Being a lover of liberty, when the Nazi revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend freedom, knowing that they had already boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth: but no, the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaring editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom: 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 stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth. I never had any interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration. I am forced to confess that what I once despised, I now praise universally.”(June 1944, Time Magazine)