Pius XI Ordered Catholic Universities to Refute Nazi Racist Theories

1938 Letter from Sacred Congregation for Seminaries

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 4, 2003 (Zenit.org).- In an official document, Pope Pius XI ordered all Catholic universities worldwide in 1938 to refute each and every one of Nazism’s racist theories.

The papal letter, found by ZENIT’s editorial staff, seems to undercut the allegations leveled by some historians against the Church, and the Holy See in particular, of indifference and silence in the face of the Hitler regime.

The letter, of the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities (now the Congregation for Catholic Education), whose prefect at the time was the Pope himself, was sent on April 13, 1938, to the rectors and presidents of Catholic universities worldwide.

Signed by Monsignor Ernesto Ruffini, secretary of the congregation and a future cardinal, the letter begins by recalling the Pope’s address on Christmas Eve, in which he denounced the «persecution» the Church was suffering in Germany.

The document adds that «the Holy Father’s principal affliction» was that pernicious documents were being promoted, falsely called scientific, «for the purpose of perverting spirits and uprooting authentic religion.»

Because of this, Pius XI ordered that all the sciences — from biology to philosophy, including the juridical sciences — refute the racist theories.

The text of the letter was published in the monthly Nouvelle Revue Théologique, Leuven (Volume 66), 1939.

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