Tag Archives: Pope Pius XII

Did Pope PiusXII Aid Jews In Holocaust?

A German historian, Dr. Michael Hesemann, claims the world has mistaken efforts made by Pope Pius XII during World War II and, rather than being a collaborator with Hitler, he worked to save the lives of Jews. According to Hesemann, then Cardinal Pacelli, wrote to archbishops around the world and urged them to arrange for visas for “non-Aryan Catholics” and Jews who had converted to Christianity. This supposedly led to the rescue of over 200,000 Jews who fled Germany. Elliot Hershberg of Pave the way foundation, argues, “we believe that many Jews who were successful in leaving Europe did not have any idea that their visas and travel documents were obtained through these Vatican efforts.” Until this story is further documented we reserve judgment on the behavior of Pope Pius XII whose silence was deafening during World War II. He did not even save the lives of Catholic priests who were held in concentration camps.

We await further research. If Pope Pius XII performed these heroic acts then he is due many apologies.

Pope Benedict XVI Defends WW II Pope

Pope Benedict XVI once again defended World War II Pope Pius XII of doing all he could to save the lives of Jews from Nazi terror. He argued that the controversial cleric had assisted Jews and saved thousands from Nazi extermination. Although, he did not mention the name of Pope Pius, it was clear his statement that Catholic efforts to save Jews had “tragically reached as far as Rome.” Unfortunately, that while the record is clear many Catholic priests and nuns did help save Jews, the silence of Pope Pius can not be ignored. What would have happened if the Pope, as did the King of Denmark, went into the streets and worn a yellow star? What if Pope Pius had excommunicated Catholic Adolf Hitler? He made no public statement concerning the killing of Jews nor did he excommunicate Catholic priests who cooperated with the Nazis.

To make matters worse, over 300 priests such as Father Kolbe of Poland were sent to concentration camps and Pope Pius did nothing to help them. Some, like Kolbe, were killed and there was no statement from the Pope about murdering Catholic priests. And, this is the person, Pope Benedict seeks to make a saint?

Pope Pius XII — Saint Or Sinner?

The decision by Pope Benedict XVI to accelerate the process of making Pope Pius XII a saint has aroused the anger of many Jews as well as non-Jews who are disappointed with the failure of action by Pope Pius XII during World War II. Many Jewish scholars seek an opportunity to have access to Vatican archives in order to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of actions by Pope Pius XII toward the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler. Current scholarship suggests the Pope hesitated to confront Nazism in a direct fashion, and, in so doing failed to take actions that might have led to saving thousands of Jews from death. Pope Benedict XVI hails Pius for his “heroic virtues” during the course of his life.

Perhaps, Benedict can cite any of these “heroic virtues” which led to saving the lives of hundreds of priests who were killed by the Nazis. It would have been an act of virtue to walk in the streets of Rome when Germans rounded up Jews as did the King of Denmark, it would have been an act of virtue if Pius had gone to Nazi concentration camps where priests were held and refused to leave until they were freed. There are many virtuous acts Pope Pius could have done like going directly to Auschwitz and remaining in the area as a symbol of protest.

Pope Pius XII War Record Continued Debate

World War II ended over sixty years ago, but the debate concerning record of Pope Pius XII continues to create tension between Jews and Catholics. Pope Benedict the XVI has made certain he will not tour the new museum at Yad Vashem which contains a section dealing with the performance of the wartime pope that is not not flattering to what he did or did not do. The Vatican insisted the tour of the Holy Land was a personal one for Benedict and had nothing to do with World War II or Pius XII. However, Pope Benedict was pressured not to meet with certain Palestinian leaders and to avoid having his picture taken by the wall which divides Arabs from Israel. His dilemma is a speech in which he displays concern for Muslims might be interpreted as anti-Israel and speaking up for Israel is a certain way to anger Muslims.

The issue of the role played by Pope Pius XII in World War II remains a divisive one. Most historians believe he did assist some Jews but he was remarkably quiet about the actions of the Nazi government. Most probably a definitive conclusion awaits opening Vatican archives.

Israel Conflict With Vatican Worsens

Israel is currently engaged in efforts to establish ties with the Palestinian Authority, but there is now another dark cloud on the horizon caused by increased complaints from the Vatican about Israeli actions. A senior Vatican official, Archbiship Pietro Sambi lashed out at Israel, ‘if I must be frank, the relations between the Catholic Church and the state of Israel were better when there were no diplomatic ties.” Among the issues in dispute are expropriated church property, servies that Catholic groups perform for Israeli’s Jewish and Arab populations, and exemptions for the Church. A particular sore point is the granting of permits for Arab Christian clergy traveling to and around the West Bank on church activities. Israel has rescinded some travel privileges for clergy members due to security reasons. Earlier this year, tensions developed between the Vatican and Israel when the Holy See’s ambassador to Israel initially declined to boycott a Holocaust memorial service because of allegations during World War Ii Pope Pius XII was silent about the mass killing of Jews.

There is an extensive Holocaust literature dealing with failure on the part of Pope Pius XII to take a vigorous role in speaking out against the mass murder of Jews as well as failing to excommunicate those in charge of the killings. There is also evidence of the Pope’s silence on the imprisonment of Catholic priests in concentration camps. The Vatican most probably has valid concerns regarding interference by Israel officials with the movement of priests on the West Bank.