Archives Show Church Excommunicated Nazis

Foundation Continues Restoring Reputation of Pius XII

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NEW YORK, APRIL 16, 2010 (Zenit.org).- An interreligious group trying to discover the facts regarding Pope Pius XII and his efforts to help Jews during World War II has announced the discovery of documents showing how the Church excommunicated Catholics who joined the Nazis.

The New-York based Pave the Way Foundation said that its representative Michael Hesemann found a large series of documents from 1930 to 1933.

The documents indicate that any Catholic who joined the Nazi party, wore the uniform or flew the swastika flag would no longer be able to receive the sacraments.

This policy set three years before Hitler was elected chancellor made clear that the teachings of the Church were incompatible with Nazi ideology.

“The documents clearly show an ideological war between the Catholic Church and National Socialism already in the pre-war decade," Hesemann explained. "The German bishops and the Roman Curia considered the Nazi doctrine not only as incompatible with the Christian faith, but also as hostile to the Church and dangerous to human morals, even more than Communism."

Among the documents is a handwritten letter from a leading member of the Nazis, Hermann Goering, requesting a meeting with Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pius XII), which was flatly refused.

There are also documents asking for a removal of the excommunication, which was also denied.

Gary Krupp, president of Pave the Way, characterized these documents as "very significant." 

"Michael Hesemann has been diligent in researching the open archives and has been discovering new important documents with every visit," he said. "His research tells a very different story of Eugenio Pacelli or Pope Pius XII than is commonly known."

When asked why this information is not currently known by many historians, Pave the Way chairman Elliot Hershberg noted that "according to the archives sign-in sheets, most of these historians and scholars have simply not come to the open archives to research 65% of Pacelli’s ministry.”