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COMMENTARY: It’s time to open the wartime pope’s records

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Pope Pius XII

Pope Pius XII

Source: Religion News Service

A. James Rudin | Feb 27, 2014 | 1 Comment

(RNS) It’s almost a year since Pope Francis was chosen as Benedict XVI’s successor. The Argentinian-born pontiff has quickly achieved global fame for his numerous statements indicating that significant changes may be coming to the Roman Catholic Church.

One possible change emerged last month when London’s Sunday Times reported that Francis wants to make public the Vatican’s archives of Pius XII’s pontificate. Eugenio Pacelli became pope in 1939 and served as pontiff during the period of World War II and the Holocaust until his death in 1958.

According to the British newspaper, Francis wants to release the Pius XII papers for study before determining whether to consider his controversial predecessor for sainthood. Francis has already “fast-tracked” the path to sainthood for John XXIII and John Paul II, but not Pius XII.

The wartime pope’s actions and inactions regarding the endangered Jews of Europe remains an often-bitter divisive issue in today’s relationship between the church and the Jewish people. Catholic and Jewish historians have both criticized and defended Pius XII’s record.

His critics charge Pius XII failed to publicly denounce the mass murder of Jews or to provide sufficient assistance to protect them from the Nazis. The pope’s defenders maintain that his actions, some still unknown to the public, included hiding Jews in Catholic institutions, including convents and monasteries, as well as working behind the scenes to save Jewish lives.

The Vatican has released some classified documents but has still kept secret thousands of pages of archival material pertaining to World War II. In 2006, Benedict XVI opened the files on Pacelli’s predecessor, Pius XI, who was pope between 1922 and 1939. Within these are documents relating to the career of Pacelli when he served as the papal nuncio or ambassador to Germany between 1917 and 1929, and when he was Vatican secretary of state in the decade before his election to the papacy just six months before the outbreak of the war in September 1939.

Pope Francis is not the first Catholic leader to focus on Pius XII’s actions and his “paper trail.”

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Posted by on February 28, 2014. Filed under Catholic Church,Catholicism,Catholics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

One Response to COMMENTARY: It’s time to open the wartime pope’s records

  1. Namelee

    February 28, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    It would have been a miracle if The Muslim Times said anything favorable about His Holiness Pope Pius X11.
    The facts give a completely different picture of the Pontiff from what his detractors try unsuccessfully to paint. Had the Pope been indifferent to the plight of the Jews, he would not have received much commendation from Jewish leaders and organizations.
    In a 1943 letter Chaim Weizmann thanked Pope Pius for “THE SUPPORT THE HOLY SEE WAS GIVING TO LEND ITS POWERFUL HELP WHENEVER IT CAN TO MITIGATE THE FATE OF MY CORELIGIONISTS”.
    It would be remembered that Dr Weizmann was the Jewish scientist who discovered how to extract nitrogen from the atmosphere for the manufacture of nitrates used in making gun powder. This helped the British overcome the German blockade leading to the defeat of Germany in World War 1. For that contribution,the British government promulgated the Balfour Declaration which called for a homeland for the Jews in Palestine culminating in the creation of the State of Israel.
    Albert Einstein told Time Magazine in its 1940 Christmas edition “ONLY THE CHURCH STOOD SQUARELY ACROSS THE PATH OF HITLER’S CAMPAIGN OF SUPPRESSING THE TRUTH. I HAVE NEVER HAD ANY SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE CHURCH BEFORE, BUT NOW I FEEL A GREAT AFFECTION AND ADMIRATION BECAUSE THE CHURCH ALONE HAS HAD THE COURAGE AND PERSISTENCE TO STAND FOR INTELLECTUAL TRUTH AND MORAL FREEDOM”.
    Einstein escaped from Nazi Germany and had had a small taste of racial persecution.
    In 1938 the Vatican paper carried the Pope’s condemnation of ‘Kristallnacht’ from his time as the Papal Nuncio in Germany. That was the night which saw the destruction of Jewish businesses in Germany.
    In 1938 he wrote a letter to the Bishop of Cologne describing “HITLER AS THE FALSE PROPHET OF LUCIFER”.
    In 1937 at the Notre Dame in Paris, the Pope said that Hitler was leading Germany astray into an ideology of race.
    Records show that over 800,000 Jews were saved through the efforts of the Catholic Church. Some of them were hidden in the Vatican. Some in convents, churches and monasteries. The Holy See issued papers to Jews going to South America identifying them as Catholics to ease their passage.
    Hitler was aware of the Pope’s position so he ordered the Nazi newspaper to label the Pope “A JEW LOVER IN THE VATICAN”.
    To have been more forward than that would have jeopardized the effort of the Vatican in helping the Jews especially when most of Europe was occupied by German troops.
    Both Hitler and the communist leaders hated the Pope whom they saw as the most vile creature. That hatred was not because he stood idle by.
    Told that the Popes was a very powerful man, Stalin mockingly asked “HOW MANY(ARMY) DIVISIONS DOES HE HAVE?”
    In appreciation for his help to the Jewish people, David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, paid a thank you visit to the Pope. Jewish organizations, especially in the US, praised the Pontiff. The Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra played at the Holy See to thank the Pope and then posed for a photograph with him. A Chief Rabbi in Rome converted to Catholicism because of Pope Pius X11′S benevolence. At his funeral, Mrs Golda Meir, then Israel’s Foreign Minster, led an official delegation and delivered a eulogy.
    Ion Minai Pacepa, a high ranking Romanian communist official confessed that the campaign against the Pope was organized by the Soviet Communist Party.
    It is little wonder that those who are the most toxic critics of the Pope are leftist ‘intellectuals’ and ‘journalists’. Hot on their heels are the muhammadans who are miffed because the Pope’s assistance aided the Jews to emigrate to Palestine and eventually establish their own state.
    The world muhammadan leader at the time was the mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, who was Hitler’s very close friend. He and Hitler had planned to exterminate the Jews in the Middle East. Therefore, anyone who made that objective unattainable could only have been their number one enemy who was fit for the worst form of vilification that could ever be.
    Pope Pius X11 was human, who had his flaws arising from difficulties beyond his control. But he tried his best and does not deserve the vituperation poured on him.

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