Printer Friendly

Pius XII opposed Nazis.

Vatican City--In the September issue, we briefly discussed Father Giovanni Sale's recent book Hitler, The Holy See, and the Jews. On June 11, Zenit published a two-part interview with the author which throws more light on the Holy See's relations with the Nazis.

Well before World War II, as reports from apostolic nuncios and episcopal conferences show, the Vatican was aware of the dangers inherent in Nazism. Some bishops thought that it was necessary to give some leeway to the National Socialist Party as the only one strongly opposed to the advance of Bolshevism in Europe. But at a meeting in Fulda in 1932, the German episcopate saw the need to keep Catholics from being contaminated by the Nazi epidemic, because of "the persistent irreligious attitude of some leaders of National Socialism."

Newly available Vatican documents have revealed how Mit brennender Sorge ("With Burning Sorrow"), originally written in German, not Latin, was interpreted at the time. Countries not linked to Germany saw it as a denunciation of Nazism, its racism, its worship of the state, its violence and brutality. The encyclical mentioned neither National Socialism nor Hitler by name, but the great majority of German readers understood it as a denunciation of barbarism.

Similarly, Pius XII's 1942 Christmas message, presenting the moral and natural law as criteria for the re-establishment of a new order among nations, had an enormous echo among Catholics in all the continents and was appreciated outside the Catholic world, although not by governments. The Allied powers treated it with indifference. After all, it condemned the atrocities of the war, including the blanket bombings of German cities carried out by the Allies. Asked whether the Pope was convinced that he had denounced the horrors of war and the massacres of innocent people, Father Sale says that, from the reports of ambassadors of the Allied countries, it would seem that he did. He himself was completely convinced of having fulfilled, to the end, his duty before God and the tribunal of history.

Some historians consider that this attitude was inadequate; words of fire were needed at this time, they say. Father Sale is convinced that Pius XII himself felt he had spoken out strongly, and of having done so in a way which would not expose faithful Catholics living in territories of the Reich to reprisals.

It should be noted that the Pope knew nothing of the so-called Final Solution for the Jews until late in the war. The Vatican was not aware of the existence of Auschwitz until two young Jewish escapees denounced the extermination camp to the world in the spring of 1944. The text of this Auschwitz Protocol became known, in part, in June 1944. The full text was published only in November 1944. The Allied powers knew much more than the Pope, according to historian Richard Breitman. They had deciphered coded communications between SS sections, but did not mention the extermination camps until Allied troops ran into them in the final campaign of the spring of 1945.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Catholic Insight
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Vatican
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Nov 1, 2004
Previous Article:Population crisis is also a social crisis.
Next Article:The latest attack on Pius XII.

Related Articles
Pius XII under attack (USA).
Pius XII study group folds.
Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust: a reply to Daniel Goldhagen.
Pius XII as a 'Righteous Gentile'.
The Pius War: Responses to the critics of Pius XII.
The Soviet smear of Pius XII.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters