|New Revelations of Vatican Archives, Analyzed by Historian
ROME, 4 JULY 2004 (ZENIT)
Documentation from the Vatican Secret Archives
has revealed that Pope Pius XII's wartime assistance to Jews was so great
that it stirred protests in some Catholic circles.
This is confirmed in letters published together with the registers of the
Vatican Information Office on Prisoners of War, established by Pius XII,
with the title "Inter Arma Caritas."
Press agencies published one of the letters reproduced in Volume 2, pages
950-951, sent to the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Luigi Maglione,
on July 21, 1943, by Archbishop Andrea Cassulo, apostolic nuncio in
Romania, in which he referred to "some protests."
Bishop Agostino Pacha of Timisoara, Romania, wrote that in his community
there were protests, "as the greater part of messages transmitted to this
nunciature are for persons of the Jewish race," to the point that he spoke
of the Holy See's "preference" for Jews.
Archbishop Cassulo presented a copy of a letter in Latin, written by a
Monsignor Tacha, in which he spoke about the protests of his faithful
of whom were of German origin
accused the Church "openly and publicly" of supporting and having good
relations with the Jews, "enemies of the Germanic people."
In the letter, the apostolic nuncio explained that he sent a circular to
the Romanian bishops in which he clarified the reasons for the Holy See's
assistance "not taking into account any political consideration or any
nationality or race." In the missive, the nuncio asked the secretary of
state to advise him what he should do.
In order to understand better these new discoveries of the Vatican
archives, ZENIT interviewed Father Peter Gumpel, a historian and expert on
Q: What do the recently published Vatican archives say about the Holy
See's relation with Jews and about the protests of some Catholic circles?
Father Gumpel: First of all, it must be recognized that the Catholic
Church carried out an enormous work of assistance to Jews.
A. Safran, the rabbi of Romania, expressed on various occasions his
gratitude to the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Andrea Cassulo.
On April 7, 1944, he wrote him this message: "In these hard times, our
thoughts go more than ever to what the Supreme Pontiff has done in favor
of Jews in general and to Your Excellency in favor of Romania and
Transylvania. These deeds will never be forgotten." [See Civiltà Cattolica,
1961, Volume 3, p. 462]
Moreover, in Volume 10, pages 428-429, of the "Minutes and Documents of
the Holy See Relating to the Second World War," in a message sent by
Archbishop Cassulo to Monsignor Domenico Tardini [a future secretary of
state], the full article appears which was published by the Romanian
newspaper Mantuirea, in which Rabbi Safran recounts how, thanks to the
interventions of the nuncio and "with the help of God, he succeeded in
having no more deportations take place."
Q: What can you say about the protests of Catholics because of the Holy
See's help to Jews?
Father Gumpel: The work of assistance to the victims of war and to Jews,
ordered in particular by Pius XII, was so extensive and intense that it
caused surprise even among some ecclesiastics.
When Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli himself [the future Pope John XXIII], who
did so much for the Jews, was apostolic delegate in Turkey, after the
umpteenth recommendation by the Holy See to help and foster the Jewish
emigration to Palestine, he wrote these words to Maglione on September 4,
1943: "I confess that this sending by the Holy See of Jews to Palestine,
which seems a reconstruction of the Jewish Kingdom, beginning by making
them leave Italy, causes me some uncertainty in spirit."
Q: Do the testimonies contained in "Inter Arma Caritas" contribute
Father Gumpel: These new historical tendencies deny definitively many
articles on the alleged silence and insensibility of Pope Pius XII in
regard to the Jews. As can be seen, there were people who criticized the
Pontiff for doing too much for the Jews.
Also denied are theses, such as Susan Zuccotti's, according to which the
work of assistance to Jews was the result of individual actions, of which
Pius XII knew nothing.
From all the correspondence of the nuncios, it is obvious that the work of
assistance was determined, directed and organized directly by Pope Pius