Corroborate Cardinal Bertone's Citation of '43 Letter
ROME, 25 APRIL 2007 (ZENIT)
Many past testimonies support Cardinal
Tarcisio Bertone's announcement that Pope Pius XII signed a letter in
1943 asking religious institutes to open their doors to persecuted Jews.
That wartime letter undercuts the theory that bishops, religious and
many Catholics who risked their lives to save Jews from extermination
did so without the Pope's knowledge.
Even before Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone's statement,
many testimonies had been published corroborating the information.
According to these testimonies, some of which ZENIT is summarizing here,
the assistance project organized by the Catholic Church to save
persecuted Jews was directly ordered by Pius XII.
Monsignor Aldo Brunacci, the canon of Assisi, said in various interviews
that "on the third Thursday of September 1943, after the usual monthly
reunion of the clergy that had taken up residence in the diocesan
seminary, the bishop called me aside to the room in front of the chapel
and showed me a letter from the secretary of state and told me: 'We must
get organized to come to the aid of all the persecuted people and
especially the Jews. This is the will of the Holy Father Pius XII. This
all must be done with the greatest caution and prudence. Nobody, not
even the priests, must know about this.'"
Monsignor Brunacci added that he saw the letter sent by the Vatican
Secretariat of State.
The monsignor and Bishop Giuseppe Placido Nicolini of Assisi were
recognized as "Righteous Among the Nations" by the Yad Vashem, Israel's
official memorial to Holocaust victims.
Available for you
The testimony of Emilio Viterbi of the University of Padua, a Jewish
refugee in Assisi, was released on Jan. 6, 1947. It confirms Pius XII's
involvement in the rescue of Jews by religious institutes.
In the 1990s, on the occasion of Bishop Nicolini's 70th birthday,
Viterbi said that many episodes "could be mentioned to illustrate the
tireless and holy humanitarian actions that the Assisi clergy did for
the persecuted Jews under the noble guidance of Bishop Placido Nicolini,
who with the greatest love and highest zeal had thus followed the
philanthropic will of the Holy Father."
Viterbi added: "During the last period of German occupation, his diocese
had become an asylum for many refugees and persecuted persons.
Nonetheless when I went to him to ask him, in a case of extreme need, if
they could welcome me with my family, he
with great simplicity and a loving smile
answered: 'Only my bedroom and my study are free, however, I can sleep
in the latter. The bedroom is available for you.'"
The dear refugees
A similar story is told by Sister Ferdinanda Corsetti of the Institute
of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambéry in Rome. The religious revealed
that "it was the Holy Father, Pius XII, who ordered us to open our doors
to all the persecuted. If we hadn't received the order from the Pope, it
would have been impossible to save so many people."
On March 17, 1998, Sister Ferdinanda was recognized as Righteous Among
the Nations by the Israeli Embassy in Rome, for having contributed in
saving so many Jews during the Nazi occupation of Rome.
On that occasion, to confirm Pius XII's intentions, Sister Ferdinanda
displayed a letter from the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Luigi
Maglione, sent to the Mother Superior on Jan. 17, 1944.
In the letter, the secretary of state, on behalf of Pius XII and in
reference to the many Jews hidden at the institute, wrote that he wished
for "these chosen sons and daughters such ineffable recompense from
divine mercy, so that, shortening the days of such great suffering, the
Lord may grant them a serene, tranquil and prosperous future."
The letter continued: "In the meantime, as a particular sign of
benevolence, His Holiness, grateful to those beloved sisters of St.
Joseph of Chambéry for the work of mercy they do with such Christian
understanding, sends them and the dear refugees the comforting apostolic
Sister Maria Piromalli, of the Institute Pius X in Rome, told how the
Vatican secretary of state was in direct contact with the convents
hiding the Jews.
Her institute, managed by the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, hid
44 Jewish men and women.
Sister Maria recalled that Pius XII "sent an appeal to all the religious
institutes in Rome to help the Jews" and added that Don Emilio Rossi
alerted her institute.
In the Vatican secret archives published in 2004
"Inter Arma Caritas. The Vatican Information Office on Prisoners of War,
Instituted by Pius XII (1939-1947)"
Don Emilio Rossi is listed as the secretary of the Information Office
for Prisoners of War, under the Secretariat of State, that is, the
office that dealt with matters related to helping the Jews. ZE07042510