Edith Stein Asked Pius XI to Intervene Against Persecution of Jews

Opening of Vatican Archives Brings to Light a 1933 Letter

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ROME, FEB. 19, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Edith Stein addressed a sealed letter to Pope Pius XI, requesting his intervention at the start of the persecution of Catholics and Jews in Hitler’s Germany.

The document, dated April 12, 1933, has surfaced thanks to the opening last weekend of the Vatican archives referring to Pius XI’s papacy (1922-1939).

The papal reaction that responded most closely to the «sealed letter» was articulated in Pius XI’s encyclical letter «Mit Brennender Sorge

Published in German on March 14, 1937, the papal document on the situation of the Church in the German Reich pointed out the incompatibility between Catholicism and Nazism’s racist and pagan assumptions.

After Pius XI signed the encyclical in Rome, it was taken secretly to Germany by a priest and distributed clandestinely to all parishes by priests and young people.

The letter was the last document Stein signed as a professor of the German Institute of Scientific Pedagogy in Munster, as she could no longer continue to teach at that institution.

Edith Stein — St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross — was a Jewish convert and a philosopher who dedicated herself to phenomenology. She converted to Catholicism after studying the life of St. Teresa of Avila.

The Nazi persecution made Stein’s scientific and teaching work impossible. Eventually she entered the convent of Discalced Carmelites in Cologne. She later was in the Netherlands. She sealed her testimony of faith and denunciation of Nazism with martyrdom at Auschwitz in 1942.

St. Teresa Benedicta was canonized in 1998. She is a co-patroness of Europe along with St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Catherine of Siena.

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