From Cardinal Seán’s blog

As you may have heard or read from the copious news coverage, the Church has proclaimed two 20th-century pontiffs -- Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius XII -- eligible for beatification.

The recent announcement of Pope Pius XII being named Venerable was not without its controversy because of questions concerning Pius XII’s role during World War II. Obviously, as Catholics, we are very anxious to have good relations with the Jewish people and do not want to needlessly offend anyone.

The role of Pius XII has been held up for criticism by many. However, I believe closer scrutiny will certainly demonstrate that Pius XII was not anti-Semitic, and indeed did very, very much to protect Jewish people during the war.

I was in college when Rolf Hochhuth’s play, “The Deputy”, came to Broadway. It was a great media success. The story line is very compelling. It’s the story of a young priest working in the diplomatic corps of the Vatican in Germany who goes to Pius XII to tell him about the concentration camps and the extermination of the Jewish people. The Holy Father was portrayed as inept and backless, and one who did nothing about it. The priest goes back to Germany, pins a Star of David on his cassock, and marches into the extermination camps. It’s a very powerful play, but one that has unleashed a lot of calumnies about Pius XII and his role.

At a time when the United States and Britain were turning Jewish refugees away, the Vatican was hiding refugees in Castel Gandolfo, in Vatican City and in convents and monasteries throughout Italy. I feel the more facts are known, the more people are going to be comfortable with the Holy Father’s decision to advance the cause of canonization of Pius XII.

I was encouraged by a Dec. 28 article published in the New York Post in which Pius XII’s record was explained. It was written by Gary Krupp, a member of the Jewish community from Queens who has extensively studied the Pope’s role during World War II.

The article describes the key elements of his findings that have led him to defend the man he “once believed to be a Nazi sympathizer and an anti-Semite.”

Upon investigation he shockingly found Pope Pius XII to be a friend to the Jews and very critical of the Nazi regime.

Among his findings he mentions the following:

-- In 1917, at the request of World Zionist Organization Director Nachum Sokolow, Nuncio Pacelli (who later became Pius XII) intervened with the Germans to protect the Jews of Palestine from extermination by the Ottoman Turks.

-- In 1925, Pacelli arranged for Sokolow to meet with Pope Benedict XV to discuss a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

-- In 1930, Pacelli supported the German bishops’ orders excommunicating anyone who joined “the Hitler Party.”

-- In 1938, Pacelli intervened to defeat a Polish anti-koshering law.

-- In 1939, A.W. Klieforth, the US consul general based in Cologne, Germany, wrote a confidential letter to Washington reporting on the “extremeness” of Pacelli’s hatred of National Socialism and of Hitler.

-- In 1947, at the United Nations, he encouraged the 17 Catholic countries out of the 33 in favor to vote for the partitioning of Palestine to create the State of Israel.

-- A 1948 deposition by Gen. Karl Wolff, the SS commandant for Italy, revealed the Nazis’ wartime plan to kidnap the pope, kill countless cardinals and seize the Vatican.

Decisions that Pius XII made as far as denunciations, whether to do it publicly or behind the scenes, are things that people might criticize, but I think his intentions and the concrete help that he provided to rescue so many Jews (Some people would say that no one was responsible for rescuing as many Jews as Pius XII during the Second World War.) needs to be taken into account when making a judgment on this man’s character. So, I hope that the investigations will continue and that the Holy See will cooperate as much as possible. I think it is to the advantage of the Church for people to know the whole story about Pius XII. But, I feel confident it will be a very different image from the one projected by Hochhuth and his KGB cabal, which posed that play in order to smear Pius XII and the Catholic Church.