HOLOCAUST HANGS OVER POPE’S VISIT TO ROME SYNAGOGUE
ROME (AFP) – The role of the Roman Catholic Church during the Holocaust hung over a landmark visit Sunday by Pope Benedict XVI to Rome’s main synagogue.
“Unfortunately many remained indifferent” as the Nazis slaughtered millions of Jews before and during World War II, the German-born pope said in a speech often punctuated by applause in the cavernous temple. But silence greeted his assertion that the Holy See “performed actions of support, often hidden and discreet.”
The Catholic Church has long argued that Pius XII, who was pope from 1939 to 1958, saved many Jews who were hidden away in religious institutions, and that his silence was born out of a wish to avoid aggravating their situation.
“Maybe he could not have stopped the death trains, but he could have sent a signal, a word of extreme comfort, of human solidarity for our brothers taken off to Auschwitz,” he said. Pacifici, whose grandparents died at Auschwitz, however said in a voice choked with emotion that he was “grateful” to Catholic nuns in Florence for sheltering his father and uncle.
In another emotion-charged moment, Pacifici paid homage to Holocaust survivors present, many of whom had tears in their eyes, as the pope rose to applaud them. The Vatican said last year that some five or six years of work remained before the secret archives on Pius XII could be opened to researchers.
Archivist Sergio Pagano said the documents would show that he had “taken risks, including personal risks, to save the Jews.” Benedict’s visit, announced in October, appeared at risk of being cancelled amid howls of protest over a papal decree bestowing the title “venerable” on Pius XII.
The myth of Pope Pius XII as “Hitler’s Pope” has endured for decades thanks in great part to a concerted effort by the KGB to tarnish the Catholic church and christianity in revenge for the Vatican’s opposition to Soviet communism. This black legend was eagerly picked up by the Western Left, as it serves their purposes, and they’ve been running with it ever since. Here you see the sad results of that propaganda campaign.
What you will rarely hear is that Pope Pius XII (who had not yet been crowned Pope) dissavowed Hitler as early as 1937. At the time, he was Eugenio Pacelli, the Vatican’s ambassador to the German state of Bavaria. Pacelli’s awakening came in the form his encyclical Mit brennender Sorge (“With burning anxiety”) which he drafted for Pius XI, and which was one of the strongest condemnations of a national regime that the Holy See had ever published. Since Pacelli was the Vatican official best informed on German matters, Pius XI asked him to draft the encyclical.
Hitler had the Catholic Church fooled for several years, but Neville “Peace in our time” Chamberlain and pacifists of his ilk were fooled until the very moment Hitler invaded Poland in ’39. Even most of the Jews living in Nazi Germany at the time refused to see what is so obvious to us in hindsight. It was only Winston Churchill and his warmongering conservatives who got it right from the beginning. Pope Pius XI followed shortly thereafter.
In fact, Pope Pius XI took pains to ensure that Nazi officials could not prohibit its distribution. Unlike most encyclicals, which are written in Latin, Mit brennender Sorge was written in German for maximum exposure. It was then smuggled into Germany, secretly distributed, and read at the Masses on Palm Sunday, 1937. Pius XI’s encyclical condemned not only the persecution of the Church in Germany, but also the use of race and bloodlines to judge human value, the idolizing of the state, and the neopaganism of Nazi theories. It declared in part:
“Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things – whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds. None but superficial minds could stumble into concepts of a national God, of a national religion; or attempt to lock within the frontiers of a single people, within the narrow limits of a single race, God, the Creator of the universe, King and Legislator of all nations before whose immensity they are “as a drop of a bucket” (Isaiah 11:15).
Pius’s XI’s encyclical concluded with the following words of defiance, “enemies of the Church who think that their time has come will see that their joy was premature.” Those distributing the encyclical were arrested, payments due to the Church from Germany under the concordat were elliminated, and several priests were subjected to trials on trumped-up charges. The Nazis confiscated all available copies of the encyclical, arrested printers who made copies, and shut down their printing presses.
Shortly thereafter, Hitler was quoted in a Swiss newspaper as saying, “The Third Reich does not desire a modus vivendi with the Catholic Church, but rather its destruction with lies and dishonor, in order to make room for a German Church in which the German race will be glorified.’ Pope Pius XI was henceforth considered an enemy of the Third Reich, but he died shortly thereafter.
In one of the shortest conclaves in Vatican history, the cardinals then crowned Eugenio Pacelli the new Pope in defiance of warnings by the German ambassador to the Vatican that the Third Reich would look most unfavorably on his choice as Pius XI’s successor. The Nazis, through the German media were quick to respond, “The election of Cardinal Pacelli is not accepted with favor in Germany because he was always opposed to Nazism and practically determined the policies of the Vatican under his predecessor,” said one Das Schwarze Korps, the official newspaper of the dreaded Nazi SS. Germany was the only country that did not send a representative to Pius XII’s coronation. He took his name, “Pius”, in honor of his predecessor who had tasked him with drafting Mit brennender Sorge. Hitler invaded Poland 3 months later.
Let there be no misunderstanding, Hitler occupied Rome from September 1943 until June 1944, and he would have overrun the Vatican had Pius sufficiently provoked him. There was even a German plot, revealed after the war, to kidnap the Pope and his Cardinals if Hitler decided the public relations nightmare merited invading Vatican territory. Nevertheless, Pius worked tirelessly to save the lives of Jews, though quietly in order to avoid provoking a military response by the Nazis. It is easy to forget there is only so much the Pope could have done. He had no army beyond his Swiss guards, who were no more than a personal bodyguard. But by working behind the scenes, Pius XII, through the Catholic Church, was directly and indirectly responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Had he decided to take to the pulpit to openly denounce Hitler’s terrible treatment of the Jews (as well as catholic clergy), Hitler almost certainly would have turned his military machine against the Catholic church, and that would have been the end of the Vatican’s behind-the-scenes activities.
Oscar Schindler, also a Roman catholic, is today regarded as a “righteous gentile” by many Jews for saving perhaps 3,000 Jewish lives. What then accounts for so much unjust criticism of Pope Pius XII, who saved many hundred thousand lives?
Below, the answer to that question. How the KGB created the myth of “Hitler’s Pope”, and it’s sad legacy today.