DAILY CATHOLIC     WEDNESDAY     March 17, 1999     vol. 10, no. 53

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          ROME, 16 (NE) "The materials in my possession confirm that no one of whatever station or organization did as much to help the Jews as did Pius XII and, at his explicit instructions, the Roman Catholic Church." These were the words of Father Peter Gumpel, relator of the cause of beatification of Pope Pius XII, after having examined the voluminous amount of materials regarding the process of beatification of the Pope.

          In an article published in the English newspaper The Tablet, Father Gumpel underlines that in regard to the beatification cause of Pope Pius XII "something shameful is going on," due to the numerous and groundless critics that have risen presenting an distorted idea of the role the Pontiff carried out during World War II.

          In his examination of the facts relative to this time, Father Gumpel highlights the many testimonies of gratitude shown to the Holy Father upon concluding the war, many of them coming personally from Jews and from their organizations in different parts of the world. "Nevertheless," he says, "their witness is today largely ignored by many who were still children or not yet born at the time of the Holocaust."

          Later on, the Jesuit priest, that suffered himself the nazi persecution, recalled that it was Rolf Hochhuth and his anti-Catholic work The Vicar, who began the strange public attacks against Pope Pius XII. He also pointed out once more how this work clearly evidences Hochhuth's lack of historical knowledge and has been criticized by many personalities - including Jewish historians- for its distorted and tendentious presentation of the facts. The relator of the cause makes a brief reference to the great amount of facts and documents that show what the Church did under the orientation of Pope Pius XII.

          On the other hand, showing the ignorance of many, Gumpel highlighted the publication - ordered by Pope Paul VI - of all the documents related to the Second World War, known as Actes et Documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la Seconde Guerre Mondiale. "The 12 volumes contain 5,100 documents published according to high scientific standards." Trying not to judge the intentions of those who act in this manner, Gumpel simply points out: "People who demand that the Vatican publish the documents regarding this period are ill informed." There is even the existence since 1997 of a 336 page volume, elaborated by one of the investigators, Father Pierre Blet, Pius XII and the Second World War, according to the archives of the Vatican. Blet is one of the most serious historians on that time, publishing his book to make accessible the immense amount of Vatican documentation accumulated in the twelve volumes that cover from 1939 to 1945.

          Later on, responding to the strange critic of supposed silence by the Pontiff, Father Gumpel reminds that "the truth is that Pius XII repeatedly and publicly condemned the persecution of innocent people for the sole reason of their race." Accusations against the Pope from Nazi authorities were immediate and many facts confirm this. "Pius XII also avoided more vehement public declarations because experience had taught him not only that they did not save a single Jewish life, but, on the contrary, that they triggered even more violent persecutions of the Jews." The statement of the Dutch Catholic bishops, points out Gumpel, left this clear in the Pope's mind, who even decided not to publish a public protest already written given the consequences that it could have. After the Dutch Bishop's statement, Catholics of Jewish origin were sent to concentration camps, among them the religious Saint Theresa Benedicta, whose lay name was Edith Stein.

          "The only effective way of helping the Jews," points out Father Gumpel, "consisted in shielding them secretly from the Nazis. This was the strategy adopted by Pius XII. Pinchas Lapide, after many years of research in Jewish sources, came to the conclusion that the Catholic Church, at Pius XII's instructions, saved between 700,000 and 860,000 Jewish lives."

          Vigorously responding to vain scandals and even absurd pressures, Father Gumpel concludes: "The cause of the beatification and canonization of Pope Pius XII, who is rightly venerated by many millions of Catholics, will not be stopped or delayed by the unjustifiable and calumnious attacks against this great and saintly man." The article of Father Gumpel once again evidences the coherence in the luminous life of charity of Pope Pius XII, during this chapter of indefatigable work undertaken by the Supreme Pontiff in the difficult years of World War II.

          In a directly related story reported by Catholic World News from the Vatican, it was one year ago-- on March 16, 1998-- the Vatican released a new document on the Holocaust, entitled: “We Remember: a Reflection on the Shoah.” The document was prepared by the Holy See’s Commission on Relations with Judaism.

          This week Cardinal Edward Cassidy, the president of the commission which released that document, made reference to the strong reactions from some Jewish organizations, particularly regarding the document’s references to Pope Pius XII. The cardinal observed that there were “strong reactions” to the document’s report that Pope Pius had directly or indirectly saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews during the Nazi era.

          "The pontificate of Pius XII must become an object of deeper and more objective study," Cardinal Cassidy said. He was participating in a conference to announce the publication of a new book, Pius XII and the Jews, by Sister Margherita Marchione. Cardinal Cassidy himself wrote the preface to that book.

          The cardinal said that Pope Pius XII was unjustly accused remaining silent about the Holocaust. That accusation is not based on an objective study of the facts, he said. Rather, it is the result of an attack on the memory of the wartime pope, which began with the presentation of the dramatic work, The Deputy, by Rolf Hochhuth, in 1963.

          The new book by Sister Marchione offers testimony from Jewish and Catholic leaders who were active during the years of World War II, and have direct knowledge of the work of Pope Pius. The 250-page work (published in English under the title, Yours Is a Precious Witness), also provides carefully documented statistics regarding the number of Jews who became victims of the Holocaust.

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales. Both CWN and NE are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

March 17, 1999       volume 10, no. 53


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