DAILY CATHOLIC     WEDNESDAY     July 21, 1999     vol. 10, no. 135

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Book, Film, and Newspaper Accuse Him of Collaboration with Hitler

          ROME, JUL 19 (ZENIT).- Pius XII, born Eugenio Pacelli, who reigned as Pope throughout World War II, has long been a target for anti-Catholic forces. He is often accused of being silent before the massacre of the Jews. These accusations have, if anything, intensified in recent months.

          At the beginning of June, Viking Press published a book entitled, "Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII." In the release announcing the book, Viking described it as "The untold story of the most dangerous man of the Church in modern history." The author is John Cornwell, brother of novelist David Cornwell, who writes under the pen name John Le Carre.

          According to the Viking release, the book contains serious accusations against Pius XII, who not only is made responsible for "silence" in regard to Nazi atrocities but, in addition, is accused of contributing to Hitler's arrival in power. In Cornwell's judgment, "Hitler could never have carried out the holocaust without Paccelli's assistance."

          The release also states that Pius XII was anti-Semitic and narcissistic, and that his pontificate was characterized by political and spiritual ambitions, that are similar to those "influencing John Paul II's pontificate."

          These accusations remain, for the time being, only threats, as John Cornwell's book will only reach the bookstores in October. Many experts who know the history of the period are waiting to examine the historical documentation of the book before giving their opinion. It appears that Viking is concerned about eventual critical reviews that could damage the sale of the book and has denied any preview of it. Moreover, it seems that a number of U.S. Catholic organizations have told Viking that they are prepared to launch a campaign to boycott not only this book, but all other Viking publications.

          On the heels of the announcement of the Cornwell book, news arrived that Greek film director Constantin Costa Gravas will produce a film based on the play "The Deputy," written by Rolf Hochhuth in 1963. It seems that it was Hochhuth's play that sparked the "black legend" against Pope Pacelli, portraying him as a pusillanimous Nazi sympathizer whose sole interest was business with the Germans, since before the publication of this work, public opinion was united in favor of Pius XII.

          After the first showings of the play "The Deputy," it was Jewish speakers themselves who protested against Hochhuth -- among them, Dr. Marcus Melchior, Chief Rabbi in Denmark; Emilio Pinchas Lapide, former Israeli consul in Milan; and Robert Kempner, an attorney in the Nuremberg trials. Cardinal Montini (later Pope Paul VI), at the time Archbishop of Milan, also protested strongly. A letter of his, severely criticizing Hochhuth's work, was published in "The Tablet," after his election to the papacy. Although details of the film are still unknown, it will undoubtedly be unflattering to Pius XII.

          Finally, the Italian newspaper, "Corriere della Sera," has added its voice to the chorus of criticisms. In a recently published article, it highlighted what it called an "important revelation": a letter of Pius XII to Franklin D. Roosevelt, in which the Pope expresses his concern over the establishment of the State of Israel in Palestine. That the Church should be opposed to a Jewish State in Palestine is neither news nor original, as other nations also expressed the same concern. Moreover, historians are already familiar with this letter. The article stretches the facts to attribute this stance solely to Pius XII who, in fact, himself worked to save as many Jews as possible from extermination, hence enabling them to go to Palestine.

          It is interesting to note what Archbishop Angelo Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII), at the time Papal Nuncio in Istanbul, wrote to Vatican Secretary of State Maglione on September 4, 1943, in response to a Holy See request in favor of Jews. "I must admit that the Holy See's sending of the Jews to Palestine, for what amounts to the reconstruction of the Jewish kingdom, beginning by having them leave Italy, causes me uncertainty of spirit. If this was being encouraged by fellow Jews and political friends, it would be comprehensible. But I do not think it is in good taste that the very simple and high exercise of charity of the Holy See should offer the occasion or the appearance of what will be regarded as cooperation -- at least initial and direct, in the implementation of the Messianic dream."

          Even Roncalli who, following instructions from the Holy See, exerted himself to save Jews from persecution, had reservations about the establishment of the State of Israel. But no one doubts the goodness of Roncalli's actions as Nuncio and Pope. The question remains, therefore, as to why Pius XII continues to be suspect, when he is the single Pope in history who has received the most praise and gratitude from the Jewish people themselves. ZE99071904

          Adding to this CWN reports out of Tel Aviv that a Catholic-Jewish conference in Israel on relations between the religions was rocked on Monday when a Vatican representative said the problem was not just perceived Catholic anti-Semitism, but also Jewish anti-Catholicism.

          Father David Yager said the Catholic Church is not anti-Semitic and that all traces of the ideology have been purged from the Church's institutions, but Israel continued to hold an anti-Catholic attitude that is harming prospects for better relations. Father Yager cited continuing accusations by some Jewish leaders that Pope Pius XII did not forcefully enough condemn the Nazism and the Holocaust.

          "The Catholic Church and the Jewish people are now allies, friends, and lovers," Father Yager said, but added that Israel's continuing coolness toward overtures from the Vatican is harming relations as millions of Catholics prepare to visit the Holy Land during the Jubilee Year next year. He said that continuing criticism of Pope Pius is essentially a "blood libel."

          "Our questions, our desires to search the truth are not blood libelous," said Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League. Foxman praised efforts by Pope John Paul II to emphasize the incompatibility of anti-Semitism with Catholic teaching, but said the message was not filtering down to churches at the grass-roots level. "We both have responsibilities that we haven't fulfilled," he said, suggesting that levels of anti-Semitism were still higher-than-average among Catholics.

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.

July 21, 1999       volume 10, no. 135


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