Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

70 Years Ago: Pius XI's 'With Deep Anxiety'

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

70 Years Ago: Pius XI's 'With Deep Anxiety'

Article excerpt

Some anniversaries go by unnoticed, although they deserve to be remembered. The 70th anniversary of Pope Plus XI's brave encyclical against Hitler's Germany, Mit brennender Sorge, is just such an occasion.

It was only four years after the concordat with Hitler was signed in 1933 with the help of Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, that it became apparent that diplomacy would not protect German Catholics from Hitler's sinister plans. Every paragraph of the treaty was broken by the Nazis: Catholic institutions were dissolved, priests were arrested, schools were closed, innumerable antichurch pamphlets were printed, and so on. The protests of Nuncio Cesare Orsenigo and the cardinal secretary of state, Pacelli, were in vain--the Nazis mocked Vatican requests that they adhere to the concordat. Then, in 1937, Pius XI decided to appeal to the German faithful. "With Deep Anxiety" was offmially signed on March 14, 1937, but had been sent two days in advance to Nuncio Orsenigo in Berlin, who was in charge of publishing the pamphlet and secretly distributing it to every Catholic parish in the country. On March 21, 1937, the text was read in every Sunday Mass in the Reich.

The consequences were brutal: Printers who helped publish Pius' letter were imprisoned, as well as a few hundred clergymen, many of whom later died in concentration camps, especially in Dachau. Hitler himself was furious, and from that time on, the regime declared open war on the church. However, it is not well-known that the cardinal of Munich, Michael Faulhaber, who died in 1952, drafted the document and together with Pacelli was responsible for the sharp criticism of Nazi Germany. After the war, both Faulhaber and Pacelli were accused of not having done enough against the Nazis, although they were the first officials who called Nazism a devilish ideology. …

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