Henchman of Hitler or Saviour of Jews? Saturday Essay ; the Cross and the Swastika: Pope Pius XII Showed Saintly Stamina in the Face of Pure Evil
Byline: DR MARK DOOLEY
POPE John Paul II will soon be a saint. So too will Blessed John XXIII.But what of that towering figure whose presence in St Peter's during World WarII saved Christendom from the Antichrist?
On March 2, 1939, Eugenio Pacelli was elected Supreme Pontiff of the CatholicChurch, a position he held until his death in October, 1958. He chose the namePius XII. It was one of the most controversial pontificates in history.
Pope Pius XII was the last great papal prince. He looked and sounded like amonarch. He was a theological conservative who despised communism. And yet,despite his mystical aloofness, he was universally revered.
Here is what Albert Einstein said of Pius in 1940: 'Only the Church stoodsquarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing the truth. Inever had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a greataffection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage andpersistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom.
'I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised, I now praiseunreservedly.' Einstein was, of course, a Jew. And it was because of Pius'scourage in the face of Nazism that he paid tribute to the Church.
So too did the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Isaac Herzog. 'The people of Israel,' hewrote in 1944, 'will never forget what His Holiness (did) for our unfortunatebrothers and sisters in the most tragic hour of our history.' In 1945, theWorld Jewish Congress gave $20,000 to Church charities. It did so toacknowledge 'the work of the Holy See in rescuing Jews from Fascist and Nazipersecutions.' According to one Israeli diplomat, the Pope saved 'at least700,000 Jews, but probably as many as 860,000, from certain death at Nazihands.' When Rome was occupied by the Germans in 1943, Pope Pius ordered hisclergy to do everything they could to protect Italian Jews.
The Jewish scholar and author of The Myth of Hitler's Pope, Professor DavidDalin, estimates that 'in Rome, 155 convents and monasteries sheltered some5,000 Jews. At least 3,000 found refuge at the Pope's summer residence atCastle Gandolfo.
'Sixty Jews lived for nine months at the Gregorian University, and many weresheltered in the cellar of the pontifical biblical institute. Hundreds foundsanctuary within the Vatican itself.' Put simply, 'while 80 per cent ofEuropean Jews perished during World War II, 80 per cent of Italian Jews weresaved', thanks largely to Pope Pius XII.
Moreover, when Rome was bombed on July 19, 1943, Pius summoned his AssistantSecretary of State, Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI.
The Pope asked how much cash was stored in the Vatican bank. 'About two millionlire, Your Holiness,' replied Montini. 'Draw it immediately and take the firstcar you find in San Damaso courtyard. We will join you,' the Pope declared.
Without protection, the two men then headed towards the flames.ThejournalistDan Kurzman describes what then transpired: 'As the Pope plodded through thesmoking rubble of charred houses where more than 500 dead victims were strewn,survivors struggled to touch his white cassock.
'Then a labourer spread his jacket on the cobblestones and the Pope knelt uponit to pray. Before departing, he cradled a dead infant in his arms and orderedMontini to distribute alms from his bag.' On August 13, more bombs fellonRome.Accordingto Kurzman, 'Pius again rushed to the scene to comfort the injured, pray forthe dead, and distribute alms to the homeless, and returned to the Vatican withhis cassock bloodstained.' Another account describes how,duringthebombings, 'when Jews and other refugees were hidden in the Vatican, the Popeprovided for their needs. Whenever possible, kosher foods for the Jews weresupplied'.
WHY thenhasPope P i u s X I I b e e n branded 'Hitler's Pope'? Why did the journalist andauthor JohnCornwelllabelhimas 'arguably the most dangerous churchman of modern times'? …