Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pacelli supported Jewish homeland 1917 ... but what of 1944?

Earlier this month another cache of “recently uncovered” documents was “discovered.”  Zenit published an article describing the latest Pave The Way “discovery.”  Regular readers may be tiring of what is a regular pattern of behaviour on the part of PTW.  Announcements trumpeting new material from archives are part of PTW’s modus operandi and receive uncritical attention from conservative Catholic organisations, such as Zenit, which has close ties to the Legionaries of Christ, and sometimes from the mainstream media who see an opportunity for a “scoop”.  So what is it with this latest “scoop”?  It is really very simple.  Take a document out of context and you can make it say more or less whatever you like.  Put a context around a document and the result may not be what one would like, but it is more likely to be accurate history.  

Does this latest "discovery" prove Pacelli to be in favour of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and thus acting contrary to Benedict XV and Pius XI's statements?  Based on my reading of the texts, I think the answer is "no".  And then there is the document found in ADSS 11 which makes for very disturbing reading.  If Pacelli was disposed to supporting a Jewish homeland in 1917 and 1925, he had changed his mind by 1944.

The article from Zenit with my comments inserted in red:



Foundation Continues to Unearth Testimony That Pius Was in No Way 'Hitler's Pope' No serious historian asserts this.  To keep using the epitaph “Hitler’s Pope” is now a distraction and appears to be a tool used by apologists to mask their inability and unwillingness to recognise that the truth about Pacelli is to be found in via media, through serious critical and contextual scholarship.

NEW YORK, MARCH 8, 2012 ( An organization researching the history of Pius XII's relationship with the Jews says that a series of documents recently uncovered show a pattern of direct actions by Archbishop Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pope) that culminated in the establishment of the modern State of Israel. This is simply historically inaccurate.  To suggest that Pius XII’s actions as nuncio to Germany (1917-1929) provides a direct link to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 is absurd and totally lacking in credibility.  I doubt very much if David Ben Gurion would agree with such a statement.

The New York-based Pave the Way Foundation explained that in 1917, Archbishop Eugenio Pacelli met with Nahum Sokolow, president of the World Zionist organization and arranged for Sokolow to meet with Pope Benedict XV to discuss a Jewish Homeland. In a passionate report, Sokolow wrote of his audience on May 12, 1917:

“I was first of all received by Msgr. Eugenio Pacelli, Secretary for Extraordinary Affairs, and had a few days later a long conference with Cardinal Secretary of State Gasparri. Both meetings were extraordinarily friendly and positive. I don’t tend towards credulity or exaggerations and still I can’t avoid to stress that this revealed an extraordinary amount of friendship: to grant a Jew and representative of Zionism with such a promptness a private audience which took so long and was of such a warmth and took place with all assurance of sympathy, both for the Jews in general and for Zionism in special, proves that we don’t need to expect any obstacles which can’t be overcome from the side of the Vatican. The Pope asked me, ‘Pacelli told me about your mission; do you want to tell me any more details?’" (File A 18/25 in the Main Archive of Yad Vashem)
A statement from Pave the Way further noted: On November 15, 1917, Nuncio Pacelli acted on a urgent request for his intervention from the Jewish community of Switzerland from what was feared would be an Ottoman Massacre of Jews of Palestine. Pacelli asked the German government, who was allied with the Ottoman Turks, for protection for the Jews of Palestine. Pacelli was successful in gaining promised protection of the Jews from the German government “even with the use of arms.”
The citation is accurate.  However, there is need for context.  Pacelli was Secretary of the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, the Vatican equivalent of the Foreign Office and responsible for overseeing the Vatican’s relations with sovereign states, monitoring the work of papal representatives and keeping the Secretary of State, Cardinal Gasparri informed and “up to speed”.  His role was not one of creating, but executing policy.

In 1916 Benedict XV had made a plea for the protection of Armenian Christians undergoing appalling persecution at the hands of the Turkish government.  He had also written a letter in February 1916 that was published in the Jesuit journal, Civilta Cattolica, where he denounced any form of persecution against Jews.  What made this published letter so interesting was that it appeared in Civilta, a journal that was more used to publishing viciously anti-Jewish material. 

Nahum Sokolow, (1859-1936), secretary general of the World Zionist Congress, visited Rome to ask for papal support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.  Granted an audience, Benedict’s seemingly favourable response was a significant break from papal attitudes towards the idea of Jewish home in Palestine.  However, after the announcement of the Balfour Declaration in November 1917 and then the exclusion of the Holy See from the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference, Benedict’s attitude had reverted to the traditional suspicion of Jewish intentions in Palestine and a thinly veiled hostility towards the idea of creating a Jewish state.

Pacelli met with Sokolow again on Feb. 15, 1925, and arranged another meeting with Cardinal Pietro Gasparri on the subject of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. In 1926, Pacelli urged all Catholics to join the pro-Palestine movement in Germany with such notable members as Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Konrad Adenauer, and Fr. Ludwig Kaas.

PTWF learned of the existence of one very interesting document, still unpublished, which may show Pius XII’s attitude about a Jewish homeland. In 1944, Pius XII opposed the general feeling of his Secretary of State, when he responded to Monsignor Domenico Tardini’s written warning against helping the Jews establish a homeland. Pius XII wrote by hand, “The Jews need a land of their own.” This document is in the closed section of the Vatican Library and will not be available until the archives are fully open.  How can PTW make a statement about a document that has not been released?  It is at this point that I direct the reader to an earlier post I made on ADSS 11.333 where the 1944 negative attitude towards a Jewish state was made very clear by the Vatican to Winston Churchill.

The foundation explained that researchers have also uncovered the 1946 speech Pius XII delivered to a delegation of Arabs who came to Rome to dissuade the Pope from endorsing a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
“Uncovered” is something of a misnomer.  The delegation was received on 3 August 1946 and the account can be found in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (the official Vatican commentary) for 1946 from page 322. 
 Pius XII ended the meeting leaving the Arab delegation greatly disappointed by clearly stating, “As we also condemn several times in the past, the persecution that fanatical anti-Semitism unleashed against the Jewish people.”

According to research by the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, it was Pius XII who “paved the way” for the Catholic Countries members of the United Nations to positively vote in favor of the partitioning of Palestine in November 1947.
This is not what the Wallenburg foundation says.  They point out that it was the efforts of Angelo Roncalli, later John XXIII, and the Vatican’s Domenico Tardini that were instrumental in helping to encourage the predominantly Catholic states of Latin America to vote in favour of partition.  Selective mis-quoting of publicly available material does PTW no favours. We have uncovered news articles about the Vatican encouraging Spain to recognize the Jewish state in 1955.

I have deleted the last paragraph which describes the supposed relationship between Pacelli and Guido Mendes and Pacelli’s familiarity with orthodox Jewish life and practice.


  1. Dear dr. 0'Shea:

    1) Are you saying that Roncalli and Tardini acted without Pope's approval?

    Let's remember what Sneh writes:”How could I, Moshe Ben Shimon Klainboim, from the small village of Radzin, possibly reach the Pope?”

    It seems that he met Roncalli and Tardini in order to 'reach the Pope'.

    2) Do you remember Jerusalem Post article about Guido Mendes where we can read: "Mr. Mendes recalled that the Pope, meeting survivors of the concentration camps in Italy in 1945, had then predicted “soon you will have a Jewish state.”"?

  2. Dear Domenico,
    Thank you for your comment. Am I saying that Tardini and Roncalli acted without papal approval? No. What I am saying is that from my reading of the manner of Pius XII's diplomacy, he would not have taken a public line on such a sensitive issue as the partition of Palestine. I believe he left the finer details of working around anti-Jewish feeling to his deputies, especially Tardini, not so much Roncalli who was still in France as nuncio. The change in papal diplomacy came about because of the Holocaust, hence the linking together of the reference from AAS and the pope's comments to Arab delegates. And as for Moshe ben Shimon Klainboim from Radzin meeting the pope, where there was a will there was always a way. Again, Vatican diplomacy had done a considerable shift from the position made clear in ADSS 11.333 in August 1944. From what I can see from Roncalli's point of view, the shift was long overdue and there are hints in ADSS and other sources that men such as Roncalli, who were "at the coalface" were frustrated at the seeming lack of response from Rome. The world of Vatican diplomacy was complex, and often the right hand did not know what the left was doing.

    I have read articles about Guido Mendes and while there is nothing to say Pius did not have a close relationship with an Italian Jew, it is a long way to go without supported evidence that Pius participated in Shabbat dinners and had a working knowledge of Yiddishkeit. I think Mendes' articles are of a loyal and devoted friend who wanted to portray his friend in the best possible light.

    As for the comment about a Jewish state soon, have another look at ADSS 11.333; Pius was not against the idea of a Jewish state per se, only a Jewish state in Palestine.

  3. question complexe. Moshe Sneh engagea Alexandre Glasberg( pretre juif qui avait ouvert les yeux des chretiens qui etaient disposes,aux massacres en cours pendant la guerre a' Auschwitz et ailleurs) a' engager a' sa fois Roncalli, deja nuncio a' Paris (qui pendant la guerre come nuncio a' Istambul, en collaboration avec l'Agence juive en Palestine,avait aide' au sauvetage de beaucoup de juifs en Palestine), a' intervenir aupres de Pius XII. La reponse fut pratiquement positive et ils obtenirent que le Vatican influence les pays catholiques a' ne pas s'opposer a' la partition de la Palestine. Les articles de la "Civilta' Cattolica" inclusivement les paroles directes de Pius XII a' la veille et apres la creation de l'Etat d'Israel, montrent de nouveau l'ancienne opposition "theologique" a' une independance juive, retenue contraire a' la "foi" chretienne traditionelle.
    *Les Documents secrets du Vatican qui n'ont pas ete' publies dans les 11 volumes de ADV 1939-1945 n'arrivent pas a' cette epoque ,mais les Documents de la "Civilta' Cattolica" sont bien lisibles!! et ils sont aussi tres clairs


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