World Press Unmasks Fallacies in Book Defaming Pius XII

Author: ZENIT



Exclusive Interview with Reporter of Pacelli's Beatification Cause


Over the last few days, the European press has published numerous articles demonstrating the lack of historic seriousness in John Cornwell's book, "Hitler's Pope," which will go on sale in bookstores this week. The magazine "Vanity Fair," published the statements of a number of newspapers against the British journalist's theses. Among these are newspapers like Milan's Corriere della Sera, the Sunday Times, the weekly supplement distributed by ABC, Alfa and Omega, and the new Spanish newspaper La Razon. France's Le Figaro has also harshly criticized Cornwell's lack of professionalism.

Set-up against Papacy Father Peter Gumpel, S.J., Reporter of Eugenio Pacelli's (Pius XII) Beatification Cause, granted ZENIT an exclusive interview to discuss the accusations contained in Cornwell's new book.

Fr. Gumpel begins by admitting that "there is legitimate indignation, because Cornwell has simply produced an authentic set-up against Pius XII and against the ... papacy as an institution."

ZENIT: Cornwell states that his book is the result of months of work in the archives of the Secretariat of State. In addition, he asserts that he has been the first and only one to consult those archives.

GUMPEL: That's all false. The Secretariat of State has confirmed directly to me that Cornwell was authorized in mid-May, 1997, to consult the archive of the section on Relations with States. He worked there for some three weeks. The topic of his research was the relations with Bavaria (1918-1921); Austria, Serbia and Belgrade (1913-1915). Obviously, he had no access to the closed period, that is, beginning 1922. Cornwell wrote that he researched for months. In fact, he was there only three weeks and gathered information that in the end he didn't use. Michel Chappin, Professor of History at the Gregorian University and archivist of the Secretariat of State, has also told me that Cornwell is neither the first nor the only one to consult the archives of those years, which of course are much earlier than Pius XII's pontificate. It is true that the identity card issued by the archives to Cornwell has the number 1, but that is because recently the format of permits for access has been changed, and he received the first of the new series."

ZENIT: "Vanity Fair" publishes the photograph of a 1919 document that, according to Cornwell, is a proof of Eugenio Pacelli's anti-Semitism. The reporter says it is an unpublished document.

GUMPEL: Here, in my hands, I have the copy of the original of that document. Cornwell quotes with hostility a line of the letter that is six pages long. In this document there is nothing against the Jews. The only thing it says is that Levien (Communist leader in Munich) and his lover were Jews. It was simply an observation in a document of an informative nature. They were Jews, just as they could have been Christians. Moreover, everyone knew that, at that time, the Communist leadership was made up of atheist Jews, who persecuted every form of religion, including that of the Jews. To give this text as proof of Pacelli's anti-Semitism seems to me a deformation caused by partial and biased analysis. Moreover, the text of this letter, which Cornwell presents as a text discovered exclusively by himself, had already been published in Italy in 1992, in a volume written by Emma Fattorini, "Germany and the Holy See: Pacelli's Nunciature between the Great War and the Weimar Republic," published by "Societa Editrice il Mulino." Cornwell has discovered nothing new; he has only copied documents that were already published and he has deformed them. The majority of his sources are secondary, and the choice is extremely biased.

ZENIT: Cornwell's main thesis is that Pope Pius XII favored and supported the Nazi regime.

GUMPEL: As Nuncio in Germany, as Secretary of State and, later, as Pontiff, Pius XII always singled out Hitler and the Nazis as the worst danger for Germany and the world. Cornwell minimizes or, more importantly, totally omits the condemnation of Nazism that Pacelli made in Lourdes, Lisieux, Paris, and Budapest, where he was Papal Legate. When Pacelli was elected Pope, the "Berliner Morgenpost," the organ of the Nazi movement, considered him an enemy of Germany. His aversion for Nazism was so well known that the weekly of the Communist International, "La Correspondance Internationale," wrote that "In calling to succession the one who had demonstrated energetic resistance against the fascists totalitarian ideas that tend to eliminate the Catholic Church, (and) Pius XI's most direct collaborator, the Cardinals made a demonstrative gesture by placing, as head of the Church, a representative of the Catholic resistance movement." And we won't mention the encyclical written against Nazism, "Mit Brennender Sorge." It is enough to read the drafts, not only to confirm that Pacelli was one of the writers but (to see that) the original text has additions in his own handwriting.

Cornwell does not publish the reports written by the Gestapo against the Catholic Church and the Pope, nor does he keep in mind what the U.S., English, French, and Dutch newspapers were saying about Pius XII's resistance against the Nazis. In the archives recently opened by the (British) Foreign Office, one can see that Pius XII was in touch with the German generals who wanted to overthrow Hitler. It was, in fact, Pacelli who transmitted to London the proposal of the German generals, who wanted to put an end to the Nazi regime.

In his unilateral analysis, Cornwell has not kept in mind either the testimony of U.S. Dr. Robert Kempner, former attorney at the Nuremberg Tribunal concerned with war crimes. After having consulted the documents that were in the control of the Secret Services and of Hitler's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kempner revealed that Pius XII and the Catholic Church sent a great number of protests, both direct and indirect, diplomatic and public, secret and explicit, to which the Nazis never responded. Kempner publicly defended the role and charity endeavors of Pius XII.

ZENIT: Cornwell asserts that Pius XII was anti-Semitic.

GUMPEL: He was so anti-Semitic that the most authorized and important leaders of the Jewish community and State thanked him publicly for everything he did to protect those who were persecuted. I would advise anyone who doesn't believe me to read the ninth and tenth volumes of the "Minutes and Documents of the Holy See Relative to the Second World War," where all the testimonies of Jews saved from persecution, thanks to Pope Pacelli's role, are found. I don't think there is a public figure in the world who has received so many expressions of gratitude and recognition by the Jewish community as Pius XII.

ZENIT: The book, "Hitler's Pope," describes Pius XII as the expression of a closed, retrograde, authoritarian Church.

GUMPEL: Few know that Pius XII was the real architect and promoter of Vatican Council II. He was the one who created the Commission that was to prepare the sessions, but the situation had not matured and Pacelli was already ill. In any event, suffice it to read the Council's minutes to discover that, after Sacred Scripture, Pius XII is the most quoted author. In his encyclicals and addresses he focused on all the problems that would later be addressed by Vatican Council II. ZE99092803
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