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BY The Editors
history is more than history. The Holocaust, for instance, isn’t just an event
in the past. It is a gaping wound in humanity. For healing to occur, we must
recognize all that happened.
This has been the constant position
not just of Pope Benedict XVI, but also of Pope John Paul II, Pope Paul VI,
Pope John XXIIII — and Pope Pius XII.
The topic has reached saturation
coverage in the news media because, in an interview taped in November for
Swedish television, a Lefebvrist bishop denied that 6 million Jews were killed
during the Holocaust. Bishop Richard Williamson claimed that historical
evidence denies the gassing of Jews in Nazi concentration camps. He also
alleged that no more than 300,000 Jews were killed during World War II.
On Feb. 4, the Vatican reiterated
once again its denunciation of Bishop Williamson’s opinion and said that the
bishop would have to “distance himself in an absolutely unmistakable and public
way from his position” in order to be given an episcopal ministry.
Bishops from around the world
condemned Bishop Williamson’s remarks on the Holocaust. Bishop Williamson
Why is someone’s mistaken notion of
history so offensive? Because it isn’t just a mistake about history. It becomes
a mistake about a people’s dignity.
Far from denying or minimizing the
Holocaust, the Church has been its sworn enemy from the very beginning.
Sister Margherita Marchione, Ph.D.,
has dedicated herself to research that continually seems to uncover
enlightening new evidence. Where others characterize the beliefs of the time in
a speculative way, she records the words of that time with precision.
She’s the scholar from the Religious
Teachers Fillipini order who has written extensively about the Holocaust. She
published a sampling of her work in the Register: Excerpts:
Jewish News (April 16, 1943) quoted Cardinal Gerlier, who sheltered
Jewish children, saying that he was obeying Pius XII’s instructions by
continuing to oppose France’s anti-Semitic measures.
On Sept. 3 and 9, 1942, The
New York Times reported that the Catholic Church denounced the
concentration camps in letters read aloud in church pulpits throughout occupied
Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, speaking
at Lourdes as Pope Pius XI’s delegate to France, on April 29, 1935, described
the Nazis as “possessed by the superstition of race and blood,” and declared
that “the Church does not consent to form a compact with them at any price.”
Describing the speech, The New York Times
headlined its story: “Nazis Warned at Lourdes.”
Cardinal Pacelli would later become
Pope Pius XII.
In a report filed with the U.S.
State Department in 1939, Alfred Klieforth, U.S. consul general in Berlin,
described Cardinal Pacelli’s views: “He opposed unilaterally every compromise
with National Socialism. He regarded Hitler not only as an untrustworthy
scoundrel but as a fundamentally wicked person. He did not believe Hitler
capable of moderation, in spite of appearances, and he fully supported the
German bishops in their anti-Nazi stand.”
On Dec. 25, 1940, The
New York Times was impressed enough with Pope Pius XII’s words to
make them the basis of an editorial on the subject of the Nazis’ evil.
When Pius XII wrote his first
encyclical in 1939, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency
in New York reported on Oct. 27: “The unqualified condemnation which Pope Pius
XII heaped on totalitarian, racist and materialistic theories of government in
his encyclical, Summi Pontificatus,
caused a profound stir. … Few observers had expected so outspoken a document.”
The editors of The
New York Times were impressed enough with the encyclical’s
condemnation of racism and totalitarianism that they decided to print the
Michael Tagliacozzo, a Jewish
historian and eyewitness, wrote: “Pope Pacelli was the only one who intervened
to impede the deportation of Jews on Oct. 16, 1943, and he did very much to
hide and save thousands of us. It was no small matter that he ordered the
opening of cloistered convents. Without him, many of our own would not be
Throughout World War II, Pius XII
continually condemned Nazi policies. He so provoked the Nazis that they called
him “a mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals.”
Truth is necessary to unity. The
facts about the Holocaust must be acknowledged for the good of both. To
misrepresent the facts of the Shoah is to deepen the wounds that need to heal.
And to misrepresent the role of Pope
Pius XII in the Holocaust is to introduce tensions into the center of a
situation where, in Sister Marchione’s words, “a diplomat steered a careful
course through chaos.”