Home > Anti-Semitism, Fred Reiss, Holocaust~Shoah, Interfaith, Vatican City > Should Pope Pius XII Become a Saint?

Should Pope Pius XII Become a Saint?

By Fred Reiss, Ed.D.

Fred Reiss

WINCHESTER, California — The Catholic Church has over 10,000 saints and “beati,” or blessed on the roster. Does it really make a difference if there is one more?

The answer is probably not for most rank-and-file Catholics. They already have three  saints per day from among whom they can choose for feasting.

It matters to Jews who remember the actions and lack of actions by Eugenio Pacelli, Vatican Secretary of State until 1939, at which time he became Pope Pius XII. Prior to 1963, the world generally viewed Pius XII as a faithful shepherd to his people during a dark period in the world’s history. The liberal-Catholic writer Graham Green characterized Pius XII as, “a pope who many of us believe will rank among the greatest.”

In 1963, Rolf Hochhuth published his play, The Deputy, which condemned Pius XII and the entire Vatican hierarchy for failing to act to save European Jewry from death camps and the atrocities of the Nazis. John Cornwell’s 1999 book, Hitler’s Pope, continued the condemnation of Pius XII for supporting National Socialism and for failing to act on behalf of Jews. Gabriel Wilensky, author of Six Million Crucifixions, argues that Pope Pius XII actions during World War II can be attributed to the belief that he had more to fear from the survival of godless Communism then from the Nazi regime.

Many Jews and non-Jews believe that making Pius XII a saint is a disgrace. In Israeli’s Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, there is a plaque that delineates the perceived anti-Jewish actions of the Pope during the war. The plaque lists such things as the 1933 Concordat with Hitler to preserve the Church’s rights in Germany in exchange for recognizing the Nazi government, pigeon-holing a 1939 letter against anti-Semitism that his predecessor prepared, abstaining from joining the allies’ denunciation of the extermination of Jews, and failing to intervene in the deportation of Jews living in Rome to Auschwitz.

The sainthood of Pius XII certainly matters to the Vatican. Most Catholic scholars have cautioned the Vatican to move slowly with regard to his sainthood. Yet, for the papacy and the church hierarchy there seems to be a need for urgency. According to Celestine Bohlen, Pope Benedict’s December, 2009 decree moving both John Paul II and Pius XII closer to sainthood is filled with Vatican politics. She wrote that, “Benedict had hoped to satisfy both the conservative and the liberal wings of the Catholic Church”. Pope Benedict’s outward position is simple: Pius XII worked quietly and behind the scenes to rescue Jews from the hands of the Nazi war machine. Benedict is also quick to point out that many Catholics risked their own lives to save Jews.

It also matters to the Pave the Way Foundation, whose website declares, “We are a non-sectarian public foundation, which identifies and eliminates non-theological obstacles between the faiths”. From September 15 through 17, 2008 the foundation held a symposium in Rome to examine the papacy of Pius XII. At the conference, lawyers, linguists, researchers and foreign correspondents, priests and nuns, and even a Rabbi met to report on deeds and acts of Pius XII during World War II. In the proceedings, published under the title, Examining the Papacy of Pope Pius XII, the conference examined twelve commonly-held beliefs about the Pope. These beliefs included such things as the Pope was: anti-Semitic, obsessed with atheistic Communism, did not believe that the Church has an obligation to either protect or care for non-Catholics, and should be condemned for signing an agreement with Hitler in 1933. They also responded to the annotations on plaque at Yad Vashem.

The proceedings concluded that “the controversy about Pius has to a large degree been generated by those who ignore his endless efforts over many years to help victims of Hitler.” For example, the proceedings argue that Pius’ Concordant with Hitler occurred before he became Pope and was actually at the direction of his predecessor, Pius XI. There never was a letter opposing anti-Semitism, only drafts.  The Pope did protest the deportation of the Jews from Rome to Auschwitz. Cardinal Maglione, his Secretary of State, delivered the first protest and the second was delivered through an assistant to German General Stahel.

Since John Paul II abolished the “devil’s advocate” portion of the canonization process, the question of whether or not Pope Pius XII becomes a saint may be more a result of politics than theology. If it is true that Pius’ strategy to save European Jews was to work behind the scenes, then that strategy failed. That alone should disqualify him.

Thousands of Catholics fall into the category called righteous gentiles, Christians who personally risked their lives and the lives of their families to save Jews. Perhaps they are more qualified for sainthood.

*

Dr. Fred Reiss is a retired public and Hebrew school teacher and administrator. He is the author of The Standard Guide to the Jewish and Civil CalendarsAncient Secrets of Creation: Sepher Yetzira, the Book that Started Kabbalah, Revealed; and Reclaiming the Messiah. The author can be reached through his website, www.fredreissbooks.com.

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  1. francineraymonde
    November 8, 2011 at 12:23 am

    Researcher thinks Pius XII went undercover to save Jews
    By David Kerr

    Rome, Italy, Nov 4, 2011 / 06:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Jewish New Yorker who has made it his life’s work to clear the name of Pope Pius XII of being anti-Semitic believes the wartime pontiff actually went undercover to save the lives of Jews in Rome.
    Gary Krupp came across the evidence in a letter from a Jewish woman whose family was rescued thanks to direct Vatican intervention.
    “It is an unusual letter, written by a woman who is alive today in northern Italy, who said she was with her mother, her uncle, and a few other relatives in an audience with Pius XII in 1947.” Next to Pope Pius during the meeting was his Assistant Secretary of State, Monsignor Giovanni Montini, the future Pope Paul VI.
    “Her uncle immediately looks at the Pope and he says, ‘You were dressed as a Franciscan,’ and looked at Montini who was standing next to him, ‘and you as a regular priest. You took me out of the ghetto into the Vatican.’ Montini immediately said, ‘Silence, do not ever repeat that story.’”
    Krupp believes the claim to be true because the personality of the wartime Pope was such that he “needed to see things with his own eyes.”

    “He used to take the car out into bombed areas in Rome, and he certainly wasn’t afraid of that. I can see him going into the ghetto and seeing what was happening,” says Krupp.

    Krupp and his wife Meredith founded the Pave the Way Foundation in 2002 to “identify and eliminate the non-theological obstacles between religions.” In 2006 he was asked by both Jewish and Catholic leaders to investigate the “stumbling block” of Pope Pius XII’s wartime reputation. Krupp, a very optimistic 64-year-old from Long Island, N.Y., thought he had finally hit a wall.

    “We are Jewish. We grew up hating the name Pius XII,” he says. “We believed that he was anti-Semitic, we believed that he was a Nazi collaborator—all of the statements that have been made about him, we believed.”
    But when he started looking at the documents from the time, he was shocked. And “then it went from shock to anger. I was lied to,” says Krupp.
    “In Judaism, one of the most important character traits one must have is gratitude, this is very important, it is part of Jewish law. Ingratitude is one of the most terrible traits, and this was ingratitude as far as I was concerned.”
    Krupp now firmly agrees with the conclusions of Pinchas Lapide, the late Jewish historian and Israeli diplomat who said the direct actions of Pope Pius XII and the Vatican saved approximately 897,000 Jewish lives during the war. Pave the Way has over 46,000 pages of historical documentation supporting that proposition, which it has posted on its website along with numerous interviews with eye-witnesses and historians.
    “I believe that it is a moral responsibility, this has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church,” says Krupp, “it has only to do with the Jewish responsibility to come to recognize a man who actually acted to save a huge number of Jewish lives throughout the entire world while being surrounded by hostile forces, infiltrated by spies and under the threat of death.”
    Krupp explained that Pope Pius used the Holy See’s global network of embassies to help smuggle Jews out of occupied Europe. In one such instance, the Vatican secretly asked for visas to the Dominican Republic– 800 at a time – to aid Jewish rescue efforts. This one initiative alone is estimated to have saved over 11,000 Jewish lives between 1939 and 1945.
    Closer to home, the convents and monasteries of Rome—neutral territory during the war—were used as hiding places for Jews.

    Krupp speculates that the wartime actions of Pope Pius XII, whose birth name was Eugenio Pacelli, can be further understood in the light of his own personal history. His great boyhood friend was Guido Mendes who hailed from a well-known Jewish family in Rome. Together they learned the Hebrew language and shared Shabbat dinners on the Jewish Sabbath.
    Later, upon his election to the papacy in 1939, A.W. Klieforth, the American consul general in Cologne, sent a secret telegram to the U.S. Department of State explaining Pope Pius’s attitude towards Nazism in Germany.
    The new Pope “opposed unalterably every compromise with National Socialism,” Klieforth wrote, after a private chat with the pontiff in the Vatican. The two men had got to know each other during Archbishop Pacelli’s 12 years as nuncio in Germany.
    Pope Pius, explained Klieforth, “regarded Hitler not only as an untrustworthy scoundrel but as a fundamentally wicked person,” and “did not believe Hitler capable of moderation.” Hence he “fully supported the German bishops in their anti-Nazi stand.”
    Krupp describes the reputation of the wartime Pope as both glowing and intact until 1963, when German writer Rolf Hochhuth penned his play “The Deputy.” It portrayed Pope Pius as a hypocrite who remained silent about Jewish persecution.
    The Pave the Way website carries evidence from a former high-ranking KGB officer, Ion Mihai Pacepa, who claims that the tarnishing of the Pope’s reputation was a Soviet plot.
    Krupp explains how the communists wanted to “discredit the Pope after his death, to destroy the reputation of the Catholic Church and, more significantly to us, to isolate the Jews from the Catholics. It succeeded very well in all three areas.”
    But he also firmly believes that a fundamental revision of Pope Pius’s wartime record is now well underway. “The dam is cracking now, without question,” he says.
    Ironically, perhaps, Krupp says he meets more resistance when he speaks at Catholic parishes than in Jewish synagogues. “Many Jews,” he explains, “have been extremely grateful, saying, ‘I’m very happy to hear that. I never wanted to believe this about him,’ especially those of us who knew him, who were old enough to know him.”

  2. August 29, 2010 at 10:43 am

    No one should be really surprised at Pope Benedict’s actions. After all, he lifted the excommunication to a Holocaust-denying bishop, he spoke at Auschwitz but forgot to mention that the Holocaust was caused by pathological antisemitism, and of course neglected to mention where antisemitism might have come from. Also, he has been extolling Pope Pius XII’s “heroic virtues” and has been promoting his canonization. People should be even less surprised at any residual animosity toward the wartime pope, Pius XII. After all, that pope had the power, but not the will, to make a difference during the war yet he chose to remain silent.

    It’s highly misleading to make so much hoopla about the Pius XII’ putative actions in defense of the Jews during the war: they were meager, largely ineffective, and many times they were made to create precisely the type of appearance of action we are seeing defended today. As Pius’ close aide, Msgr. Tardini, explained in an internal Vatican memo after a tepid admonition to the Slovakian President-priest Tiso, “This will make known to the world that the Holy See fulfills its duty of charity.” Or, when Jesuit Father Tacchi Venturi made a symbolic inquiry about the fate of the Jews of Rome, he then informed his superiors that “A step like this by the Holy See, even if it does not obtain the desired effect, will without doubt help increase the veneration and gratitude toward the August Person of the Holy Father.” In a similar case a Holy See official mentioned some potential actions the Holy See could take on behalf of the Jews, knowing that they would be totally ineffective and they would fail. He did this knowing that “if nothing else, it will always be possible to say that the Holy See has done everything possible to help these unhappy people.”

    The Church claims that propelling Pius XII into the sainthood is a reflection of his religious actions, and that may be so. However, Pius XII was not just a religious figure: he was the pope, the leader of an international organization responsible for the care of hundreds of millions of souls, and he was the leader of a state with a fully operational government with influence on a global scale. So his actions—or inactions—cannot be measured solely based on what his contributions to the advancement of faith was. Certainly not for someone who ruled over the Catholic Church at a time when almost half the German population and the vast majority of Austrian, French, Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Latvian, Hungarian and other populations that collaborated with the Germans in executing the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” were Catholic.

    Gabriel Wilensky

    ———————————————————————————————
    Author
    Six Million Crucifixions:
    How Christian Teachings About Jews Paved the Road to the Holocaust
    http://www.SixMillionCrucifixions.com
    Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sixmillionbook
    ———————————————————————————————

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