DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     October 11, 1999     vol. 10, no. 193

NEWS & VIEWS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

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"HITLER'S POPE" DISCREDITS DISTINGUISHED 20TH CENTURY JEWS

Interview with Italian Author on Pius XII

        ROME, OCT 7 (ZENIT).- The issue of Pius XII's and the Catholic Church's role regarding Nazism and the Jewish persecution continues to draw much attention in Rome. Tomorrow, the Vatican Press Office will present Jesuit Fr. Pierre Blet's book, "Pius XII and the Second World War in the Vatican Archives." Unquestionably, as a result, the debate will gather momentum.

        In order to better understand the issues involved, ZENIT interviewed Antonio Gaspari, author of the recent book "The Jews, Pius XII and the Black Legend," a work published in Spanish and Italian, which will be translated into other languages over the next few months, which tells the stories of many Jews who were saved from the Holocaust thanks to the help of Pius XII and the Catholic Church.

    ZENIT: Controversy has broken out over the recently published book "Hitler's Pope," by British journalist John Cornwell, which accuses Pius XII of being an anti-Semite and not having helped saved the Jews during World War II. You have interviewed hundreds of people to write your own book about Pius XII's activity to save the Jews during this same period. What surprises about the differences between your vision and Cornwell's?

    ANTONIO GASPARI: What is most surprising about Cornwell's work is to see how he has been diligent in not quoting the authorized and extremely representative testimonies of very many Jewish personalities in support of Pius XII. In 1940, Albert Einstein wrote in "Time" magazine that, in face of the Nazi barbarism, "only the Church remained standing to halt the progress of Hitler's campaigns to do away with truth." Einstein went on to say that, "in the past I never felt any interest for the Church, but now I feel great love and admiration for her, as the Church was the only one with the courage and tenacity to support intellectual truth and moral freedom. I must admit that what I once despised, I now praise unconditionally."

        Neither does Cornwell take into consideration the statements of support for Pius XII from personages like Golda Meir and Isaak Herzog, two of the founders of the State of Israel. Not to mention the thousands of Bishops, priests, men and women religious, and convinced (lay) Catholics who risked and lost their life to protect Jews from the Nazi persecution, and whose names today are inscribed in the Wall of Honor of the street in Jerusalem leading to Yad Vashem, the memorial to the Holocaust. This honor is reserved for the "Just among Nations," the highest recognition given by the Israeli Parliament to all those who saved the life of one or more Jews destined to extermination camps."

        Consequently, "Hitler's Pope" ignores the testimonies of men and women who today, not only are considered Fathers of the State of Israel, but also distinguished contributors to Jewish culture and science in this century.

    ZENIT: What about all the research Cornwell did in the Vatican archives?

    GASPARI: Cornwell says he spent months studying in Rome, that is why I am surprised that he didn't consider the case of Israel Zoller, for example, the chief Rabbi of Rome during the period (of World War II)who, moved by Pius XII's affection for the Jewish people, converted to Catholicism and took the baptismal name Eugene, in honor of Pius XII, whose name was Eugenio Pacelli.

        In doing research of this kind, Cornwell and those who accuse Pius XII ... should have discovered that the Vatican did not request all these testimonies; rather, these came spontaneously from people who wanted to thank the Pope for what he did for them. Was there any other personality in the world during those years who received higher recognition from the Jewish people?

    ZENIT: But Cornwell says that he bases the book on documents kept in the Vatican Secretariat of State.

    GASPARI: I think that on this point the British author is simply telling lies. He says he spent months studying in the Vatican Archives and as it turns out, he didn't even spend three weeks in the Secretariat of State, and he didn't come every day, either. Cornwell says he has seen documents relating to the period prior to the War, but the fact is, he was only able to analyze those that preceded Pius XII's pontificate -- up to 1922. He stated that he found an exclusive document that proved Pope Pacelli's anti-Semitism, but this turns out to be only one letter whose content he distorts in a vulgar way and which, moreover, had already been published in Italy seven years earlier. All this does not speak in his favor. What's more, I have the impression that in his determination to get the "scoop" of his life, he published a sensationalist book. Cornwell does no more than republish the calumnies that have been leveled against Pius XII since the beginning of the 60s, when a theatrical work appeared against him entitled 'The Vicar.'

    ZENIT: Then, why has this book provoked so much controversy?

    GASPARI: I think that some groups do not like John Paul II's great popularity and, therefore, in recent times, they have tried to sell scandalous books against the Catholic Church. I don't think the publishers are very interested in finding out the professionalism of these accusations; what is important is to criticize the papacy and the Vatican. Moreover, this guarantees controversy and coverage in the press. It would seem that Cornwell's book is geared to this end. ZE99100701


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.

October 11, 1999       volume 10, no. 193
NEWS & VIEWS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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