Voice of the Jewish News: The real Pius XII
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Voice of the Jewish News: The real Pius XII

This week's Jewish News editorial looks at the pope's role during the Holocaust, following news that the Vatican is re-opening secret archive files

Secret Vatican archives covering the wartime correspondence of Pope Pius XII, above, will be opened in March 2020 after Jewish groups asked that the Church help dispel concerns that he turned a blind eye to genocide
Secret Vatican archives covering the wartime correspondence of Pope Pius XII, above, will be opened in March 2020 after Jewish groups asked that the Church help dispel concerns that he turned a blind eye to genocide

The Vatican is to be applauded for agreeing to open its secret archives on Pius XII, aka ‘Hitler’s Pope’. Independent researchers can now verify the Catholic Church’s claims that Pius did all he could to defend Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust.

That Pius saved Jewish lives or supported the German Resistance to Nazism is not questioned by most historians. But there remains the lingering suspicion that he didn’t go far enough, once he knew genocide was taking place.

Jewish groups have said Pius was uniquely placed to persuade Hitler against pursuing his final solution – or to persuade Europeans not to support it – by speaking out against it publicly at the time, something Pius never did.

Pius had been papal nuncio to Germany before he was elected pope in 1939, so he had connections. Moreover, Hitler had been raised a Catholic and millions of people in both Germany and occupied areas such as Poland and Austria were practising Catholics. Had Pius spoken, they’d have listened, so goes the argument. But no one knows for sure.

The debate has raged for years, with no lack of sympathy – Jews know the Church had its own problems, with priests being rounded up to such an extent that there was even a special clergy barracks at Dachau.

As such, Jewish groups have reserved judgement, but have never stopped asking for access to evidence that would either clear Pius’s name or show that he could have done more.

They will now have their chance. It will tell us, once and for all, what Pius did or didn’t do – and when. If it shows that he genuinely did everything he could, Jews around the world would have no problem with this late pope’s path to sainthood.

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