Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pius defenders gathered to answer questions about Pope Pius XII

This is the heading of an article about a gathering Rome.  I have taken it from Catholic News Service.  At this stage I know nothing of the proceedings and cannot make any comment on what was discussed.  I post this article because it is important to attempt to hear all the voices about Pius, even the ones I don't necessarily agree with.  When I learn more about the Rome meeting I will make some considered comments.

I met Andrea Tornielli and Matteo Luigi Napolitano.  Andrea is a delightful and articulate journalist with whom I dicussed a number of issues related to Pius at the Jerusalem symposium in March 2009.  Matteo is likewise very affable and keen to listen to other points of view.  While I do not agree with all their conclusions about Pius, I respect their work as historians. 

I have read Ronald Rychlak's book, "Hitler, the War and the Pope" (2000) and consider it more apologia than history along the lines of other "pro-Pius" writers.   I did not find much that had not been written before and little use of references outside the war years to help understand the mindset of the Vatican.

The article follows:

By Sarah Delaney - Catholic News Service

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Defenders of Pope Pius XII gathered in Rome to answer a list of questions about his actions in the face of Nazi persecution of Jews in Europe during World War II, an organizer of the event said.

Gary Krupp, founder of the Pave the Way Foundation, a nondenominational organization that seeks to improve interfaith relations, said a panel of five experts on the wartime period met April 26-27. The object of the videotaped meeting was to answer 47 questions about the Catholic Church and World War II that had been posed but never officially answered by a Catholic-Jewish commission disbanded about 10 years ago.

Krupp said the experts enlisted were Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel, a top promoter of the canonization cause of Pope Pius; Ronald J. Rychlak, professor of law and associate dean at the University of Mississippi, and the author of two books on Pope Pius' wartime role; Matteo Luigi Napolitano, an Italian associate history professor at the University of Molise and a Pope Pius biographer; Andrea Tornielli, who covers the Vatican for an Italian daily and a Pope Pius biographer; and Michael Hesemann, a German author of several books about the church, including one defending Pope Pius' wartime record.

Krupp, an American Jew, has maintained that Pope Pius has been unfairly judged by Jewish groups and some historians who say that he did not speak out forcefully to try to stop Adolf Hitler's persecution of Jews. Krupp joins many Catholics who say the pope did all he could behind the scenes to try to save Jewish lives and that a direct confrontation would have provoked worse reprisals against Jews.

Krupp supports Pope Pius' sainthood cause. Pope Benedict XVI recently declared the wartime pope venerable, one of the first steps toward sainthood, a move that angered many Jewish groups who say that Pope Pius' role remains ambiguous and that it should be studied before the cause goes further.

The questions addressed by the panel originated with a joint commission of scholars formed in 1999 by the Vatican and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultation to study the issue of Pope Pius and the Jews during the war. After examining published materials for a year, the commission suspended its work amid controversy over access to still-closed Vatican archives from that period. I suggest the journalist could have done a better job with her homework and written a little more accurately about the International Catholic Jewish Historical Commission and their work.  The hyper-link takes you to the report on which this Rome meeting appears to be gathered to answer.  The IHCJC story is worth taking the time to read, if only to experience something of the difficulties confronting historians.

Krupp said he would make the nine hours of recorded material available on DVD and on his foundation's website.

He and four other Jewish figures who had been present during the taping of the panel's discussions spoke briefly with Pope Benedict at the end of the weekly papal audience in St. Peter's Square April 28.

They also met with German Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Krupp said. They discussed an interfaith effort to promote a tradition of families eating together on Friday night, he said. They also expressed their fear of a nuclear Iran and Iran's hostile attitude toward Israel, Krupp said.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Arnold Ages "Vatican: Three steps forward, three steps backwards".

I am grateful to Norm Gordnor, Editor of the Jewish Tribune for permission to reprint this article. 

Arnold Ages is Distinguished Emeritus Professor of French Language and Literature, University of Waterloo (Ontario) and Scholar-in-Residence at the Beth Tzedec Congregation, Toronto.   His article is a balanced and thoughtful.  I think it is an excellent example of the great move forward Jews and Catholics have made over the last 50 years, that we can speak frankly with each other, and know the relationship / friendship will stand firm.

Vatican: Three steps forward, three steps backward

Written by Arnold Ages

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

One must be very discrete in criticizing the Vatican or the Pope. Catholics understandably, are as sensitive to ungainly criticism of the papacy as Jews are to unfair criticism of the state of Israel. Therefore, words must be carefully weighed before they are transformed into print.

First the good news. Since 1964 the Roman Catholic Church, through the agency of Vatican II and Pope John XXIII, has made heroic strides in reconfiguring the church’s unfortunate and ultimately damaging theological biases against Jews and Judaism. As a result of deliberations at the 1964 conclave, the deicide myth attached to Jews historically by the Catholic Church has been removed and replaced by a doctrine that cites humanity in general as responsible for the crucifixion. The church has gone a long way in its text books to also remove the “teaching of contempt” for Jews and Judaism that has been an integral part of Catholic teachings.

There have been two other significant positive developments in Catholic-Jewish relations since the period in question. One of the irritating obstacles to that relationship was the reference to “perfidious Jews” in the Good Friday Easter liturgy in the Catholic Church. The church tried originally to mute the criticism by explaining that “perfidious” in its Latin original simply meant “unbelieving.” Still, a prayer for the conversion of “unbelieving Jews” was offensive to the Jewish community at large. The Catholic Church eventually eliminated that liturgical curiosity.

The most important change of all occurred in the early 1990s when the Vatican, after protracted debate among the leaders of the church, decided to reverse two millennia of anti-Jewish doctrine concerning the link between the rise of Christianity and the expulsion of Jews from the Land of Israel by taking the extraordinary step of recognizing the state of Israel as a palpable and living expression of Jews and Judaism. True, the diplomatic channels have not always been amiable, but they remain an important conduit for both sides.

In the last several years, however, the Vatican has been stepping backwards through a series of thoughtless gestures. The reintegration of excommunicated Bishop Richard Williamson, a known Holocaust “minimizer” (“only 300,000 Jews died and none in the concentration camps,” he said), into the Catholic Church two years ago, was a painful episode for the Jewish community, which correctly sees Holocaust denial in any form as a recrudescence antisemitism. Bishop Williamson was recently found guilty in Regensburg, Germany of Holocaust denial and fined. Williams’s other statements about Jews as “the enemies of Christ,” and that the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion are authentic, makes one wonder how the Vatican could have welcomed such an individual once again into the bosom of the church.

The Vatican’s beatification exercise for two people – a first step to canonizing an individual as a saint in the Catholic Church – has been a misstep for most Jews because of the two candidates, Edith Stein, a converted Jewish thinker murdered by the Nazis, and Pope Pius XII, the Germanophile leader of the church during the Holocaust. While it might be incautious for Jews to render opinions about the inner religious mechanisms of another religion, the move to elevate a Jewish victim of Nazi barbarism and to transform her into a sacred personage is grating. As for Pope Pius XII, there is evidence that the Vatican did help many Jews during the Holocaust, but the same evidence suggests that Pius XII was uninvolved in those rescue attempts.

Finally, the current Pope’s spiritual adviser used the pages of the Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, to offer what is undoubtedly a base example of foot-and-mouth disease when he suggested on Good Friday this year that criticism of Pope Benedict, regarding the sexual scandals among priests, was akin to antisemitism. The absurdity of the charge was immediately recognized by Vatican officials and the article was repudiated while its author apologized.

It is to be hoped that the backward steps recorded above are mere minor blips on the radar screen of Catholic-Jewish relations and that both communities can look forward to a renewed entente.

Reprinted with permission from the Jewish Tribune, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. © 2010 Jewish Tribune, all rights reserved.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Letter to Pope Benedict

Towards the end of last year I was invited to join a number of historians in signing a letter addressed to Pope Benedict XVI asking him to allow more time for the examination of the papacy of Pius XII.  Honoured to have been asked, I accepted.  The signatories were asked to preserve the confidentiality of the letter until such time as the Pope had recieved it and, as we hoped, and responded to it.  Such was not the case.  Within a couple of hours of the letter being sent to Rome it was "leaked" and splashed around the world.  I leave it to the reader to judge the merit of the letter.  It was done with a profound sense of respect to the Pope and with no hint of attempting to force the Pope's hand.

This is how the National Catholic Reporter (one of the best English language Catholic journals) reported the letter:

UPDATED: Scholars ask pope to slow Pius XII's canonization

Feb. 18, 2010

By Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service Vatican

WASHINGTON -- Nineteen Catholic scholars of theology and history are asking Pope Benedict XVI to slow the process of the sainthood cause of Pope Pius XII.

Saying that much more research needs to be done on the papacy of the mid-20th century pope, the scholars said in a Feb. 16 letter to Pope Benedict that "history needs distance and perspective" before definitive conclusions can be reached on the role of Pope Pius during World War II and the Holocaust.

Leading the effort are Servite Father John Pawlikowski, professor of ethics at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and Holy Cross Father Kevin Spicer, associate professor of history at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass.

"We're not on a bandwagon to stop his eventual canonization," Father Pawlikowski told Catholic News Service Feb. 18. "We're saying allow some time."

Father Pawlikowski said the scholars, known widely for their research and expertise on the Holocaust, wanted to express their concerns in a respectful manner to the pope.

First sent Feb. 16 via e-mail to the Vatican and then sent a day later via overnight mail, the letter asked Pope Benedict "to be patient with the cause of Pope Pius XII."

Pope Benedict advanced the cause of Pope Pius' sainthood in a Dec. 19 decree.

Copies of the letter also were sent to Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, episcopal moderator for Catholic-Jewish relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

Both Father Spicer and Father Pawlikowski said the letter was meant to be private correspondence with the pope but it was released by an unknown party to a secular news agency Feb. 17.

Father Spicer told CNS Feb. 18 that the scholars also wanted to tell Pope Benedict that concerns about the canonization of Pope Pius are not limited to the Jewish community.

"The people who signed the letter, they are ... Catholic, they work in the Catholic Church in Holocaust studies or have written in that area before," Father Spicer said.

"We're all practicing Catholics. We're faithful to the Holy Father. We wanted to be sure of writing a letter that was respectful but at the same time addresses our concerns," he added.

In the letter, the scholars said "the movement to press forward at this time the process of beatification of Pius XII greatly troubles us."

Citing controversy that surrounds Pope Pius' actions during World War II and the Holocaust, the scholars said much research remains to be done before final conclusions can be drawn about his behavior.

"History needs distance and perspective to arrive at these conclusions," the letter said. "At this moment, scholars eagerly await the opening of the papers from Pius XII's pontificate that you, Holy Father, have so graciously arranged to be made available."

The scholars said existing research "leads us to the view that Pope Pius XII did not issue a clearly worded statement, unconditionally condemning the wholesale slaughter and murder of European Jews."

"At the same time, some evidence also compels us to see that Pius XII's diplomatic background encouraged him as head of a neutral state, the Vatican, to assist Jews by means that were not made public during the war. It is essential that further research be conducted to resolve both these questions," the letter said.

The scholars also shared their concern that by discussing the beatification of Pope Pius, Catholic-Jewish relations would be set back.

Acknowledging Pope Benedict's efforts to breach misunderstandings between Catholics and Jews, the scholars still cautioned that much work remains to build relations between the two religions.

"Mistrust and apprehension still exist," the scholars wrote. "For many Jews and Catholics, Pius XII takes on a role much larger than his historical papacy. In essence, Pius XII has become a symbol of centuries-old Christian anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism.

"It is challenging to separate Pope Pius XII from this legacy. Proceeding with the cause of Pope Pius XII, without an exhaustive study of his actions during the Holocaust, might harm Jewish-Catholic relations in a way that cannot be overcome in the foreseeable future," the letter said.

In addition to Father Spicer and Father Pawlikowski, the list of signers includes Jesuit Father James Bernauer, philosophy professor, Boston College; Suzanne Brown-Fleming, independent scholar; John Connelly, associate history professor, University of California at Berkeley; Frank J. Coppa, history professor, St. John's University in New York; Donald J. Dietrich, theology professor, Boston College; Sister Audrey Doetzel, a member of the Congregation of Notre Dame de Sion and associate director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning, Boston College; Lauren N. Faulkner, assistant history professor, University of Notre Dame in Indiana; Eugene J. Fisher, retired associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligous Affairs in Washington; and Dominican Father Elias H. Fullenbach of the Institute for Church History, University of Bonn in Germany.

It also includes: Beth A. Griech-Polelle, associate history professor, Bowling Green State University in Ohio; Robert A. Krieg, theology professor, Notre Dame; Martin Menke, associate history professor, Rivier College in Nashua, N.H.; Paul O'Shea, senior religious education coordinator, St. Patrick's College, Strathfield, Australia; Michael E. O'Sullivan, assistant history professor, Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Michael Phayer, professor emeritus of history, Marquette University in Milwaukee; Mercy Sister Carol Rittner, professor of Holocaust and genocide studies, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey; and Jose Sanchez, professor emeritus of history, St. Louis University.

Here is the text of the letter:

16 February 2010

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Palace, 00120 Vatican City

Your Holiness,

As faithful, practicing Catholics, consecrated and lay, we urgently write to you concerning the cause of Pope Pius XII. We are educators who have conducted research and are currently carrying into effect more research on Catholicism under National Socialism and the Holocaust. The movement to press forward at this time the process of beatification of Pius XII greatly troubles us. Needless to say, the controversy over Pius XII’s actions during the Second World War and the Holocaust is long-standing. Numerous books and articles have been written on the topic. Nevertheless, the scholars still have a great deal of research to complete before final conclusions can be drawn about Pius XII’s behavior during the Holocaust. History needs distance and perspective to arrive at these conclusions. At the moment, scholars eagerly await the opening of papers from Pius XII’s pontificate that you, Holy Father, have so graciously arranged to be made available. At the same time, as researchers, we also realize that there are numerous archives, both secular and ecclesiastical, that scholars have yet to access or consult, many of which might shed more light on Pope Pius’s actions during the Holocaust. Currently, existing research leads us to the view that Pope Pius XII did not issue a clearly worded statement, unconditionally condemning the wholesale slaughter and murder of European Jews. At the same time, some evidence also compels us to see that Pius XII’s diplomatic background encouraged him as head of a neutral state, the Vatican, to assist Jews by means that were not made public during the war. It is essential that further research be conducted to resolve both these questions. As scholars of theology and history, we realize how important the historical critical method is to your own research and we implore you to ensure that such a historical investigation takes place before proceeding with the cause of Pope Pius XII.

A greater issue, of course, arises with the discussion of the beatification of Pius XII. For centuries the Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, have propagated both religious anti-Judaism and religious anti-Semitism, however unintentionally or in ignorance. “Nostra Aetate,” however, ensured that Catholics’ views of Jews would be definitively changed. Your most recent comments, Holy Father, in the synagogue of Rome, endeavored to breach centuries of misunderstandings between Catholics and Jews. Your actions were moving and courageous. Still there is a great deal of work to be done in this area. Mistrust and apprehension still exist. For many Jews and Catholics, Pius XII takes on a role much larger than his historical papacy. In essence, Pius XII has become a symbol of centuries-old Christian anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism which, for example, the late Rev. Edward H. Flannery has documented and spelled out in his work “The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-Three Centuries of Anti-Semitism.” It is challenging to separate Pope Pius XII from this legacy. Proceeding with the cause of Pope Pius XII, without an exhaustive study of his actions during the Holocaust, might harm Jewish-Catholic relations in a way that cannot be overcome in the foreseeable future.

Holy Father, we implore you, acting on your wisdom as a renowned scholar, professor and teacher, to be patient with the cause of Pope Pius XII. Patience is not passive, it is active; indeed it is condensed strength and courage to bring one forward in hope to a central conclusion and point. In this regard, we humbly ask that scholars be given the access and time to carefully and thoroughly examine the documents relating to the pontificate of Pius XII before embarking on the beatification process. We thank you for hearing us and reflecting upon the urgent concerns of our request. We have the honor to be, Your Holiness,

Rev. Dr. John Pawlikowski, O.S.M., professor of ethics, Catholic Theological Union

Rev. Dr. Kevin P. Spicer, C.S.C., Kenneally associate professor of history, Stonehill College

Rev. Dr. James Bernauer, S.J., Kraft professor of philosophy, Boston College, director, Center for Christian-Jewish Learning

Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming, independent scholar

Dr. John Connelly, associate professor of history, University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Frank J. Coppa, professor of history, St. John’s University; associate editor, New Catholic Encyclopedia; currently working on biography of Pius XII

Dr. Donald J. Dietrich, professor of theology, Boston College

Dr. Audrey Doetzel, N.D.S., associate director, Center for Christian-Jewish Learning, Boston College

Dr. Lauren N. Faulkner, assistant professor of history, University of Notre Dame

Dr. Eugene J. Fisher, retired associate director, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

P. Elias H. Fullenbach, O.P., Dominikanerkloster Dusseldorf, Institut fur Kirchengeschichte der Universitat Bonn

Dr. Beth A. Griech-Polelle, Ph.D., associate professor of history, Bowling Green State University

Dr. Robert A. Krieg, professor of theology, University of Notre Dame

Dr. Martin Menke, associate professor of history, Rivier College

Dr. Paul O’Shea, senior religious education coordinator, St. Patrick’s College, Strathfield, NSW, Australia

Dr. Michael E. O’Sullivan, assistant professor of history, Marist College

Dr. Michael Phayer, professor emeritus of history, Marquette University

Dr. Carol Rittner, R.S.M., distinguished professor of Holocaust and genocide studies and the

Dr. Marsha Raitcoff Grossmann professor of Holocaust Studies, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Dr. Jose Sanchez, professor emeritus of history, St. Louis University

Monday, April 19, 2010

Official - there is no Pius XII forest in Israel

In an earlier post about Pinchas Lapide, I mentioned one of the "throw away" lines in his book:

"No Pope in history has been thanked more heartily by Jews . . . .Several suggested in open letters that a Pope Pius XII forest of 860,000 trees be planted on the hills of Judea in order to fittingly honor the memory of the late Pontiff ("Three Popes and the Jews" pp. 214–215)."

A number of rather extreme and conservative Catholic websites have turned the suggestion into what they believe to be is fact.  They believe there is a forest of 800,000 or 860,000 trees in Israel.  And I have copped a shellacking from one poster on an Australian discussion board over it and every other post about Pius with which he takes (a totally a-historical and ill informed) exception.

In mid-March this year I wrote to colleagues in Israel asking them to give me an authoritative answer to this allegation, just to settle the issue once and for all.

Today I received this reply:

Sorry it took so long, but since nobody at Yad Vashem had ever heard about these trees, I put in a request for information from the Keren Kayemeth, which deal with the planting of trees in Israel. They told us that they are unaware of any such trees, planted in honor of Pius XII. In fact they are unaware of any trees planted at all in honor of Pius XII.

I hope this is an end to one of the more bizarre myths about Pope Pius.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Zenit news article today.

This article appeared on Zenit today. My comments appear in the text.

Archives Show Church Excommunicated Nazis

Foundation Continues Restoring Reputation of Pius XII

NEW YORK, APRIL 16, 2010 ( An interreligious group trying to discover the facts regarding Pope Pius XII and his efforts to help Jews during World War II has announced the discovery of documents showing how the Church excommunicated Catholics who joined the Nazis.

The New-York based Pave the Way Foundation said that its representative Michael Hesemann found a large series of documents from 1930 to 1933. I presume the reference applies to Archivo Segreto Vaticano which have been opened since 2003.  There are several works which have used the files of these archives. Notable among them are Gerhard Besier (2007) "The Holy See and Hitler's Germany" and Giovanni Sale (2004) "Hitler, la Santa Sede e gli Ebrei".  Neither of them make any references to excommunications.

The documents indicate that any Catholic who joined the Nazi party, wore the uniform or flew the swastika flag would no longer be able to receive the sacraments. There is nothing new here.  The German bishops published a series of statements between 1930-1932 issuing various condemnations of National Socialism.  Within the first months of Nazi rule every episcopal restriction was lifted.

This policy set three years before Hitler was elected chancellor made clear that the teachings of the Church were incompatible with Nazi ideology. Again, nothing new in this. 

“The documents clearly show an ideological war between the Catholic Church and National Socialism already in the pre-war decade," Hesemann explained. "The German bishops and the Roman Curia considered the Nazi doctrine not only as incompatible with the Christian faith, but also as hostile to the Church and dangerous to human morals, even more than Communism."

Among the documents is a handwritten letter from a leading member of the Nazis, Hermann Goering, requesting a meeting with Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pius XII), which was flatly refused.  This has been known by historians since the opening of the archives.  What is its relevance to excommunication?  BTW - Goering was not a Catholic.

There are also documents asking for a removal of the excommunication, which was also denied.  Evidence is needed.  What excommunication is being dealt with here?  What are the archival references for this?

Gary Krupp, president of Pave the Way, characterized these documents as "very significant."

"Michael Hesemann has been diligent in researching the open archives and has been discovering new important documents with every visit," he said. "His research tells a very different story of Eugenio Pacelli or Pope Pius XII than is commonly known."  I am not convinced by the credentials of Michael Hesemann whose area of research tends towards UFOs and relics.  Hesemann has not, to the best of my knowledge, presented any published work on this or any related areas.

When asked why this information is not currently known by many historians, Pave the Way chairman Elliot Hershberg noted that "according to the archives sign-in sheets, most of these historians and scholars have simply not come to the open archives to research 65% of Pacelli’s ministry.”  Who are "most of these historians"?  Perhaps one reason lies in the simple fact that the ASV will email documents on request.  I did all my research work on the Germany files via email and found the ASV to be amongst the most reliable and prompt of any archive I consulted.  I find Mr Hershberg's comment rather strange.

The Zenit article really tells us nothing we have not already known, and known for years.  The German bishops issued several statements proclaiming Catholicism and Nazism incompatible, but the support for Hitler crossed denominational lines.  Catholics were proportionally represented across all Nazi organisations including the Party, SA, SS and the Nazi organisations for the professions.

Apart from the reference to Pacelli refusing a meeting with Goering, what has this to do with him?  He was Secretary of State from 1930 and 1939 and so privy to all the news from Germany.  Unfortunately, this article creates a false impression.

Any suggestion that mainstream historians have ignored relevant material is risible.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pius XII - co-workers - Luigi Maglione 1877-1944

The most cursory glance at Actes et Documents will reveal a group of names appearing on a frequent basis. Among them is the name of Cardinal Luigi Maglione, Secretary of State from March 1939 to August 1944. For the first five and half years of Pius XII’s papacy, Maglione was his “right hand man”, but little is known about this very important and pivotal Vatican official.

Maglione was born a day short of one year after Eugenio Pacelli, that is, 2 March 1877, in the town of Casoria near Naples in southern Italy. He studied for the priesthood at the Collegio Capranica in Rome along with Pacelli, and was ordained priest in July 1901 for the archdiocese of Naples. Until 1903 Maglione worked in parishes in Naples.

Following a career trajectory similar to Pacelli, Maglione began studying for the diplomatic corp and attended the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy from 1905 to 1907 before entering papal service in the Secretariat of State in 1908. At the end of World War One he was appointed by Benedict XV as papal representative at the League of Nations before being made Nuncio to Switzerland in September 1920. As was customary, the new nuncio was ordained a bishop and created Titular Archbishop of Caesarea in Palestine. In June 1926 Maglione moved to Paris where he was nuncio until mid-1938. His reception by the French was cold; they considered him pro-German, but he used his considerable personal skills and charm to win over his opponents. Time reported that Maglione was involved in the Hoare-Laval Pact (1935) that attempted to provide an amicable end to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. (Time 20.03.1939) Pius XI elevated him to the College of Cardinals on 16 December 1935.

Maglione was recalled to Rome in July 1938 and appointed Prefect of the Congregation of the Council which was responsible for the diocesan clergy (today known as the Congregation for the Clergy). His time there was short. Pius XI died on 10 February 1939 and his successor, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, was elected Pope on 3 March 1939. A week later, the new Pius XII named his old friend Maglione, Secretary of State. (New York Times 10.03.1939) By this time the new Cardinal Secretary had a reputation for being anti-fascist, and followed the initiatives set out by the pope, namely to steer a course that would do everything possible to avoid another European war.

Pius XII did not want creators of policy. He wanted implementers. Maglione had been trained in the same late-Tridentine understanding of the Catholic Church that Pacelli had. He knew it and understood it. Thinking independently was not part of the practice of a Secretary of State to the Pope, just as independent thinking was not part of the role description of the Secretary of State to the President of the United States of the Foreign Minister to the Australian Prime Minister.

What then do we learn of Maglione’s style? He was an able diplomat, a skilled negotiator, unfailingly polite and reserved, who faithfully implemented papal policy from March 1939 until his death in August 1944. He could also be quite blunt. In January 1943 Maglione wrote to the exiled bishop of Wloclaweck, Charles Radonski defending the pope’s decision not to make his letters to the Polish bishops public:

If you ask why the documents sent by the Pontiff to the Polish bishops haven not been made public, know that it seems better in the Vatican to follow the same norms, the Polish bishops themselves follow...Isn’t this what has to be done? Should the father of Christianity increase the misfortunes of Poles in their own country? (ADSS 3 Part 2 Doc 460, translation from Blet p 84)

On rare occasions, such as in December 1942, we glimpse the man in a slightly unguarded moment, sending New Year greetings to Nuncio Gaetano Cicognani in Spain in an attachment to an official document, marked “Personal”. (ADSS 7.78)

What did Maglione know of the extermination of European Jewry? The simple answer is, “as much as the Pope did, and the Pope knew a lot”. It would have been unthinkable for Maglione not to pass on to Pius anything of significance; and the murder of the Jews was the most significant event occurring in Europe during the war year. Perhaps the most puzzling thing remains the evidence of muddled reactions to the ever-growing reports of German atrocities.

By August 1942 the Vatican, and that included Pius and Maglione, had as clear a picture of the mass-murder of the Jews as did Churchill, Roosevelt and, had he been particularly interested, Stalin. On 26 September 1942, Myron Taylor, the personal representative of President Roosevelt to the Holy See, presented Maglione with an account of atrocities beyond anything heard of before. The document was part of what has become known as the Riegner Telegram. It disclosed in considerable detail what was happening in Poland. Did the Cardinal pass the memorandum from Taylor onto the Pope? I presume he did. If he did not, it would constitute a major breach in policy and behaviour. What happened after? We do not know – yet. Perhaps the Archives will reveal how these men reacted to this news.

Maglione was a heavy smoker which probably hastened his death 22 August 1944 at the age of 67. (New York Times 23.08.1944; Time 04.09.1944). Pius did not replace Maglione, but took on the responsibilities of the Secretariat himself with the assistance of Monsignori Domenico Tardini and Giovanni Battista Montini.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Reading my way through ADSS!

This is what I have been doing for the last two years - reading my way through the 12 volumes of Actes et Documents. I've created a series of tables as I read; one is a summary of each document, and another is a table of people mentioned. So far I have read and annotated nearly five volumes.

I do enjoy reading and translating and going off on tangents looking up odd details and information about different people and places. It has been an amazingly enriching experience.

Things will pick up a bit once I hit Volume 6 - it is the first volume that deals with the victims of the war (and I have read most of that material already - just have to create the tables!)

So ... I came across this document written by Domenico Tardini, one of the principal officials in the Secretariat of State. He made a note of a conversation he had with the British minister, D'Arcy Osborne, who had been interned in the Vatican since Italy declared war on the UK in June 1940. Osborne faithfully relayed instructions from London to the Vatican. On occasion, he was asked to pass on some more critical messages. This is one of them. It is an indication that the selection of documents made by the editors between 1965 and 1981 was a genuine attempt to give as detailed, and accurate, a picture of the operation of the Papal Secretariat of State during the war years as possible.

The set out of the text and the translation from the Italian, where necessary, is my own.

ADSS 5.416

D’Arcy Osborne to Monsignor Domenico Tardini


Subject: Opinion in the Foreign Office, London, concerning the position of the Vatican in the war.

Archive Reference: AES 5682/42

Language: English with note by Domenico Tardini in Italian (translated)


I would not like you to think that we are not aware that the Pope is being Criticised by the Axis Powers, but you have summed up our chief criticism in the last words of your dispatch, namely, “the endeavour of the Vatican to maintain a precarious equilibrium outside of and above the war”. In order to do this we feel that ever since the entry of Italy into the war the Pope has more and more assimilated himself to the status of a sovereign of a small neutral State in the geographical neighbourhood of Axis Powers, and, for worldly rather than spiritual reasons, has allowed himself, like others, to be bullied. In short, we feel that His Holiness is not putting up a very good fight to retain his moral and spiritual leadership, when he should realize that in Hitler’s new world there will be no room for the Catholic religion and that if the Papacy remains silent, the free nations may find that they have little power to arrest the anticlericalism which may follow the war.

21.07.42: Note by Tardini:

This note was delivered to me today by the English Minister; which declares that it is a draft of a private letter of a friend [of Osborne’s], but which reflects the mentality of the Foreign Office.

22.07.42. Seen by the Holy Father.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Jerusalem Post 27 March: "Why was Pope Pius XII Silent on the Holocaust?"

The main point in this article that I think bears some serious consideration is the emphasis on context. I don't necessarily endorse of all of what Ambassador Lewy argues, but his references to Pacelli's views as a "product of his times" is valuable.

Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See regards Pius’s views toward newly established state of Israel as a product of his times.

ROME – The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 was viewed by the Vatican “with mixed feelings,” and Pope Pius XII greeted the news by calling for a “crusade of prayer” for “the sacred land” (“terra sacra”), says Mordechay Lewy, Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See.

Lewy made the remarks in a speech in Munich, a transcript of which was published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Friday.

Lewy presents Pius XII (recently moved one step closer toward sainthood by Benedict XVI) as a self-doubting Hamlet, working behind the scenes, who is insecure in his choice of public silence over Nazi persecutions. Lewy recalls several incidents where Pius failed to act against anti-Semitism.

In private conversations, Pope Pius XII/Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli expressed a fear of worsening the situation by speaking out. However, it’s not clear whether this was a realistic or morally justifiable assessment, Lewy says.

Then-cardinal Pacelli’s only objection to Italy’s anti-Semitic laws in 1938 was regarding mixed marriage provisions. He became pope on March 2, 1939, and continued to remain silent after the war in 1946, when approached by Jacques Maritain (at the time France’s ambassador to the Holy See) to publicly condemn anti-Semitism.

While the controversy over Pius’s diplomacy, and the question of whether the Church institutions that opened their doors to thousands of Jewish refugees acted on official orders from the pope remains shrouded in secrecy, Lewy shifts his focus to “no less important issues”– namely, the mentality of Pacelli, seen as a product of his times.

Pius’s attitude reflected the Vatican’s stolid opposition to the founding of a Jewish state, Lewy concludes. According to Lewy the motivations were political, mixed with anti-Judaic theological prejudices common among Catholic society in the pre-war and pre-Vatican Council II era.

“On the day of Israel’s foundation,” says Lewy, “the Osservatore Romano [the official Vatican daily] described the situation as ‘another milestone on the Palestinian Via Cruxis.’ The reference to Christ’s passion was not accidental.”

“The founding of the State of Israel was seen in the Vatican as a Communist-Atheist threat,” says Lewy. “On June 12, 1948, an editorial in the Osservatore Romano stated, ‘The birth of Israel gives Moscow a base in the Near East from which the microbes can multiply and spread.’

“However, opposing demonizing comparisons were also used. The bulletin of the [Catholic] Congregation de Propaganda Fide, at that time, even went so far as to defame Zionism as ‘the new Nazism,’” Lewy said.

Aversion to the Israeli state lasted for decades. As late as 1957, recalls Lewy, Pius’s foreign minister, Domenico Tardini, wrote to the French ambassador, “I always felt that there was no overriding reason to found this state. It was a mistake of the Western countries. Its existence is an immanent factor for the danger of war in the Near East. Since Israel exists, of course there is no possibility for destroying it, but we are paying the price for this mistake day by day.”

This negative attitude, says Lewy, was rooted in a prevailing theology that considered Jews “a deicide people who lost God’s grace and with it their right to the Holy Land. The goal of the Zionist movement was in open contrast to traditional Catholic doctrine.”

A taboo on calling Israel by name lasted for decades, and had some humorous aspects. In 1955, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performed at the Vatican and L’Osservatore Romano reported a performance “by Jewish musicians from 14 countries.”

Pope Paul VI’s 1964 visit to Israel was a visit to “the Holy Land,” and he did not meet with Israeli leaders.

The current era of bilateral relations with Israel was ushered in during the 1980s by Pope John Paul II, the first pope to speak openly of “the right of the people of the State of Israel to live in peace and security,” initiating the process that led to diplomatic recognition of Israel in 1994.

Regarding the controversy over Pius XII’s “silence” during the Shoah, which was accompanied, however, by the opening of church institutions to Jewish and political refugees, Lewy echoes the repeated calls by Jewish leaders to suspend historical evaluation until scholars have access to the secret archives of the wartime years of Pius’s papacy.

While Vatican officials foresee the opening of these archives within five years, they note that all the pre-1939 documents referring to Pacelli’s nunciate in Germany and his years as Pius XI’s secretary of state are already available.

Lewy confirms the documents’ historical importance, recalling, for example, Pacelli’s research in Munich on “the relationship between Communists and Jews in the 1919-21 Revolution. The stereotype of a fusion between Bolsheviks and Jews could be particularly devastating,” intimating a possible influence on Pacelli’s attitudes.

To optimize historical research on the vast amount of material already available, Lewy suggests a work strategy involving cross-consultations between Vatican and European archives.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Pinchas Lapide and Rubbery Figures

In his book “The Last Three Popes and the Jews” (1967), Pinchas Lapide claimed that Pius XII was responsible for saving the lives of 860,000 Jews. I remember the first time I read Lapide’s book and the sense of amazement that Pius had been so active in saving Jewish lives. In the 20 years or so since I first read “The Last Three Popes” I have done a lot of work in studying, researching, teaching and writing about the Holocaust. While I did not give Lapide much, if any thought, in my studies, occasionally I wondered “Where did he get the numbers from?” It has only been in the last few months when I decided to launch the blog that I considered it was time to have a proper look at Lapide’s claim that has been used as one of the major arguments to support the thesis that Pope Pius XII was the greatest rescuer of Jews during the Holocaust.

But first, a couple of myths need to be dispelled. On a number of historically uncritical websites, blogs and in more than a few books, Lapide is described as a diplomat and a rabbi. As far as I can tell from the few sites that have detailed information about Lapide he never received smicha (rabbinical ordination), and was in diplomatic service from 1951 to 1962 holding several relatively minor roles in Milan, Rio and Jerusalem.

I have yet to find any source that claims Lapide was an historian. He held degrees in languages, biblical studies and political science. His great passion was interfaith dialogue between Judaism and Christianity.

Who was Lapide?

Pinchas Lapide was born in Vienna, Austria on 28 November 1922. After the Anchluss in March 1938 and a short term of imprisonment in a concentration camp near the Czech border, Lapide managed to make his way into Poland and from there to Britain before arriving in Palestine on the last ship to reach the Mandate in 1940 where he worked on a kibbutz near Haifa. He enlisted in the British Eighth Army in 1941 and eventually served in Italy as part of the Jewish Brigade. At war’s end he served as a liaison officer between the Americans and Russians in Vienna.

Remaining in Vienna after demobilisation in 1945, Lapide studied languages for a year at Vienna University. In 1947 he returned to Palestine and studied under Martin Buber as well as pursuing his now growing interest in early Jewish-Christian history. He fought in the Israeli wars of Independence after which he resumed studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 1951 Lapide entered the Israeli diplomatic service and worked in Milan where he met Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI. During this time he met and married Ruth Rosenblatt (1929- ) with whom he shared a common interest in Jewish-Christian dialogue.

Lapide was involved in the Israeli government’s preparation for the visit of Paul VI to Israel in 1964. At the same time he was Deputy Director of the National Press Office in Israel. Lapide’s commitment to study did not wane. He pursued studies in languages, medieval history and political science alongside his passion, early Jewish-Christian history. He was proficient in Italian, Russian, French, German, Hebrew and English. In 1967 he wrote his most famous work Rom und die Juden, translated as “The Last Three Popes and the Jews”.

In 1969 Lapide and his family moved from Israel to Cologne, Germany. He studied at the Martin Buber Institute for Jewish Studies and completed a PhD on the subject of Hebrew usage in Christian religious communities in the land of Israel. From 1971 Lapide was resident in Frankfurt am Main. For the rest of his life, Pinchas Lapide worked for reconciliation between Jews and Christians. He was honoured for his work by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1993 with the Great Federal Cross of Merit; and his adopted city, Frankfurt, which struck a medal in his name. Lapide died on 23 October 1997.

Lapide’s published works cover topics around the areas of early Jewish-Christian history. His studies at tertiary levels were in the areas of languages, biblical studies, medieval history and political science.

Lapide and Interfaith Dialogue, History and Popes.

It is reasonably clear that Pinchas Lapide was passionate about Jewish-Christian dialogue in a time when such dialogue was just emerging. “The Last Three Popes” was published just two years after Nostrae Aetate and well before the major dialogues between the Judaism and Christianity were part of the regular pattern of religious life for either tradition. I suggest that Lapide’s non-critical examination of the role of the Catholic Church during the Holocaust comes from his eagerness to promote good relations between the official Church and, understandably, sceptical Jewish communities. The book demonstrates a basic knowledge of the history of Jewish-Christian relations in the first half of the 20th century, but does not seem to grasp the complexities that characterised Catholic responses and reactions to Fascism, Communism and Democracy.

Lapide does not explain, in a satisfactory or reliable way, how he reached the figure of 860,000 rescued Jews in his discussion of Pius XII. On pages 214 and 215 of “The Last Three Popes” (Souvenir, London) Lapide wrote:

"The Catholic Church, under the pontificate of Pius XII was instrumental in saving at least 700,000 but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands"

Estimating that 1.3 million of Europe’s pre-war Jewish population survived, Lapide then subtracted numbers based on what he said were “reasonable claims” of rescue made by Protestant Christians, Communists, agnostics and other non-Jews. Jose Maria Sanchez, author of “Pius XII and the Holocaust: Understanding the Controversy” (CUA Press 2002) and arguably one of the most conservatively balanced writers on Pius, wrote:

Lapide gives no documentation for this figure or his exact calculations. It should be noted that Lapide does not say that Pius saved the Jews, only that the saving occurred “under the pontificate of Pius XII.” The undocumented calculation and suggestive wording have been ignored by Pius’ defenders. Their uncritical acceptance of Lapide’s statistics and statements has weakened their arguments. (Sanchez, 140)

Ronald Rychlak, William Doino, David Dalin and Margherita Marchione are among writers who consistently use Lapide’s figure to support their arguments.

In summary, the figure of 860,000 is a creation of Pinchas Lapide and nothing else. It has no basis in historical fact.

Most Holocaust historians such as Raul Hilberg, Yehuda Bauer, Lucy Dawidowicz, Martin Gilbert, David Bankier, Michael Berenbaum and Saul Friedlander, support the thesis that the number of dead lie between Raul Hilberg’s 5.1 million and Wolfgang Benz’s outer limit of 6.2 million. The reason for the discrepancy lies in the lack of verifiable data. The Germans kept lists for many of the killing sites, but some of the lists contain estimates, and it was not uncommon for these to be inflated in order to impress superiors in Berlin.

Lucy Dawidowicz is regarded as having created a reliable summary in her book “The War Against the Jews” (1986): of a European pre-war population estimated at 8.861 million, approximately 5.933 were murdered – c67%. The surviving number – 2.983 million are accounted through migration either pre-war or after war began, depending on location; Soviet Jews in European Russia who fled eastwards after June 1941; Jews hidden in occupied territories either by non-Jews or with other Jews in places such as forests and partisan groups; survivors of camps and ghettoes. The number of Jews rescued by Catholics will never be known with accuracy because of the variables related to the reality of rescue.

Lapide also mentioned that in 1958 there were calls to plant a forest of 860,000 trees in memory of the Jews saved by Catholics during the Holocaust. This “throw away” line has entered the mythology of some “canonise-him-now” groups, who believe that such a forest exists. Recent emails to friends in Israel have discovered no forest. It has never existed, and most likely, never will.