Historians Defend Pius XII as New Book Hits Market

Refute "Black Legend" Regarding Pope's Role in Holocaust

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ROME, JUNE 28, 2002 (ZENIT.org-Avvenire).- The "black legend" of Pope Pius XII's alleged complicity in the Nazis' extermination of Jews is totally unfounded, several intellectuals said at a book presentation.



In no way did Pius XII sympathize with the Nazis, nor did he approve the genocide, say the intellectuals who attended the presentation here Tuesday of a new book on the Holocaust.

Italian historians from various cultural backgrounds were on hand to present Renato Moro's book entitled "The Church and the Extermination of Jews" ("La Chiesa e lo Sterminio degli Ebrei," published by Mulino), which they all described as balanced and comprehensive.

The historians agreed on one point: The Holy See's official "silence" and the lack of a public condemnation of the Holocaust must be seen in its historical context.

The Catholic Church, they said, was taken by surprise by the frightening rise of Nazism, and tried to react with the instruments at hand, choosing the diplomatic route, which made it possible to save thousands of Jews.

Ernesto Galli della Loggia, an influential columnist, said that Pius XII's so-called silences in reality "were the silences of many other institutions, including the U.S. Jewish communities, who feared that too much talk would have resulted in a worsening of the situation."

According to Galli della Loggia, certain postures of mistrust of the Church toward the liberal culture of the time can only be understood if one remembers that culture's anti-Catholic bias. "No liberal at that time protested against the massacre of Catholics in Russia or Mexico," he noted.

Andrea Riccardi, historian and founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio, emphasized that the Holy See's option for the diplomatic path, "common moreover to other neutral subjects, such as Switzerland and the Red Cross," had as its objective "to open spaces to help the persecuted, and margins for a peace negotiation."

Recalling the "mortification and suffering of the Pontiff because of the Nazi persecutions," historian Pietro Scoppola said it is difficult to judge the situation by today's standards.

"The Church did not condemn openly," he said. "This was not dictated by personal or power interests," but by the conviction to choose the most useful way to save hundreds of thousands of lives.