VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- The Jesuit magazine La Civilta Cattolica has revealed that Pope Pius XII was prepared to issue an explicit denunciation of the Nazi Holocaust in 1942, but that he was persuaded not to publish the statement because of the consequences that would follow.

      The Civilta Cattolica story, to be published in that magazine's next issue, reports that Pius XII wrote the denunciation of the Nazi regime "with his own hand," intending that it would be published in L'Osservatore Romano. But the article goes on to say that the Pope eventually burned his own manuscript-- apparently in frustration-- because he had been convinced that such as statement would lead to even more brutal Nazi treatment of both Jews and Catholics.

      These striking revelations appear in an unsigned article on the recent Vatican document about the Holocaust and the controversy that has ensued. La Civilta Cattolica is generally regarded as a semi-official publication of the Vatican, whose articles are approved by the Secretariat of State.

      Father Pierre Blet, SJ, the sole survivor among the Jesuit historians who studied the secret Vatican archives from World War II, told the Rome news agency I Media that the revelation about the proposed statement came from Sister Pasqualina, the German nun who worked on the staff of Pope Pius XII for years. The story appeared in her memoirs in 1982, and Sister Pasqualina later confirmed the existence of the statement in conversation with Father Blet. However, the Jesuit historian continued, "I never used it in my writing because it is impossible to document this letter-- which has in fact disappeared." Intrigued by the story, he questioned Sister Pasqualina further, and learned that Pope Pius XII had burned the draft statement, in her presence, "in the kitchen of the pontifical apartments."

      The story in La Civilta Cattolica explains that Pope Pius XII was dissuaded from issuing his statement for three reasons:

      First, he noticed that the Nazi regime had intensified its persecution of Jews immediately after the publication of Mit Bennender Sorge, the German-language encyclical issued by his predecessor, Pope Pius XI, to condemn Nazi racial policies.

      Second, he learned that after Dutch bishops had made open protests against the deportation of Jews, earlier in 1942, the Nazi regime again responded by redoubling the persecution-- and also rounding up Jews who had converted to Catholicism, among them the Blessed Edith Stein.

      Finally, he was counseled by many Jewish leaders-- including some who had escaped from Berlin and elsewhere in Germany-- that such an explicit condemnation would be counterproductive.

      The report in La Civilta Cattolica matches the evidence produced by Cardinal Paolo Dezza, who had been rector of the Gregorian University during the wartime years. Last week Cardinal Dezza recalled visiting with Pope Pius XII, and finding: "The Pope was suffering, because he was ready to intervene publicly with a solemn condemnation of Hitler's actions. But he had me read a letter from the German bishops and cardinals, who begged him not to speak, because if the Pope spoke out publicly against Hitler, he would treat Catholics even more violently than Jews."

      The Civilta Cattolica article goes on to defend the Church against accusations that Catholic teaching provoked anti-Semitism, and to defend the Vatican decision not to offer unfettered access to the secret archives involving World War II. The unsigned editorial praised the recent statement, We Remember, as a positive step forward in inter-faith dialogue.

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April 3-5, 1998 volume 9, no. 67         DAILY CATHOLIC