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The Jewish Defenders of Pius XII

Given the suffering they have historically endured, the Jewish people excel at distinguishing friends from foes.

Such vigilance may help explain a certain wariness toward the Catholic Church. Religious rivalry over the person of Jesus Christ has marked Catholic-Jewish relations for 2,000 years, with the Church not always giving faithful witness to the Gospel. Pope St. John Paul II noted as much twenty years ago in a letter that accompanied a Holy See reflection on the Holocaust.

All the more remarkable, then, were those Jewish leaders who unanimously praised Pope Pius XII for all he did to save Jews from Adolf Hitler’s Final Solution. They commended the pope not only during World War II and right after, but also thirteen years later upon his death in October 1958, when there had been ample time to amend their assessment had their earlier affirmation been mistaken. Those who eulogized Pius XII represent a “Who’s Who” of Jewish leadership, including:

the State of Israel

the World Jewish Congress

the Anti-Defamation League

the Synagogue Council of America

the Rabbinical Council of America

the American Jewish Congress

the New York Board of Rabbis

the American Jewish Committee

the Central Conference of American Rabbis

For a sampling of their words of praise, see footnote sixteen of the Holy See’s 1998 reflection on the Holocaust.

Could the State of Israel and all of these Jewish organizations have been wrong? According to Pius XII’s many modern critics, they definitely erred. The Vatican Archives for WWII will be opened next March, as Pope Francis recently announced, but thinking the truth will finally be revealed gives the Church way too much credit for supposedly being able to keep secrets, and not enough to the Church’s friends and enemies who experienced firsthand the courageous actions of Pius XII and other wartime Church leaders.

If Pope Pius’s many contemporary Jewish defenders were wrong, it’s incumbent upon modern critics—Jewish, Christian, secular and journalistic—to demonstrate how they got it so wrong. They have yet to do so. Presuming these Jewish leaders were bamboozled by Pius XII effectively defames them, and to some, such defamation is apparently tolerable in the cause of defaming the pope—and the Catholic Church by extension.

Yet, if we are to believe modern critiques of Pius XII, which have ranged from Rolf Hochhuth’s criminally silent pontiff in the 1963 play “The Deputy,” to John Cornwell’s Hitler’s Pope (1999, updated in 2008 with a new introduction), then not only did the pope’s Jewish defenders get it wrong, but the Nazis and secular journalists did as well.

Read more at Catholic Answers. 

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