“Man of Peace” by Sister Margherita Marchione
Paulist Press, Mahwah, New Jersey, 2003, 76 pages, Grades 7-9
The Holocaust was a time of horrible evil inflicted by the Nazis on victims
deemed unworthy of life. All Jewish people in Europe were included. Millions
of Poles, Slavic prisoners of war, Gypsies, homosexuals, trade unionists,
nuns, clergymen and many other groups were exterminated. In the face of this
hideous violence, some people hid in fear. Others collaborated with the
Nazis. But many, at great risk to their lives, helped the victims.
The Allied governments during World War II, with their vast resources of
arms, soldiers and planes did relatively little to interrupt this slaughter.
But the Catholic Church, led by a holy, courageous pope, stood against the
killing. This brave leader was Pope Pius XII.
During World War II, Pope Pius XII gave a number of radio broadcasts
condemning the murder of a people based on race or ethnicity. While never
specifically naming the Jews or the other groups mentioned above, the Nazis
clearly understood the Holy Father was condemning them. The diary entries of
Reich leaders clearly prove this. Numerous statements by Hitler to those in
his inner circle demonstrate this as well. For the Nazis, the problem was
that the pope wasn’t silent.
Throughout the church, Pope Pius XII issued directives to save as many
people as possible. Papal nuncios filed complaint after complaint against
the removal of Jews in a number of countries. The petitions slowed down the
ability of the Reich to round up and ship these unfortunates to death camps.
This saved many lives. Numerous priests and nuns hid terrified victims in
convents, monasteries and basements. Leading churchmen such as French
Cardinal Pierre Gerlier defied the Nazis. The instructions of the Holy
Father led the French bishops to oppose the efforts of the Vichy Government
to round up French Jews. On pages 44-48, Sister Marchione lists a number of
Jewish groups who thanked Pope Pius XII for his help during those awful
years. Historian John Toland, the author of a definitive biography on
Hitler, also states that the Catholic Church under Pope Pius XII’s direction
saved more Jews than the combined efforts of all other churches and relief
agencies. When Pope Pius XII died in 1958, worldwide expressions of sorrow
and condolences poured into the Vatican.
Following the publication of Roch Hochhuth’s play “The Deputy” in 1963, a
systematic attack on the actions of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust has
occurred. Critics argue that the pope was silent in the face of all these
atrocities. Disregarding the fact that direct confrontation with the Nazis
always brought about an immediate annihilation of Jews, these naïve critics
continue to hold that Pius should have been more confrontational. The pope
knew each word he spoke could cause the death of thousands of Jews. The
Nazis understood that the veiled speech used by Pope Pius XII was a
condemnation of them. He wasn’t silent to them, and they hated him for
condemning the philosophy of National Socialism and his countless acts of
mercy to the Jews. The Jewish leaders during the war comprehended and
supported the pope’s prudence. In 1955, the Israeli Philharmonic performed a
concert in the Vatican to thank Pope Pius XII for his heroic efforts in
saving Jewish lives during the war.
Sister Marchione has written a number of books concerning Pope Pius XII’s
actions during World War II. She is to be complimented on telling the
historical truth and answering these false attacks on Pope Pius XII.
Catholics need to realize that Pope Pius XII was willing to lay down his
life for the sheep. This thin, holy priest stood up to the massive hatred of
the Third Reich and helped save hundreds of thousands of lives.
2013 Southern Nebraska Register Publication Dates
(Resume Jan 4, 2014)
November 27 (Wed.)