Vatican Notes & Quotes

Church Helped During Holocaust

In a letter to The Washington Post printed Tuesday Nov. 11, reader Candace Singer wrote, “I fear that the Post's article ‘Pope Assails Inaction During Holocaust’ does many Catholics and clergy an injustice by giving only part of the story. In 1939, my husband and his 10-year-old sister were among the 15,000 Jewish children spirited out of Austria on the children's transport trains. Eventually they arrived in England and safe haven with relatives, and my husband's parents were able to get out of Austria a year later. Many in his family were not so fortunate, however. Some died in Concentration camps.

“But two relatives survived the war in France, thanks to the efforts of Catholics. An uncle was hidden for years in a convent, where he repaid the kindness by cooking for the nuns. An aunt, who returned home one day to find that her husband and in-laws had been arrested and taken away, found refuge with a family of Catholics who were complete strangers to her. These people arranged false identity papers, taught her every Catholic prayer, saw to it that she never missed Mass and even took her with them on a pilgrimage to Lourdes—not to proselytize but to save her life. At Lourdes, when this aunt went to make confession, she began to cry. She said to the priest, ‘I don't belong here, I am a Jew.’ The priest replied, ‘You are not to worry. No one will give you away.'"

While herself acknowledging that the Church in hindsight did not respond perfectly, Singer wrote that “we should not forget that Vatican radio was the first media source to break the news of the deportation of Europe's Jews. More important, we should not forget the many priests, nuns, and other clergy who were sent to concentration camps for speaking out against the Nazis—more than 1,500 at Dachau alone—nor the many Catholics and Protestants who risked their lives and families by being living examples of their faith.”

Pope Meets Brother of Attempted Assassin

The Philadelphia Daily News wire reported Nov. 14 that “Pope John Paul has held a private meeting with the brother of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who attempted to kill the Pontiff in 1981.” Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls “said the meeting took place Wednesday (Nov. 12), but gave no further details.”

“Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported yesterday that Adnan Agca had urged the Pontiff to press the Italian authorities to grant a pardon for Ali Agca, who is serving a life sentence for shooting the Pontiff in St. Peter's Square. If a pardon was not possible, Adnan asked the Pope to call on Italy to extradite his brother to Turkey, La Repubblica said.

“The daily reported that the Pope told Adnan he would approve of a decision to free the Turk. The Pontiff also said he did not oppose Ali's extradition to Turkey, the daily said.”