Saturday 7 December 2019

Pius XII was not Hitler's Pope

A recent article in the Catholic Herald explains the large part Pope Pius XII played in saving the lives of Jews in the Second World War.

The untrue idea that he ignored their plight is the fault of The Deputy, a play produced in 1963 by a previously unknown German, Rolf Hochhuth, which blamed Pius XII for the Holocaust. 

We know from the memoirs of Ion Mihai Pacepa, the Romanian Securitate general who defected in 1978, that the KGB had supplied Hochhuth with false information and his play was rewritten by Erwin Piscator, a famous producer and communist agent of influence. 

The Soviets’ aim was to derail the improving relations, after the Second Vatican Council, between the Church and Judaism.

John Cornwall, who was once a seminarian and harbours a strong grudge against the Church, later brought out the book Hitler's Pope which brought the false view of Pius XII to a new audience. He talks about the experience of Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII), in Munich in 1918 during the Bolshevik revolution there, which gave him a well-founded deep horror of Communism. 

Mr Cornwall considers Pacelli a racist because of a letter in 1918 in which the future Pope refers with distaste to Bolshevik Jews whom he encountered in Munich and another letter, written in 1944, in which he requested the Allies not to station African troops in Rome.

Pacelli was of course a man of his time. I recall that the Chief Rabbi of Italy was so impressed by the help the Pope gave Jews that he converted to Catholicism.

However, Catholic attitudes to Jews, Protestants, Freemasons and other non-Catholics were hostile before the Second Vatican Council. Plenty of Catholics were anti-Jewish including Hilaire Belloc and to a lesser extent G.K. Chesterton. They were less so than Catholic priest Ernest Jouin, who published the notorious forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in French and said that 
"from the triple viewpoint of race, of nationality, and of religion, the Jew has become the enemy of humanity." 
Pope Pius XII's predecessor, Pope Pius XI, praised Jouin for 
"combating our mortal enemy" 
and appointed him a protonotary apostolic, the same honour accorded to my mentor Monsignor Alfred Gilbey. 

I'd like to know more about the history of Catholics and Jews, but there is an awful lot of history to study and more is made every day.


  1. 'Pius XII was not Hitler's Pope'

    He was Ante Pavelić's Pope.

    1. Ante Pavelić in May 1941, shortly after becoming a puppet dictator of Croatia, was received in a private audience with Pope Pius XII . According to Michael Phayer, after receiving the blessing from the pope, Ante Pavelić and the ustas began genocide in Croatia. However, Pius XII refused to break diplomatic relations with the regime and met with Pavelic again in 1943. Pius XII was criticized for his reception of Pavelic; The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, or the British Office for Foreign Affairs, described the pope as "the greatest moral coward of our time".