Friday, 17 October 2008

Myth and Lies about Pius XII

Last Oct. 9, the Church offered a magisterial example of the virtue of gratitude while remembering the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII, one of the unsung heroes of the 20th century.

The life of Pius XII seems to have certain parallels with this summer's blockbuster film "The Dark Knight." The hero, Batman, out of love for his fellow citizens, must sacrifice recognition for his relentless battle against evil and ultimately endure persecution by the very people he is protecting.

Pius XII, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, spanning the years of the Second World War, was universally lauded for his wartime efforts after the defeat of the Nazis. But revisionists of many stripes in the late 20th century have competed with one another to besmirch his name, culminating in the scandalous label -- or libel -- of John Cornwall's "Hitler's Pope."

Obscured by the flood of false accusations, from criminal silence regarding the fate of the Jews in Germany to active participation in their persecution, the brilliantly innovative aspects of this pontificate have been completely neglected.

But the tables recently turned for Pius XII as, in the words of Vatican reporter John Allen, Benedict XVI initiated a "full court press" to redeem the name of this great Pope and push forward the cause for his beatification.

An international symposium was held in Rome last September under the auspices of the Pave the Way foundation in order to shed light on the activities of Pius XII in favor of the Jews during World War II.

This organization was founded by an American Jew, Gary Krupp, who believes that in order to create a fruitful dialogue among religions, the accusations regarding Pius XII, a source "of friction between people," must be laid to rest through the discovery of the truth.

Among the findings of the conference was that those who "lived through the brutality of the Nazis and were saved by the church's actions" had a high opinion of the Pope. The Israeli Philharmonic orchestra asked to play for Pope Pius in 1955, and at his death Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir mourned "a great servant of peace."

Krupp noted that it has been the "subsequent generations born into the safety of the defeat of the Nazi regime" who have bought into the myth of the Pius XII as a Nazi collaborator.

During the three-day conference, the meticulous research of Sister Margherita Marchione, Rabbi David Dalin, Andrea Tornielli, Ronald Rychlak and many others was presented, refuting the spurious accusations against the Pope and demonstrating his tremendous role in saving Jewish lives.

Paolo Mieli, director of Italy's leading newspaper, "Corriere della Sera," who happens to be a secular Jew, added another interesting point in an interview published in L'Osservatore Romano when he noted that the hostility toward Pius XII did not originate among the Jews.

It was an Eastern European playwright, Rolf Hochhuth, apparently backed by the KGB, who started the ripple that turned into an earthquake with his six-hour play "The Deputy," in which the playwright accused the Pius XII of culpable silence regarding the persecution of the Jews.

The theatrical piece was quickly picked up by leftist promoters in Paris and London and soon enough, Anglo-Saxon "scholars" hopped on the bandwagon with bestselling books like "Hitler's Pope," "Papal Sin" and "Under His Very Windows."

But when Pope Paul VI announced the opening of the beatification process of both John XXIII and Pius XII in 1965, there were no objections. The Pope's decision to jointly open the two processes was a message of continuity within the Church.

The lies regarding Pius XII were welcomed and even abetted, however, by those who wanted to create a division in the 20th-century Church by drawing a line between the "good" John XXIII and the "bad" Pius XII, and between the "old" Church and the "new" Church of the Second Vatican Council.

But in this wonderful week, as Benedict XVI celebrated a Mass in honor of his esteemed predecessor in a packed St. Peter's Basilica, a giant step was taken toward putting to rest the fictitious legend and honoring the great contributions of Pius XII.

Earlier in the day, the Pope's secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone wrote in L'Osservatore Romano of Pius XII's material assistance to the Jews. He said that if Pius XII "had intervened publicly, he would have endangered the lives of thousands of Jews who, at his request, were hidden in the 155 convents and monasteries in the city of Rome alone."

During his homily, Benedict XVI offered a refreshing new view of Pius XII indicating "a great multitude of speeches, addresses and messages delivered to scientists, doctors, and representatives of the most varied categories of workers, some of which even today still possess an extraordinary relevance and continue to be a concrete point of reference."

The current Pontiff concluded with the thought: "As we pray the process of beatification of servant of God Pius XII proceeds happily, it is well to recall that holiness was his ideal, an ideal that he constantly urged for all."

At last, a hero's welcome for Pope Pius XII.