Historian Refutes Claims of "Hitler's Pope"

ROME, SEP 7, 1999 (ZENIT).- "Conwell's book is very confusing. It's not really an historical analysis. There are no documents to back up his theories. Pius XII is charged with very serious accusations, without any real proof."

This was Father Pier Blet's outright rejection of the new book "Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII," by British author John Cornwell and polemically excerpted in the American Magazine Vanity Fair.

Fr. Blet, together with Angelo Martini, Burkhart Schneider and Robert A. Graham, was co-editor of the twelve-volume work "Acts and Documents of the Holy See During the Second World War," which was a complete collection of all material on the subject stored in the Vatican's Secret Archive, opened for this project by direct order of Pope Paul VI to dispel unsubstantiated rumors of Pius XII's "silence" during World War II.

Fr. Blet is a world-renowned historical scholar. In March, 1998, when journalists asked John Paul II, on his way to Nigeria about the alleged silence of Pius XII, the Pope answered: "A sufficient answer has already been given, just read Fr. Blet's' book." A little over a year later, few seem to have taken up the Pope's invitation; many others, nevertheless, have decided to continue believing the more or less fictitious exaggerations and fantasies still propagated about the episode.

Fr. Blet spoke to ZENIT about Pius XII and the new book.

ZENIT: According to Cornwell, Pope Pius XII actually facilitated Hitler's rise to power because, by signing the Concordant between the Holy See and Germany, he accepted the dissolution of the Central Party, which effectively removed any opposition to the Nazi's rise to power.

FR. PIERRE BLET: Beside the fact that at the time Pius XI was Pope, who was the person responsible for signing that document, there is no proof to support that theory. In fact, it seems that (Cardinal) Pacelli was very much against the decision of the German Catholics to dissolve the Central Party. To base the accusations against Pacelli as a supporter of Nazism on this "hypothesis" seems to me, quite frankly, exaggerated.

ZENIT: And what about the signing of the Concordant with the Third Reich?

FR. BLET: What else could have been done to protect the Church in Germany? Refusing to sign the Concordant with the Nazis would have meant abandoning Catholics into the hands of the new (political) power and there would have been no possible line of defense.

The Holy See was not naïve regarding Hitler's regime. Referring to the Concordant, Pacelli once confided: "I just hope they don't violate all the clauses at the same time."

ZENIT: Cornwell claims that Pacelli was anti-Semitic.

FR. BLET: Regarding the relationship between Pius XII and the Jews, there is a great deal that the British author ignores. He only quotes the negative documents against Pius XII while systematically avoids mentioning the numerous messages of thanks from many Jews saved by the Church. As far as the (accusation of) silence is concerned, we know very well that any public protest against Nazism would have provoked a disaster. Not only against the Catholics but, especially, against the Jews. Cornwell claims that the only public protest of Pius XII was that of Christmas, 1943, but he doesn't mention the Consistorial Address of June 2, 1943, when Pius XII strongly protested in favor of innocent persons being sent to their death. In this very speech, Pius XII explained that his protest could not be any stronger "because we must to be careful not to harm those who we want to save."

ZENIT: Cornwell claims that Pius XII was convinced of the connection between the Jews and Communism.

FR. BLET: That's an old story. Pius XII is accused of being obsessed with Communism and, as a consequence, he wasn't able to see the Nazi menace. The fact is that he was very conscious of the dangers of both Communism and Nazism. Regarding the bolsheviks, when American Catholics questioned economic assistance to the Soviet Union, Pius XII intervened by saying that the prohibitions he had mentioned in the Encyclical against Communism did not apply to those circumstances. Thus, he demonstrated that he wasn't motivated by political ideologies.

In reality, I think Cornwell's book doesn't just want to discredit Pius XII. It's actually more an attack on the Catholic conception of the papacy. In fact, in the book he protests against the way bishops are appointed by the Pope. He criticizes the First Vatican Council's declaration of infallibility as well as the definition of Marian dogmas. According to Cornwell, all Popes are dictators. In the last chapter he criticizes John Paul II because, in his opinion, he has governed the Church in an even more authoritative manner than Pius XII.

ZENIT: The Italian Paulist Press just announced the release of your own new book, "Pius XII and the Second World War." Could you tell us a little about the contents?

FR. BLET: Unlike Cornwell, I limit myself strictly to the documentation. It's a synthesis of the twelve volumes of documents published by the Vatican Press, where you can see what the Holy See did during the Second World War, day by day and hour by hour. Specifically, it demonstrates how Pius XII did everything possible to promote peace, first by trying to avoid the occupation of Poland, then by trying to keep Italy out of the war. Vatican diplomacy tried to convince Mussolini to abandon the Axis.

Regarding the Jews, the documentation clearly shows how Pius XII carefully considered what would be the best way to help them. He wanted to make a public declaration, but even the Red Cross dissuaded him, because a public statement was useless, especially against a regime like Hitler's and, in the end, it only would have caused more harm to those he wanted to save. My book also shows how Pius XII was very worried about the situation of German Catholics. A declaration against Germany would have provoked a severing of ties with the Pope and would have played into the hands of Nazi propaganda, which portrayed Pius XII as an enemy of Germany.

Pius XII knew the nature of Nazism very well. The son of the French Ambassador in Rome has said that, in a luncheon with the Pope, one of the guests remarked that perhaps it was better after all to have Hitler in power than the Prussians. Pius XII quickly interrupted and said: "You don't realize what you're saying. The Prussian generals do have their defects, but the Nazis are diabolical." ZE99090728



New Criticism for Book Against Pius XII


ROME, SEP 10 (ZENIT).- Although it has yet appear on booksellers' shelves, every day new rebuttals are surfacing which sustain that John Cornwell's new work, "Hitler's Pope," does not measure up to the standards of historical truth.

Italian writer Antonio Spinosa reported in "Il Tempo" that "Cornwall committed a serious error when he said that the Pope supported the rise to power of the National Socialists... In reality, from the time when Pacelli was Nuncio in Munich, he had expressed himself strongly against Hitler; he had condemned the extremism of a 'certain non-Bavarian person' without pulling punches, he defined Hitler as an 'obsessed egocentric,' a 'destroyer,' a man 'capable of stepping on corpses and knocking down anything he thought to be an obstacle.' "

As to his alleged bad relationship with the Jews, Prof. Spinosa considers this an exaggeration and, to support his opinion, he recalls the "donation of two million liras [present value $40 million] to Pius XII by Leo Kubwitsky, Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress, as a symbolic gesture to show the gratitude of the Jews for what Pacelli had done on their behalf during the war." A contribution, Spinosa affirms, that would be inexplicable if enmity between Pius XII and the Jews had been a reality.

Finally, Spinosa addressed the supposed silences of Pius XII. "Did Churchill speak against the Holocaust? No. Did Roosevelt speak? No. And Stalin? Not even he."

"To continue accusing Pius XII of having fallen silent before the persecutions," continued Spinosa, "is an action in bad faith, because it does not consider the reasons for the silence, an apparent silence because the Pope tried to avoid that his words would provoke a more vicious reaction from Hitler. It was a silence that accompanied a powerful action in defense of the Jews: he opened the very doors of the Vatican to them in order to save the greatest number possible. This happened not only in Rome, but also in other parts of Europe, to the point that at least 800,000 Jews owe their lives directly to Pacelli. Pacelli said that every one of his declarations should be seriously pondered and considered in the light of the interests of those persecuted, so that he would not make their circumstances even more difficult and unbearable. He wanted to say 'words of fire,' but the situation forced him into 'the silence of hope' to avoid reprisals." ZE99091005





CORNWELL'S POPE: "A NASTY CARICATURE OF A NOBLE AND SAINTLY MAN": Point by Point Rebuttal by Church Historian, Dr. Peter Gumpel

ROME, SEP 16, 1999 (ZENIT).- In light of the recent controversy provoked by the promotion of Peter Cornwell's new book: "Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII," ZENIT has obtained an exclusive point by point rebuttal from one of the most respected authorities on the Catholic Church and the Second World War, Dr. Peter Gumpel, S.J. He is postulator of the cause for beatification of Pius XII and has carried out years of extensive research on the life and historical facts surrounding the person and pontificate of Pope Pacelli.

During a recent presentation in Rome of the book "The Jews, Pius XII and The Black Legend," by Italian journalist and writer Antonio Gasperi, Dr. Gumpel came to the final conclusion: "After reading over 100,000 pages of the documents for the process of beatification, I am more and more convinced that Pius XII was a saint."

Because of the length of the document and the recognized authority of the source, ZENIT wishes to make the full text available to the general public.


A copy of the full text can also be found at http://www.zenit.org/english/archive/documents/gumpel-eng.html


September 16, 1999 - SPECIAL REPORT: HITLER'S POPE


By Dr. Peter Gumpel, S.J.

The cover of the book of Cornwell depicts Archbishop Pacelli leaving a German government building, guarded by two soldiers. This official visit of the then Nuncio took place not later than 1929, that is, four years before Hitler came into power (January 30, 1933). Since Pacelli left Germany in 1929 and never returned there, using this photograph is misleading and tendentious. Against this old and dirty trick protests were repeatedly published. The fact that a few months ago in a review in the USA Cornwell uses this photo on the cover of his book reveals from the outset his intention to denigrate the future Pius XII.

At the beginning of the book a list of archives is published which Cornwell says to have consulted. This list is extremely meager for a pretentious book of this size. Scores of archives which could and should have been consulted are simply ignored. This regards German, Italian, U. S. Archives, the Acts of the Nuremberg Trials, etc. Even those archives which are mentioned, are certainly not fully explored and used. Most sources used by Cornwell are secondary sources and here the choice is extremely selective. Cornwell deals at length with the situation of the Catholic Church in Germany, but never mentions the standard work of Dr. Heinz Hirten which is an extremely well documented, scholarly work that deals with the situation of the German Catholics between 1918-1945. Other standard works dealing with this topic are equally ignored by the author.

The first part of the book of Cornwell is wishy-washy. Instead of solid documentation we find a series of gratuitous conjectures, suppositions, insinuations. Cornwell deals at length with Concordats, totally ignoring their primary pastoral importance, and suggesting and asserting all the time that the only purpose of the Holy See is to strengthen its power and in particular to secure the right to appoint Bishops of its own liking. Cornwell does not mention such abuses as Josephinism , popular in Austria and to a certain extent even in Bavaria. Cornwell speaks about modernism without even mentioning its real dangers (Loisy, Tyrrel), rather concentrating on the witch hunt which in fact did not take place. However, there is not a shred of evidence that Pacelli ever took any part in the latter. Cornwell does not say that Pacelli did take part in this regrettable phenomenon, but he insinuates that he lived in this atmosphere in the earlier stages of his life.

The Serbian Concordat . It is to be noted that this was requested by Serbia and that the Holy See never refuses negotiations of this kind. Pacelli was then in a subordinate position. Each step of the negotiations had to be examined by his superiors, the Cardinal Secretary of State of that time and Pope Benedict XV. The suggestion that Pacelli in the Concordat with Serbia contributed to the outbreak of World War I is patently absurd and not taken seriously by any competent scholar.

Pacelli, Apostolic Nuncio in Bavaria (1917) and Germany (1920-1929). The positive aspects of this activity are glossed over. Great emphasis is placed on the uprising in Munich in 1919. In his report to the Secretary of State, the fact that the leaders of these terrorists were Jews sent from Russia (just as the leaders of the revolutions in Berlin were led by Jews sent from Russia [Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg] as well as Bela Kun in Hungary) are historical facts. To mention such facts has absolutely nothing to do with anti-semitism, as Cornwell wrongly insinuates. It was necessary to mention who the terrorist leaders in Munich were so that the Superior of Pacelli could understand that this was a part of an effort of the Russian Communists to extend their power in various Western countries.

Pacelli and Hitler. Cornwell refers in the list of works, which he says to have consulted, to one book in which it is explicitly stated that in 1920, that is four years before Hitler came into power (January 30, 1933), Pacelli warned in abrasive terms against Hitler and could not understand that even highly competent Germans did not share his totally negative judgement. Cornwell omits this statement. Either he did not read this book, or he willingly omitted this and other similar easily ascertainable statements of Pacelli, simply because they do not tally with his destructive tendencies.

The Concordat with Nazi Germany. Here again the request was made by Hitler who at that time made repeatedly positive statements about the two Christian denominations in Germany. If Pius XI had refused the negotiations, Hitler would have said: I extended a hand of peace, but it was brutally rejected. The persecution of the Catholic Church which existed already on local levels would have become an official and severe persecution (N. B.: When the German Bishops protested against local persecutions, Hitler always claimed that this was done without his foreknowledge and without his consent. Cornwell does not mention this. He likewise "ignores" or at least never mentions that the Concordat was "not" the international pact concluded by Hitler, the Concordat was preceded by the so-called "four countries pact" (England, France, Italy, Germany; signed in Milan). Pacelli knew that he could not trust Hitler and mentioned this to the English diplomat Kirkpatrick a few weeks after the paraphrasing of the Concordat (July 20, 1933). Totally false is the assertion of Cornwell that the Concordat impeded political and social activities on the part of Catholics. It was agreed that priests and religious should not engage in "party" politics.

In the Nuremberg Trials, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joachim v. Ribbentrop, admitted that Pacelli, as Secretary of State, had sent scores of protests about infractions of the Concordat but that these were nearly always ignored. Finally in 1937 there came the Encyclical letter "Mit brennender Sorge" -- with "burning" preoccupation and not "with great appreciation" as Cornwell mistranslates. Main author of this flaming protest: Pacelli, "Hitler's Pope"!!! Cornwell equally plays down or downright omits the sharp condemnation of Nazism made by Pacelli at Lourdes, Lisieux, Paris, Budapest, where he went as Papal Legate. It is true that neither Hitler nor Nazism were ever mentioned by name, but everybody understood against whom these condemnations were directed. If Cornwell had made a serious effort to ascertain this, -- a reading of reviews and newspapers in U. S., England, France, Holland, etc, would have made this clear to him --, not to mention the Nazi publications which throughout the book of Cornwell are simply neglected and totally underestimated. To be noticed also: that every utterance of this kind aggravated the situation of Catholics in Germany (just as later in the countries occupied by the Nazis).

Pius XII, Pope. Cornwell belittles the serious efforts of Pius XII to prevent World War II and makes a ridiculous comment on the first Encyclical of Pius XII (published at the beginning of World War II). In fact, if this encyclical letter was so insignificant as Cornwell wishes us to believe, why then did the Allies airdrop 88,000 copies of this Encyclical letter over Germany, where this Encyclical letter could not be published? Cornwell, of course, does not mention this action of the Allies. Simple ignorance? But the fact was easily ascertainable in the literature which Cornwell pointedly omitted in his notes and bibliography.

Pius XII and The Occupied Countries. In repeated speeches Pius XII protested against the unjust treatment of the occupied countries. However, especially the Polish Bishops -- except those who had fled Poland and lived abroad in safety, such as Cardinal Hlond and Bishop Radonski -- begged the Pope not to make these protests because they achieved nothing good, but only aggravated the situation of oppression and persecution. Downright classical and frequently mentioned is the case of messages sent by Pius XII through a chaplain of a Maltese relief train to Archbishop Sapjeha (Krakow). When the latter read this message, he threw the whole lot in the fire, saying that if ever a copy fell into the hands of the Gestapo, they would kill all Polish priests. Typical is the fact that thousands of Polish and other priests were killed by the Nazis and that the standard work of Professor Dr. Olrich von Held (now in its third edition): "Priester unter Hitlers Terror" (Priests -- in Germany -- Under the Terror of Hitler) is never mentioned or quoted by Cornwell. On the whole, one must say that Cornwell, who has never lived in a highly organized criminal police state, is totally unaware of the situation prevailing in such a state and that, in consequence, a great many of his judgements, appraisals, suggestions, etc., are completely unrealistic, utopian and anachronistic From an historical point of view, one must be able to understand the situation as it was then and not judge it with the hindsight from today's situation in free countries. To proceed in such an irresponsible manner is a capital mistake which is everywhere present in the book of Cornwell.

Cornwell and the German Bishops. The treatment of the German Bishops by Cornwell is extremely unfair. Prior to the appointment of Hitler as Chancellor, they had repeatedly warned against the Nazis and their pagan "Weltanshauung" (ideology). When Hitler became the legitimately appointed Chancellor of the Reich, a "modus vivendi" had to be found. It was then not clear to the Bishops, the German politicians, and many German Jews, how Hitler would act once he had obtained the government. However, "never" did the Bishops approve his ideology and increasingly they protested against his actions. Bishop Gröber (Archbishop of Freiburg) whom Cornwell calls the "brown Bishop" was initially in favor of a certain effort to come to terms with Hitler, but quite soon he became a bitter opponent of the regime. What Cornwell does not say is the fact that in various reports of the Gestapo one can read that as long as the Catholic Church has any influence on the people, the Nazi ideology would never be accepted by a large section of the German people. The classic work of Boberach which published the internal reports of the Gestapo is, of course, not even mentioned once by Cornwell.

Pius XII and the statute of impartiality, traditional with the Holy See. Both parties in the Second World War exercised pressure on Pius XII to declare a "crusade": the opponents of Hitler wanted the Pope to declare a crusade against Nazism; Hitler exercised pressure on him to declare a crusade against Bolshevism. Both pretences were absurd, considering that Bolshevism had committed and continued to commit numerous crimes and persecuted every form or religion, and the same applied to the Nazis (with the exception of those Protestants who actively supported Hitler).

Pius XII and the Jews. During the Second World War, and till five years after his death († 9 October 1958), Pius XII was greatly praised by all kinds of Jewish organizations, chief Rabbis of diverse countries and especially from the U. S. (see my article in "The Tablet" and the article "In defense of Pius XII" in Newsweek). The debate if a flaming public protest against the crimes against the Jews would have had any effect will probably continue to a large extent due to biased and partial writers who have an interest to denigrate the Catholic Church.

In my considered opinion, a public protest would not have saved a single Jewish life. It would only have aggravated the persecution both of Jews and of Catholics. Moreover it would have impeded and practically made impossible the very extensive silent action of helping Jews in every possible manner. It is well known that no organization has saved so many Jews as the Catholic Church, and this on the formal order of Pius XII. The latter knew well and is on record that this "silence" -- which, however, was not a "silence" at all for everyone who wanted to hear and understand -- might one day be held against him. However, he was not concerned for his reputation, but with saving Jewish lives and this was the only just decision, which clearly required wisdom and a great amount of courage. Cornwell has simply not understood this. He does not do justice to the facts when, in order to belittle Pinchas E. Lapide who praised Pius XII, he attributes to him second motives without producing a shred of evidence.

Cornwell also has never asked himself why the projected rounding-up of 8,000 Roman Jews was suddenly stopped after about 1,000 Roman Jews were caught in October, 1943. He totally misrepresents the interview which immediately afterwards the Secretary of State Maglione had with the German Embassador von Weizsäcker, called to the Vatican on the urgent request made in the name of Pius XII. Weizsäcker played an ambiguous role. Afraid that a formal protest made by the Holy See would enrage Hitler, he gave a too bland impression of the attitude of the Holy See and this became patently clear in the Nuremberg Trials which Cornwell ignores completely. But there is far more. On the order of Pius XII the German military commander of Rome, Brigadier General Rainer Stahel, an Austrian officer of the old school, was approached. This humane man sent a phonogram directly to Himmler. His reason given: this kind of violent action against the Italian Jews disturbs my military plans to reinforce the German divisions still fighting far to the south of Rome, and can also create serious problems here in Rome. This was a true reason, but no less important was another one: his indignation about the criminal acts of the Gestapo and his compassion for the Jews. His intervention had success. Himmler immediately ordered to stop further deportations. In this way thousands of Jews could be hidden, at the order of Pius XII, in the Vatican and in more than 150 ecclesiastical institutions in Rome. All this is, of course, not said by Cornwell. That Pius XII could do nothing with regard to the reprisal after the killing by (Italian resistance) "partisans" of 33 German -- rather South Tyrolian -- policeman, has been demonstrated for years. The repraisal was carried out within 24 hours of the attack on personal order of Hitler. A reprisal was certain, but its nature was unknown. Every effort of ecclesiastics sent by Pius XII to various German authorities failed because none of them could be reached in time. ZE99091630-1


September 16, 1999 - SPECIAL REPORT: HITLER'S POPE


CORNWELL'S POPE: "A NASTY CARICATURE OF A NOBLE AND SAINTLY MAN": Point by Point Rebuttal by Church Historian, Dr. Peter Gumpel

Two more individual remarks. Cornwell complains that a report sent by Msgr. Riegner from Switzerland to Rome was not published in the "Acts and Documents of the Holy See During the Second World War," Riegner handed this report to the nuncio in Switzerland in March 1942, thus: a few months after the Worms Conference (20 January 1942). This report reached the Vatican only in October 1942 as is clear from the dispatch of the Nuncio published in the "Acts and Documents," where Riegner's report is mentioned. However, with a view to the fact -- so frequent in times of war - it was not possible to check whether the facts mentioned in this report were objectively true. The U.S. State Department had manifested doubts about this type of reports and asked the Vatican whether they would confirm them.

The second fact concerns an interview that the U.S. diplomat, Mr. Tillerman had with Pope Pius XII. Cornwell makes much of this. He says that this interview took place on Oct. 18, 1943, thus a few days after the rounding-up of 1,000 Jews. Cornwell accuses Pius XII that he was so little concerned with the fate of the Jews that he did not even mention them. The whole argument falls flat. In fact, the dispatch of Tillerman, in which he says to have had an interview with Pius XII "today," is dated not Oct. 18, but Oct. 19. In fact, even the date "19" is wrong. The interview took place on Oct. "14." This results from the very accurate lists of interviews granted to diplomats by Pius XII. The fact that this interview took place on Oct. 14 (fourteenth) is registered in two distinct volumes of the "Acts and Documents," which Cornwell quotes in his meager list of archives but, obviously has never read accurately, if at all.

Pius XII, Hitler's Pope? In my previous fax I have already pointed out what Pacelli as early as 1929 thought and said about Hitler. To this must be added that he repeatedly went on record saying that Hitler's victory in World War II would mean the end of the Catholic Church in Europe. Likewise, if he was indeed Hitler's Pope, why did he transmit to the English government the proposal of a group of anti-Nazi German generals, who asked whether England would make peace with Germany, if they, the group of German generals, succeeded in arresting Hitler and removing him from government. Incidentally, it was not a low-ranking officer, Colonel Oster, who was responsible for this proposal, but Colonel-General (four star general) Ludwig Beck. The latter had been the chief of the German General Staff, but in 1938 resigned from this new post since he had become convinced that Hitler was a criminal who against all promises and treaties would attack other nations. Pacelli had known Beck when he was nuncio in Berlin and highly esteemed his honesty and integrity. If Pius XII would have been "Hitler's Pope" he would never have undertaken this highly dangerous mediation. And again: when the United States after Pearl Harbor became allies with Russia, many American Catholics had problems of conscience whether they could help produce weapons which would go to communist Russia. Pius XII had, in fact, in his 1937 encyclical "Divini Redemptoris," forbidden Catholics to do anything in favor of the communists. Pius XII informed about this situation, ordered the Apostolic Delegate in Washington, Archbishop Amleto Cicognani (who later became Secretary of State) to induce one or more prestigious U.S. bishops to publish the following statement: the position of the Catholic Church with regard to communism remains what it has always been. However, the Church has nothing against the Russian people. It is now the Russian people who have been attacked and thus Catholics should not have any problems in helping a people who have been unjustly attacked. This statement was made public by at least one U.S. bishop and endorsed by others. It was, of course, understood on whose initiative this problem was solved. How then can Pius XII be called "Hitler's Pope?" If he had been that, he would obviously never have given the above order. He could have even proclaimed a crusade against communist Russia, which, of course, notwithstanding the pressure of Nazi Germany, he steadfastly and courageously refused to do.

Pius XII and Communism. There is clear historical evidence that Pius XII was deadly opposed both to national socialism and to communism. It is equally clear that, everything considered, he thought that in the long run communism was the greater danger for the worlds and for Christianity. Mr. Churchill was of the same idea. He never shared the optimism of President Roosevelt who was convinced that the Russian communists would change their ideology and their attitude to religious communities. Well, history has demonstrated who was right and who was wrong. With regard to this question Glennon's book, "The Cardinal Spellman Story," is highly revealing. Spellman had many personal contacts with Roosevelt and Glennon's book was published when Spellman was still alive. Cornwell mentions this book, but abstains from making use of the most crucial pages.

Pius XII and the so-called policy of appeasement with regard to Hitler. In my previous fax I have already mentioned the role which Pacelli played in drafting the encyclical "Mit brennender Sorge." I equally referred to his speeches as Papal legate in Lourdes, Paris, Budapest, etc. According to protocol, a newly-elected pope informs all the governments with which the Holy See has diplomatic relations that this election has taken place. A personal note of Pius XII to Hitler was therefore necessary. The tone is moderate. At the height of the Kulturkampf, the newly-elected Leo XIII sent a similar message to the Germany of Bismarck which had eased the tensions. A similar gesture had to be made by Pius XII, though he had no illusions. He said: We must show that we want peace; if the other side does not want peace, we will fight. Speaking about such appeasement, the question must be asked about the actions of England and France. They made, from the outset, concessions to Hitler which they had persistently refused to make to the democratic governments of Germany prior to Hitler. England and France consistently gave in to Hitler (the occupation of the demilitarized territory on the western bank of the Rhine; the Fleet agreement between England and Germany; the introduction of military conscription, that is, obligatory military service of all young German men). But most of all, in 1937 the Holy See, with the encyclical "Mit brennender Sorge," had denounced tin the clearest and sharpest possible way that Hitler was not trustworthy and that treatises signed by him were worthless. And then in 1938, a year later, there was the ill-fated Munich Conference (England, France, Italy, Germany) and Mr. Neville Chamberlain and Mr. Daladier so trusting that now there was "Peace for our times, and peace forever!"

Pius XII and Other Activities. Cornwell has little to say about the great encyclical letters of Pius XII, namely "Mystici corporis" (on the Church), "Divino afflante Spiritu" (on advanced Scripture studies), "Mediator Dei" (the liturgy's Magna Charta), nor about his numerous other encyclicals, nor about his speeches which covered the gamut of all modern problems. Cornwell, a rank amateur in these matters, has the impudence to make at times negative remarks on those important activities without which the Second Vatican Council would not have been possible. In fact, after Sacred Scripture, the Council's documents cite no single author as frequently as Pius XII. Cornwell attacks Pius XII on two issues: a) the document Humani generis, without even realizing that there were, at that time, some tendencies of theological relativism emerging which needed to be corrected. Today judgements on this whole question are far more just and balanced than they were in previous times. b) The question of the priest-workers. Pius II did "not" forbid them. He was, however, aware of the fact that in not so few cases, priests played an important role in communist-led trade unions; that they neglected their priestly duties and prayer; that they propagated class struggle; that some had become fervent communists. Pius XII appreciated the generosity of so many priest workers, but felt it necessary to safeguard their priestly life by reducing the hours as workers in lay occupations. It was John XXIII, former nuncio in Paris, who forbade radically the institute of priest-workers which Paul VI restarted, but insisting on a severe selection and accurate formation and supervision.

Cornwell and Pius XII's Character. Cornwell calls Pius XII ambitious and insinuates that he was a careerist. This is not true. The young Pacelli made rapid progress in his career because he was brilliant, conscientious and hardworking. There is not a shred of evidence that there were any other reasons for his rapid advancement, let alone that he himself tried to favor his career. The young priest Pacelli wanted to do pastoral work in the direct sense of the word as every good priest should wish to do. It was only in obedience to higher authority that he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See. When in 1929, his task as Apostolic Nuncio had come to an end, he desired to become a diocesan bishop and do pastoral work in this way. When he had been elected Pope, he did not accept his election immediately, but insisted on another ballot. When this was overwhelmingly in his favor, he accepted the election as a sign of God's will, but "in signum crucis," as a heavy cross. ====================================================



10-8-99 VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- At a press conference at the Vatican on October 8, 150 journalists heard the Jesuit historian, Father Pierre Blet, discuss his research on the activities of Pope Pius XII during World War II.

Four more than an hour, Father Blet answered reporters' questions and provided examples of the efforts by Pope Pius to curb Nazi aggression and to save Jews from the prison camps of the Third Reich. The press conference was clearly a response to the publication of a book entitled Hitler's Pope, which repeats and amplifies the charges that Pope Pius XII was silent in the face of the Holocaust. Father Blet dismissed that book as a work "without historical value."

The French Jesuit said that his own latest book on Pope Pius, published in French in 1998, did not offer any new revelations about the conduct of the Holy See during the war. That topic had been thoroughly explored, he pointed out, in the 12-volume collection of documents from the Vatican archives, published in a series of installments between 1965 and 1981. But Father Blet observed that the collection "remains unknown, even among historians."

That massive collection of documents had been prepared by a four- man team of Jesuit scholars, at the request of Pope Paul VI, in response to the emerging criticisms of Pope Pius XII. Father Blet is the sole surviving member of that research team.

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