Most Rev. Kevin
Britt, Supreme Chaplain of the Order of Alhambra, Illustrious Supreme Commander
Angelo Miele, Honorable Past Supreme Commanders, Distinguished Members
of the Council of Viziers (Present and Past), Convention Director Roger
Reid, My Brother Priests, Sir Nobles and Sultanas, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I would like to speak to you this evening on a currently important subject, the beatification cause of Eugenio Pacelli, the pope who is known in history as Pius XII.
Last November 4th, Aharon Lopez, the Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See declared that Pope Pius XII should not be beatified until after the Holy See has released all the documents about the Pope and the Holocaust. In reply, I wrote to The New York Times in a letter published (Nov. 5th) saying that few of those who have criticized Pope Pius XII have used the documents already published by the Vatican about the Pope and the Jews during World War II.
Of course, that letter changed few minds within and without the Jewish community, as evident in those who continue to denigrate what Pope Pius XII did for the Jews during the Holocaust. For example, one can examine the July-August issue of Commentary, a work published by the American Jewish Committee. That issue has letters, including one from me, reacting to the article, "The Pope, the Church, and the Jews," in the April issue, written by Robert S. Wistrich. In the July-August issue that author was allowed to respond to those letters.
However, my experience in those two cases differed. With The New York Times, there was a careful exchange back and forth on what that newspaper wanted to excise or omit from my letter. This was not the case with Commentary, which eliminated at least a third of my letter, specifically items that would prove favorable to the cause of Pope Pius XII. And, I found that was true with at least two other persons whose letters are also in that same July-August issue of Commentary.
What, specifically, were the excisions from my letter? First, my statement that the documents published by the Holy See (especially volumes 6, 8, 9, and 10) show that the Vatican intervened close to 1,500 times on behalf of victims of the Nazis. Second, my mention that the author of the April article was accepting the hostile view of Pope Pius XII by playwriter Rolf Hochhuth, who had been a member of the Nazi youth movement. Third, my citation of a study by Harold C. Deutch that the Pope had been involved in a plot to overthrow Adolf Hitler, thereby showing that Pius XII was not lacking in courage. Fourth, my enumeration of both Catholic and Jewish scholars who have written extensively in defense of Pope Pius XII. And, fifth, my suggestion that both sides, Jews and Catholics, ought to heed the Last Testament of Pope John XXIII who said: "Love one another, my dear children! See rather what unites, not what may separate you from one another." Clearly, this sort of manipulation of the truth in the editing of my letter shows the nature of the challenge that faces Catholics who engage in such a controversy.
And that reaction of Commentary was not exceptional. For one reason, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center has been very active against the cause of Pius XII. Last September 10th, he sent a letter to Pope John Paul II vehemently opposing the beatification. And, in his address in New York City for the 19th Annual State of World Jewry on May 13th of this year, the Rabbi issued a lengthy attack on Pius XII "because elevating him to sainthood desecrates the memory of the Holocaust." Indeed the Rabbi was giving a total rejection to all those testimonies by Jewish leaders who had praised Pius XII for all that he did for their people during World War II.
Moreover, in October of this year, Viking Press will publish a book by John Cornwell, an English writer who, perhaps to appear more credible, presents himself as a practicing Catholic. Entitled Hitlerís Pope, it is a direct attack on Pope Pius XII alleging to tell "the secret history of Pius XII" through exhaustive research. If Cornwellís work on the death of Pope John Paul I is any indication, his documentation will be very thin.
Actually, many of the alleged failures of Pius XII are the products of sensational imaginations rather than testimonies from historical documents. In reviewing some of these alleged failures of Pope Pius XII, we find that they are objectively false. To understand them, I will state the common allegations and give the proper replies to them.
1. That the Pope was Silent!
R/ His Christmas messages of 1941 and 1942 prove otherwise as the editorials from The New York Times on those Christmas Days testify.
2. That the Pope was afraid of Adolf Hitler!
R/ The Pope was not afraid to be incarcerated in a concentration camp or to face death as exemplified in the early years of the war by Piusí involvement in the plot to get rid of the Nazi leader.
3. That the Pope was pro-German!
R/ While Eugenio Pacelli appreciated what was good in German culture, he did not approve what was bad in German politics. For he criticized the Nazis about forty times when he was papal nuncio there from 1917 to 1929. And the Nazis were not pleased with him as Papal Secretary of State and with his election as Pope in 1939.
4. That the Pope was anti-Semitic!
R/ This is against those who defended the Pope like Golda Meir, Israeli Foreign Minister, as well as a number of rabbis, including Rabbi Israel Zolli who converted to Roman Catholicism after the war and took the name of Eugenio to honor Pius XII for his help to the Jews.
5. That the Pope was indifferent to the fate of the Jews!
R/ Certainly, the Pope was not indifferent to the fate of the Jew. The Nazis got the message when the Pope spoke out using the indirect language of diplomacy to condemn them in his public statements during the war.
6. That the Pope was anti-Soviet!
R/ As Cardinal Secretary of State, the future Pope had helped to compose encyclicals against both Communists and Nazis. If Pius were partial during World War II, it was towards the Soviets when he urged American Catholics to let up on their opposition when FDR wanted to help the Russians.
7. That the Pope was only interested in helping baptized Jews!
R/ That is not true since the Church provided fabricated documents for thousands of unbaptized Jews. Anyone who saw the film, The Assisi Underground, understands this.
8. That individual Catholics, not the Pope, helped the Jews!
R/ These individuals acted on directions from the Pope himself, as Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, has testified.
9. That Jewish organizations urged the Pope to speak out!
R/ Those organizations requested Piusí help but they did not want him to focus outright attention on Jews and risk having them rounded up. "If the Pope had spoken out, " Denmarkís Rabbi said, "Hitler would have probably massacred more than six million Jews and perhaps ten times ten million Catholics, if he had the power." The Jews wanted effective actions, not meaningless words.
10. That the Pope should have been more prophetic!
R/ The Christmas Day editorials of The New York Times for 1941 and 1942 praised the Pope ("a lonely voice"), precisely because he had been prophetic in employing the indirect language of diplomacy.
11. That the Pope did not save 860,000 Jews!
R/ It was a Jewish diplomat and rabbi, Pinchas Lapide, in his study, Three Popes and the Jews (1967) who claimed this and it was accepted by Jews themselves because the author had based his conclusion on documents in the archives of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
And, finally, number 12. That Pius XII should not be beatified!
R/ The reasons for beatification must be based on objective evidence. Thousands of documents gathered by those engaged in the Popeís cause prove that he is worthy of beatification and eventual canonization contrary to the letter which Rabbi Marvin Hier sent to Pope John Paul II last September 10th.
Having reviewed those allegations, what explains such opposition to the beatification of Pope Pius XII? There are, I believe, at least three developments in our time which, if taken together, may help to explain it.
First, there is the widespread ignorance of the past. Just as it took almost a generation after World War II for knowledge of the Holocaust to become widespread, so too has this been the case with respect to what the Catholic Church did during those war years. Even though more than a decade has passed since the documents of the Holy See were published, there are many scholars who have not heard of them or have not used them.
Second, a later generation of Jews has come to realize that their own people really did not do all they should have done to save their own. When they find that the Catholic Church under Pope Pius XII saved almost a million Jews and that no less an authority than a foreign minister of Israel, Golda Meir --- not to mention many more Jewish leaders before her ---, had praised the Pope after the war, it is an embarrassment that they, understandably, want to avoid. Consequently, by attacking Pope Pius XII, this generation is able to satisfy some unknown psychological need in a manner that can be characterized, for want of a better expression, as a form of occult compensation.
And, third, there is the old virus of anti-Catholicism which still shapes many views in American society. I recall the famous Washington lawyer Edward Bennett Williams with whom I used to have breakfast when he visited the College of the Holy Cross as the chairman of its board of trustees. One morning the question of anti-Catholicism came up. This was years after John F. Kennedyís historic election as President was regarded by some to mark the end of such bigotry. Quite the contrary was the reaction of Mr. Williams. Any Catholic who was conscious of what was going on in the 1970s and the 1980s knew that anti-Catholicism was not dead.
Certainly, much of the opposition to the beatification of Pope Pius XII can be placed at the doorstep of anti-Catholicism because many people in our society do not like what the Roman Catholic Church under Pope John Paul II teaches on a wide spectrum of issues: abortion, capital punishment, contraception, divorce, homosexuality, marriage, pornography, same sex marriages, woman priests, etc. And, among those anti-Catholics are even some Roman Catholics who have fallen away from their religious beliefs and practices but justify their situation by engaging in such bigotry.
Once Pope Pius XIIís accusers are challenged for the objective evidence, they turn and run or resort to personal attacks about oneís knowledge or the quality of oneís scholarship. That method, of course, is the last refuge of the bigot, not the person of reason who, regardless of religious persuasion, honestly seeks to pursue the truth and learn about what has happened in the past.
Therefore, in speaking about the beatification cause of Pope Pius XII, I hope that I have succeeded in enlightening you so that you can be prepared to separate myth from reality and, thereby, to help the truth emerge. In this way, we can all do our share in making sure that the gates of hell, as evident in the fabrications being circulated, will not prevail against Godís Church. And, at the same time as Alhambrans, also do our part in this ecumenical age, to build a dialogue with non-Catholics, on what unites rather than on what divides us.
Thank you very much for honoring me this evening and God bless you all!
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ISSUES OF THE NEW YORK TIMES
DEALING WITH THE ACTIONS OF POPE PIUS XII AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON BEHALF
OF JEWS AND OTHER VICTIMS OF THE NAZIS
SEPTEMBER OF 1939:
Following the outbreak of the war at the start of the month, the newspaper has articles and editorials this month dealing with the disclosures by the Vatican of Nazi atrocities against Jews and non-Jews in Poland as, for example, on the 15th ("Pope Begs Powers to Humanize War"); the 21st ("Pope Acts to Aid Polish Catholics"); and the 24th ("Pope Deeply Anxious on Poland Situation").
OCTOBER 27, 1939:
Story says of Pope's first encyclical: "It is Germany that stands condemned."
OCTOBER 28, 1939:
"Pope Condemns Dictators, Treaty Violators, Racism; Urges Restoring of Poland"
JANUARY 23, 1940:
"Vatican Denounces Atrocities in Poland; Germans Called Even Worse than Russians"
"Jews and Poles are being herded into separate ghettos,
heremetically sealed and pitifully inadequate for the economic subsistence of the millions destined to live there."
JANUARY 24, 1940:
"Vatican Amplifies Atrocity Reports / Weight of Papacy Put Behind Exposure of Nazi Excesses in Poland."
"Polandís Agony" (editorial on same day):
"Now the Vatican has spoken, with authority that cannot be questioned, and has confirmed the worst intimations of terror which have come out of the Polish darkness."
JANUARY 29, 1940:
"Memorandum Presented to Pope"
"Mass Shootings in Poland Laid to Nazis by Cardinal"
MARCH 14, 1940:
"Pope is Emphatic About Just Peace: Jewsí Rights Defended"
DECEMBER 25, 1940:
Editorial praises pope for condemnation of "Hitler's system.".
DECEMBER 25, 1941:
"Pope Broadcasts Five Peace Points: Condemns Aggression, Curbs on Minorities, Total War and Persecutions"
Editorial speaks of Pope: "a lonely voice"
JANUARY 24, 1942:
"Pope is Said to Plead for Jews Listed for Removal From France"
MAY 14, 1942:
"Pope Pleads for Peace But Doubts War's End Now"
JUNE 8, 1942:
News article praises German Catholic leaders for "speaking up against the Nazi regime."
AUGUST 6, 1942:
"Pope is Said to Plead for Jews Listed for Removal from France"
AUGUST 27, 1942:
In article, "Vichy Seizes Jews; Pope Pius Ignored," it is stated:
"These arrests are continuing despite appeals to Marshal Henri Philippe Petain . . . by leading Catholic clergymen, with the support of the Pope."
DECEMBER 25, 1942:
"Pope Assails Peril of Godless State"
Editorial speaks of Pope: "a lonely voice"
FEBRUARY 7, 1943:
"Pope Pledges Aid to Jews"
JUNE 27, 1943:
News article quotes Vatican Radio in defense of Jews.
AUGUST 13, 1943:
News article speaks of German priests imprisoned at Dachau for resistance to Nazis.
SEPTEMBER 6, 1943:
News article applauds pastoral of German bishops condemning Hitler and cites leadership of Pius XII.
OCTOBER 17, 1943:
"Pope Said to Help in Ransoming Jews."
DECEMBER 5, 1943:
Speaking of Vatican:
"Denounces Decision to Intern and Strip All Jews in Italy"
FEBRUARY 4, 1944:
Editorial defends Vatican against Soviet charge that it is pro-Nazi.
"Vatican Repeats Pledge of Haven"
"Pope Lodges Strong Protest"
JULY 6, 1944:
"Pope urges Hungary to protect Jews"
JULY 27, 1944:
News story about Rome's Chief Rabbi thanking the Vatican after the liberation of the city from the Nazis for the help given to Jews during the occupation.
AUGUST 21, 1944:
Anne O'Hare McCormick on Pope's priority in saving Jews
NOVEMBER 16, 1944:
"Pope Pleads on Warsaw -- Plight of City in the Hands of Nazis Is Appalling, He Asserts"
OCTOBER 11, 1945:
Report that World Jewish Congress Gave Vatican $20,000.00 for Helping Jews
NOVEMBER 7, 1945:
Report of French Bishops Removed by Pope for Collaborating with Nazis
For more, see Stephen
M. DiGiovanni, Pius XII and the Jews: The War Years as Reported by
The New York Times (Bridgeport, CT, 2000).