VATICAN CITY, FEB. 1, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Two more documents regarding Pope Pius XII and his handling of the Third Reich and the Holocaust have resurfaced, refueling allegations that he was silent and bringing historians to his defense.
The Vatican’s semi-official daily, L’Osservatore Romano, today took up the news generated by researcher Giuseppe Casarrubea, who has analyzed two documents found in an English archive.
The Italian press is reporting Casarrubea’s presentation of a brief document from Oct. 19, 1943, and a letter of Nov. 10, 1944.
The first document reports on a meeting between Pius XII and U.S. diplomat Harold Tittmann. Though the meeting took place just three days after the deportation of Roman Jews, the document makes no mention of that tragedy.
It does speak about the Pope’s concern to keep Rome in peace.
Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, retired prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, who entered Pius XII’s diplomatic service in 1953, told the Italian newspaper La Stampa today that although the Pope did not raise his voice in face of the deportation, he dedicated himself to concrete actions.
In the interview, cited by L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said the Holy Father’s activity on behalf of the Jews would not have been possible should relations with the Germans have grown tense.
“In that tragic period, the Pope was concerned that the Germans leave Rome in peace and respect its sacred character,” Cardinal Silvestrini explained.
“And this was not an option against the Jews. On the contrary. Precisely that attitude of prudence made it possible to act in an effective and concrete manner in favor of the Jews and many others who were persecuted. Every gesture of protest or rebellion with a lot of publicity would have been counterproductive,” the L’Osservatore Romano article stated.
“At the same time the Pope mobilized so that Catholic churches and institutions would receive the greatest possible number of Jews,” Cardinal Silvestrini said. “But an explicit protest would have caused more damages than advantages.”
Cardinal Silvestrini recalled how Pius XII was no stranger to German affairs, having been nuncio in Munich and in Berlin from 1917 to 1929: “He knew what Nazism was.”
A time to speak
The other document, a letter of Nov. 10, 1944, makes reference to a dialogue between British ambassador Francis D’Arcy Osborne and Pius XII on the massacres of Jews in Hungary. Osborne urged a public condemnation of the tragedy.
The Holy Father noted how the Apostolic See was receiving continual appeals to denounce the crimes of Stalin in the Baltic countries and in Poland.
In this regard, however, the ambassador suggested silence, to protect public opinion of the allies.
For both situations, Pius XII chose his customary prudence.
Cardinal Silvestrini explained that “Pius XII considered what happened to the Dutch bishops as a warning not to be repeated.”
He observed: “Holland’s episcopate wrote a letter condemning ‘the cruel and unjust treatment of Jews.’ That document was read in Dutch churches in July of 1942.
“The intentions were excellent, but the results were disastrous.”
“Precisely in the country in which the priests had denounced the Jewish persecutions most harshly, there were more deportations than in any other state of Western Europe,” Cardinal Silvestrini said. “In face of the Shoa the Allies kept silent as did all the others, but only Pius XII is called to account. The others are never up for discussion.”