March 27, 2000
volume 11, no. 61
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Pacelli Is Pope Who Received Greatest Recognition from Jewish People

    JERUSALEM, MAR 24 ( No Pope ever used such strong words to condemn anti-Semitism as John Paul II did yesterday at the Memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem. "As Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, I assure the Jewish people that, motivated by the evangelical law of truth and love and not by political considerations, the Catholic Church is profoundly saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place."

    And yet, leaders of the Jewish world have criticized the Pope for not asking forgiveness for Pius XII's "silence" in face of the Holocaust. The solemn petition for forgiveness that Pope Wojtyla pronounced on March 12 is not enough for Grand Rabbi Meir Israel Lau, who spoke yesterday on Italian television; the Pope must go a step further, he asserted.

    When John Paul II was asked by reporters on the airplane headed for Nigeria a couple years ago what he thought of Pius XII, without hesitation the Holy Father replied: "He was a great Pope." In spite of their enormous difference in temperaments, Pacelli and Wojtyla have many things in common, especially in regard to their teachings on moral issues, their love for the Virgin Mary, their opening to the Church's universality, and the latter's of government. Similarities that have been acknowledged by John Cornwell himself, author of "Hitler's Pope," an attack on Pius XII.

    However, in his lifetime, Pius XII received more praise and expressions of gratitude from the Jewish people than any other Bishop of Rome in history. According to several Jewish historians living in Italy, Pius XII and the Church saved between 740,000 and 860,000 Jews from extermination. In Rome alone, during the Nazi occupation 4,447 Jews were hidden in over 155 Catholic houses, ecclesiastical institutions, parishes and schools. In several churches in Rome there are Jewish plaques thanking the Church for saving Jewish lives. This rescue work was done at the express wish of the Pope.

    In December of 1940, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to "Time" magazine stating, "Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the case of truth; but no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom. But they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth. I 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. I am forced thus to confess, that what I once despised, I now praise unreservedly."

    After the War, Moshe Sharrett, former Foreign Affairs Minister and Prime Minister of Israel, went to see Pius XII "to thank the Catholic Church for what it did to save the Jews in all parts of the world." Like Sharrett, Rabbi Herzog of Jerusalem, as well as the Rabbis of the Italian, U.S., Rumanian, and Hungarian Jewish communities came to Rome or sent messages thanking Pope Pacelli for the way in which he mobilized the Church in their behalf.

    At least three of the volumes of the "Acts and Documents of the Holy See Relating to the Second World War, are full of documents written by the Jewish communities worldwide thanking Pius XII and the Catholic Church for the assistance offered to persecuted Jews.

    When Pius XII died, Golda Meir wrote: "During the Nazi terror, when our people were subjected to a terrible martyrdom, the Pope's voice was raised to condemn the persecutors and to offer mercy to their victims. We mourn over the death of a great server of peace."

    Jacob Philip Rudin, president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, said: "His sympathy for all, his wise social vision and his extreme understanding made him a prophetic voice in the service of justice everywhere. May his memory be a blessing for the life of the Roman Catholic Church and the world."

    On that same occasion, London's "Jewish Chronicle" recalled that "before, during and after the Second World War, he tried to carry a message of peace. Confronting the monstrous cruelties of Nazism, fascism and communism, he continually proclaimed the virtues of humanity and compassion."

    The idea that Pacelli was a philo-Nazi from his time as nuncio in Germany, one of Cornwell's theses in his book, doesn't match up with the facts. When Pacelli was elected Pope, the "Berliner Morgenpost," a pro-Nazi newspaper, stated that "the election of Cardinal Pacelli is not of Germany's liking, as he has always been opposed to Nazism."

    The international communist newspaper, "La Correspondance Internationale," dedicated an article to Pope Pacelli's election, saying it was a good election, because he was a man cleared opposed to Nazism.

    Following Pius XII's 1942 Christmas radio message, the Gestapo wrote the following in a report: "the Pope has rejected the new National Socialist European Order. He has not attacked National Socialism directly, but he has severely criticized everything we believe... He has spoken clearly in favor of the Jews."

    These documents explain the reasons why John Paul II has not asked for pardon for Pius XII's conduct during the Second World War, as forgiveness cannot be asked for faults that have not been committed. These testimonies have also advanced Pope Pacelli's cause for beatification. ZE00032406


March 27, 2000
volume 11, no. 61

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