War and remembrance: Vatican highlights Pope Pius XII's peace efforts
August 28, 2009
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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Like much of Europe and the world, the Vatican was marking the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II with an act of remembrance.At this time we can not forget to remember the tremendous efforts of His Holiness Pope Pius XII made toward saving the lives of Jewish refugees.
In the Vatican's case, though, the remembering has focused largely on the dramatic and unheeded warnings issued by Pope Pius XII to world leaders in the weeks and days leading up to the war's outbreak.
The late pope's sense of alarm came through loud and clear in the radio message he delivered Aug. 24, 1939, as German troops were massing on the Polish border. His voice full of urgency, the pontiff told the world's powerful that "empires not founded on justice are not blessed by God."
"Today, when the tension of spirits has reached a level that makes the unleashing of the tremendous whirlwind of war appear imminent, in a spirit of paternity we make a new and heartfelt appeal to governments and peoples," the pope said.
"To governments so that, laying aside accusations, threats and the reasons for reciprocal mistrust, they try to resolve present differences through the only suitable means, that is, sincere joint agreements; and to peoples so that in calm and serenity, and without unbecoming agitation, they will encourage efforts for peace on the part of their leaders," he said.
On May 10, 1937, Pope Pius XI released the encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (Germany for "With deep anxiety"). Unlike nearly all encyclicals, which are written in Latin, this encyclical was written in German. It was addressed to the German bishops and was read in all parish churches of Germany. Pope Pius XI said that his Papal Secretary of State, Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII, was the individual that should be credited for the encyclical's creation. Furthermore, Jewish Rabbi Pinchas Lapide stated that Pope Pius XI "had good reason to make Pacelli the architect of his anti-Nazi policy. Of the forty-four speeches which the Nuncio Pacelli had made on German soil between 1917 and 1929, at least forty contained attacks on Nazism or condemnations of Hitler’s doctrines. . . . Pacelli, who never met the Führer, called it ‘neo-Paganism.’"
During the Holocaust, most of Rome's 8,000 Jews hid in the Vatican. Pope Pius XII saved thousands of Jewish lives. He used numerous networks in Rome to hide the Jewish people, and he even used the assets of the Vatican to ransom Jews from the Nazis. The Chief Rabbi of Rome converted to Catholicism after the war! According to Pinchas E. Lapide in his book, Three Popes and the Jews, Pope Pius XII saved 860,000 Jews from Nazi death camps (214).
Under my Apologetic Posts category is a link to The Church & the Holocaust, which I encourage you to read for further information on this topic.