New York Rabbi Praises Pius XII

Wartime Pope Was Great Defender of Jews, David Dalin Says

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ROME, FEB. 22, 2001 ( New York Rabbi David Dalin has proposed that Pope Pius XII be proclaimed «Righteous Among the Nations,» the highest award given by the state of Israel to persons who were outstanding in assisting persecuted Jews during World War II.

An article published in the latest issue of The Weekly Standard, a conservative U.S. magazine, states: «The Talmud teaches that ´whosoever preserves one life, it is accounted to him by Scripture as if he had preserved the whole world.´ More than any other 20th century leader, Pius XII fulfilled this Talmudic dictum, when the fate of European Jewry was at stake. No other Pope had been so widely praised by Jews, and they were not mistaken. Their gratitude, as well as that of the entire generation of Holocaust survivors, testifies that Pius XII was, genuinely and profoundly, a righteous gentile.»

One of Rabbi Dalin´s books, «Religion and State in the American Jewish Experience,» was singled out as one of the best academic works of 1997. Ordained in New York, Rabbi Dalin has given several conferences on relations between Christians and Jews in Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut; George Washington University; and Queens College, New York.

Rabbi Dalin maintains that many recently published books have not understood the way in which Pius XII opposed Nazism and all that he did to save Jews from the Holocaust.

In this connection, the rabbi refers to a great number of events, documents, declarations and books. «Any fair and thorough reading of the evidence demonstrates that Pius XII was a persistent critic of Nazism. Consider just a few highlights of his opposition before the war. Of the 44 speeches Pacelli gave in Germany as Papal Nuncio between 1917 and 1929, 40 denounced some aspect of the emerging Nazi ideology. In March 1935, he wrote an open letter to the Bishop of Cologne, calling the Nazis ´false prophets with the pride of Lucifer.´ That same year, he assailed ideologies ´possessed by the superstition of race and blood´ to an enormous crowd of pilgrims at Lourdes.»

«His first encyclical,» the article states, «´Summi Pontificatus,´ rushed out in 1939 to beg for peace, was in part a declaration that the proper role of the papacy was to pleas to both warring sides rather than to blame one. But it very pointedly quoted St. Paul, ´there is neither Gentile nor Jew´, using the word ´Jew´ specifically in the context of rejecting racial ideology. The New York Times
greeted the encyclical with a front-page headline on October 28, 1939: ´Pope Condemns Dictators, Treaty Violators, Racism.´ Allied airplanes dropped thousands of copies on Germany in an effort to raise anti-Nazi sentiment.»

In response to those who complain that Pius XII´s voice was not loud enough, Rabbi Dalin quotes the words of Denmark´s Chief Rabbi Marcus Melchior, a survivor of the Holocaust, who said: «If the Pope had spoken out, Hitler would have massacred more than the 6 million Jews and perhaps ten times 10 million Catholics, if he had the power to do so.»

«U.S. Attorney Robert M.W. Kempner called upon his experience at the Nuremberg trials to say (in a letter to the editor after ´Commentary´ published an excerpt from Guenter Lewy in 1964), ´Every propaganda move of the Catholic Church against Hitler´s Reich would have been not only «provoking suicide,» … but would have hastened the execution of still more Jews and priests.´»

As regards assistance to Jews, Rabbi Dalin recalled that in «the months Rome was under German occupation, Pius XII instructed Italy´s clergy to save lives by all means.»

The article continues: «In Rome, 155 convents and monasteries sheltered some 5,000 Jews. At least 3,000 found refuge at the Pope´s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. Sixty Jews lived for 9 months at the Gregorian University, and many were sheltered in the cellar of the Pontifical Biblical Institute. Hundreds found sanctuary within the Vatican itself.

«Following Pius XII´s instructions, individual Italian priests, monks, nuns, cardinals, and bishops were instrumental in preserving thousands of Jewish lives. Cardinal Boetto of Genoa saved at least 800. The Bishop of Assisi hid 300 Jews for over 2 years. The Bishop of Campagna and two of his relatives saved 961 more in Fiume.

«Cardinal Pietro Palazzini, then Assistant Vice Rector of the Roman Seminary, hid Michael Tagliacozzo and other Italian Jews at the Seminary (which was Vatican property) for several months in 1943 and 1944. In 1985, Yad Vashem, Israel´s Holocaust Memorial, honored the Cardinal as a righteous gentile and, in accepting the honor, Cardinal Palazzini stressed that ´the merit is entirely Pius XII´s, who ordered us to do whatever we could to save the Jews from persecution.´ Some of the laity helped as well, and, in their testimony afterwards, consistently attributed their inspiration to the Pope.»

Rabbi Dalin concludes his article affirming that «Pius XII was not Hitler´s Pope, but the closest Jews had come to having a papal supporter, and at the moment when it mattered most.»

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