Sunday, July 28, 2013

Future Dimensions: Jesus, the only way? Christians and Interfaith

This weekend I am presenting at the Future Dimensions Conference held at the Uniting Church Chapel by the Sea in Bondi, Sydney.  I am delighted to have been invited to  join some very stimulating and exciting speakers who will, I am sure, stretch the boundaries and prod us out of comfort zones.  I extend my special thanks to the conference convener, Rev John Queripel for his invitation to join this event.

My topic is "Interfaith Dialogue: Catholics and Jews".  The question I am addressing is rather simple: what does the Catholic experience of interfaith dialogue offer to other Christians in our understanding of this important aspect of religious life on the planet in the 21st century?

And in order to help save trees, the links to referred articles and documents may be found on this blog post.

St Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 59 (relevant paragraph is 18

Good Friday Prayer for the Jews

Vatican II, Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (28.10.1965), Nostra Aetate (paragraph 4)

Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution Divine Revelation, (18.11.1965), Dei Verbum (paragraphs 14-15)

Pontifical Biblical Commission, (2001), The Jewish People and their Scriptures in the Christian Bible, See the Introduction by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)

Declaration Dominus Iesus on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church (06.08.2000)

Pope Francis, (24.06.2013) Christians cannot be Antisemitic

Monday, July 22, 2013

19 July 1943 / 2013 Anniversary of the bombing of Rome

Last weekend marked the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Rome and the first time Pius XII left the Vatican since May 1940.  The pope's response to the tragedy of bombed Rome was an example of spontaneous action in the face of great need.  It raises the terrible question as to why a similar action was not employed when the Jews of Rome were rounded up and faced even greater danger three months later.

This clip is from YouTube.

The relevant ADSS references are found in Volume 7, documents 301-303, 305-307, 309-311. 

This report was posted on the Vatican news website.

On 19 July 1943, the United States Air Force bombed Rome: 9,125 bombs fell from 690 airplanes with 930.30 metric tons of explosives, resulting in 1800 deaths. Egidio Picucci recalled that Monday, 70 years ago. “The scene facing the people when the explosions stopped, when the rumble of the airplanes, which in the waves that followed disrupted everything, began to muffle, aroused general disbelief. The city walls seemed like ragged backdrops of a stage carried away by the wind. The morale of the people was at rock bottom. No one expected an attack of that kind and everyone roamed, lost and silent, around the dusty streets filled with rubble. Rome, the Eternal City, was no more. In order to provide relief to the people’s distress, the providential news came in that the Pope was to visit San Lorenzo in the afternoon around 5:30 p.m. At that time people ran to the basilica, in front of which the people encircled him, speaking more with their eyes and tears than with their words. Pius XII was visibly moved and opened his arms as if to pull everyone closer to him and not let them go”.
L’Osservatore Romano recalled this tragic event and the two visits the Pope made to the wounded city following the two bombings. The second bombing took place on 13 August. “In a strictly private setting, without any escort (…) accompanied only by Mons. Giovanni Battista Montini, Substitute of the Secretariat of State, the Pontiff at 5:20 pm, after having received the first news on the extent of the disaster, left the Vatican to go as soon as possible bringing relief in person to the victims. Faced with many sad sights of destruction the Holy Father stopped the car for a long time and asked for news of the victims and the scope of the damage. His extremely pale face showed his inner pain. (…) With difficulty, in front of the ruined pronaos of the Temple, His Holiness was able to climb down while a wave of excitement erupted from everyone’s heart. Defying the impassable terrain, (…) he kneeled (…) inviting everyone to the Christian prayer for the victims”.
The bombs also caused incalculable damage to the historical-religious patrimony of the city, especially damaging the cemetary of Verano (even striking the tomb of Pope Pacelli’s family) and the Basilica of San Lorenzo. The basilica was subsequently rebuilt, beginning in 1946. The work was made possible thanks to the work in those difficult years of Giovanni Battista Montini, Richard Krautheimer and Fr Antonio Ferrua.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

ADSS 6.362 Rotta to Maglione

As noted in the last post, anti-Jewish legislation in Hungary had caused serious concern for the Vatican.  Catholics of Jewish descent were now considered "racial Jews" according to the law, placing several hundred thousand people in severe economic and social situations.  As German victories mounted during 1939-1940 so too did the electoral and popular success of Hungarian fascist and far-right political parties, especially the Arrow Cross, who now clamoured for greater restrictions on Hungarian Jewry.  There is evidence to suggest that the Jewish Laws of 1939 and 1941 were attempts to appease the far-right and exert some limits to antisemitism in Hungary.  

In late 1940 the pope's Secretary of State, Cardinal Maglione, had heard rumours of a third anti-Jewish law in preparation and instructed Angelo Rotta, the nuncio in Budapest, on 23 October, to investigate and do whatever possible to ensure these laws were not passed.  The details of the proposed law were unclear, but it would be reasonable to assume that Hungary was preparing to finalise its version of the Nuremberg laws.  Rotta replied to Maglione on 2 November with news that he had been assured that any changes to the laws were for the purposes of clarification and simplification.  This was a plausible response given that the Hungarian legal definition of who was and who was not a Jew rested on a mixture of racial classification and religious background.

In the end, a third anti-Jewish law was promulgated on 8 August 1941.  A summary of the law can be found on this site         

"Act XV of 1941 (the third Anti-Jewish Law) on “The amendment and modification of       marriage law XXXI of 1894, and the related necessary racial provisions” went into effect on August 8, 1941. Using Nazi terminology in its preamble, the law applied Germany’s Nuremberg laws: everyone with at least two grandparents born into the Israelite faith was defined as a Jew. The law also forbade marriage, and legally sanctioned extramarital sexual intercourse between Jews and non-Jews, provided the male was defined a Jew and the female was not".

The bishops in the Upper House who had voted for the previous laws, voted against the legislation because it interfered in the legal status of marriages entered into by converted Jews and thus creating conflict with the authority of the Church.

Rotta transmits a sense of growing urgency in this document.  Antisemitic actions are becoming more frequent.  He mentioned a coal strike that was not reported in the papers, that was fuelled not by left-wing revolutionary zeal, but by anger at the Jewish owners of some of the mines.

ADSS 6.362 Angelo Rotta, Hungary to Cardinal Maglione

Reference:  Report nr: 4248/40 (N Pr 238), AES 9754/40

Location and date: Budapest, 02.11.1940

Summary statement: Information on the new antisemitic laws under preparation.

Language: Italian


In Your Eminence’s dispatch number 9086/40 of 23 October 1940 (1) you asked me to do whatever I could to prevent the passage of a proposed law against the Jews, whereby a deterioration of their condition would ensue, at least in regards to the converts. 

There is something in preparation with the intention of simplifying and clarifying the recent law passed against the Jews, which will, without doubt, create a grave burden for them.

For the last few days I have appealed to the Bishop of Vesprimia (2), who has a good rapport with the Prime Minister, Count Teleki, to express in my name, at the first opportunity, the painful impression this legislation would have on the Holy See.  There are draconian measures proposed against the Jews, including baptised Jews, regarding an introduction of an impediment to marriage between non-Aryans, including those baptised, and Aryans.   In a conversation I had this evening with the Foreign Minister (3), and to which I refer elsewhere, I also directly “hit this nail on the head”.  He told me that there is no well-defined project, but only the desire to simplify and clarify a cumbersome law, which would not contain new penalties that would conflict with the Holy See; in fact he told me that the Council of Ministers apposed the idea of introducing the aforementioned impediment to marriage.

But the pressure for a greater severity in the matter, which is purely racial, without much discrimination, is very strong from both outside [Hungary] and inside.  The Italian example will be fatal here.  In that regard I pointed out that first of all, with respect to the point above, the Holy See did not fail to protest, and then in Italy there is the legal obligation whereby the civil marriage takes priority over the religious – a stupid law that also exists in Hungary – at least the two unfortunates are able to obtain a religious marriage with regard to conscience; something that is not possible in Hungary, without exposing the priest who bless such weddings to serious penalties.

He told me he was perfectly convinced by what I asserted.  Even from inside Hungary, as I confirmed, pressure is growing, because the wave of Antisemitism is becoming more threatening in the country. Not only does Parliament often return to this point in its struggle against the Jews, the extremist parties make fruitful propaganda.  Even the new party program of Imredy, “Hungarian Renewal” (4) has as one of its points a very radical solution of the Jewish question.

A big coal mine strike (which has not been published in the newspapers here), which has dragged on for weeks here in Hungary, is only now being resolved through energetic intervention of the military, had as one of its issues, not revolution, but the fight against the Jews, because of their economic interests in the mines.  Of course, the extremist Arrow Cross party was involved.

In any case, I have recommended to the minister that he do everything possible to comply with the wishes of the Holy See.

(1) See ADSS 6.350
(2) Gyula Czapik (1887-1956), bishop of Veszprém 1939-1943, archbishop of Eger (1943-1956)
(3) István Csáky (1894-1941), minister of foreign affairs 1938-1941.
(4) Bela Imredy (1891-1946), Prime Minister of Hungary 1938-1939. Founded the party of Hungarian Renewal in October 1940.  He was shot as a German collaborator in February 1946.

Monday, July 8, 2013

ADSS 6 Hungary from May 1939 to December 1940

In the last set of post I set out Angelo Rotta's reports to Rome on the progress and passing of the May 1939 anti-Jewish legislation.  It is a valuable insight into not only what happened in Hungarian politics and the growing fear of an even more right-wing government taking power after the elections to be held in late-May, but to the hope that the laws would be the end of the process.  Of particular note are the actions of Cardinal Justinian Seredi, the Primate of Hungary, who fought for exemptions for converted Jews and for the application of Catholic teaching on what we would call 'human rights' today for all Hungarian Jews.  

What is not present is any argument that the laws themselves were fundamentally unjust and reduced over 850,000 Hungarian citizens to a second-class status with profound social and economic implications.  Seredi and many of the other Hungarian bishops appeared not to have seen a problem with the promulgation of anti-Jewish laws nor was their any evidence in the posted texts that Cardinal Seredi and Bishop Gyula Glattfelder disagreed with the underpinning belief that there was a "Jewish problem" in Hungary that needed "solving".  In this regard the Catholic bishops of Hungary were not particularly different from many other Catholic bishops in other places, such as Slovakia, as we have seen in earlier posts.

The historian must be careful to avoid hindsight.  Seredi, Glattfelder and their episcopal brothers were shaped by the Tridentine theology in general and traditional Judeophobia in particular.  

After ADSS 6.21 most of the documents relate to attempts to provide relief for refugees.  Documents related to Hungarian Jews appear after the announcement in October that a new anti-Jewish law was in preparation.  Some documents will be translated and posted.

ADSS 6.76: 26.09.1939: Cardinal Maglione wrote to nuncios Andrea Cassulo (1869-1952) (Romania 1936-1947), Angelo Rotta (1872-1965) (Hungary 1930-1945), Antonio Arata (1882-1948) (Latvia 1935-1948) and Louis Centoz (1883-1969) (Lithuania 1940-41) advising them of the establishment of the Vatican Information Service (VIS).  The VIS was commissioned by Pius XII to provide assistance to refugees, prisoners of war and others displaced by the war.  (See ADSS 6.73 - 22.09.1939)  This document was followed with instructions explaining the operation of the VIS (ADSS 6.78)

ADSS 6.84: 07.10.1939: Maglione to Rotta.  The nuncio was asked to get material to help the estimated 30,000 Polish refugees in Romania.  

ADSS 6.127: 04.01.1940: Bishop Karol Radoński (1883-1951), (Włocławek 1929-1951) exiled in Budapest to Pius XII: Information on the situation of Polish refugees in Hungary and their spiritual needs.

ADSS 6.171: Maglione to Rotta: Nuncio is to make contact with Count Adam Roniker (1881-1952) of the Polish Help Committee in Budapest. Roniker was President of the Polish National Welfare Council 1940-1943.  He left Poland in 1945 and went into exile in the USA.

ADSS 6.174: Valerio Valeri (1883-1963), nuncio to France (1936-1944) to Maglione: a request to help Czech refugees in Hungary.  Maglione passed on the request to Rotta - ADSS 6.188: 11.04.1940.  Rotta replied on 18.04.1940 advising Maglione to make a formal request from the Holy See on behalf of the Czech refugees. ADSS 6.194; see too ADSS 6.197, 207, 224, 228, 249.

ADSS 6.180: Rotta to Maglione: 02.04.1940: Information on help given to Polish refugees in Hungary.  See also ADSS 6.311.

ADSS 6.295: 30.08.1940: Rotta to Maglione: Steps take for Poles in Russia; news from Hungarian diplomats.

ADSS 6.318: 24.09.1940: Andrea Cassulo, nuncio to Romania to Maglione: Information on the persecution of Romanians in Transylvania now under Hungarian occupation.  Requests intervention by the Holy See.  (Pius XII had already raised the matter with Gabriel Apor (1889-1969), Hungarian minister to the Holy See (1939-1944) on 23.09.1940).  Maglione sent a reply to Cassulo on 04.10.1940.  See ADSS 6.325, 386.

ADSS 6.350: 23.10.1940: Maglione to Rotta: The Vatican asked the nuncio to intervene against the new race laws under preparation in Budapest.  Rotta responded on 02.11.1940 with news of the new antisemitic laws.  See ADSS 6.362.

ADSS 6.388: Maglione to Rotta: Information on Italian POWs in Greece relayed from Switzerland. See ADSS 6.382.

ADSS 6.398: Rotta to Maglione: News on antisemitism in Hungary.

ADSS 6.412: Maglione to Francesco Cherubini, counsellor at the Hungarian nunciature: $US 2000 has been sent to refugees in Hungary from the pope.