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Saturday, February 22, 2003

Is the tide about to turn in favor of Pope Pius XII?

Mark Cameron reports a Zenit story about Sir Martin Gilbert's perspective on the Pope and the Shoah. It contains this favorable quote from the eminent British historian:

Three years ago, Gilbert published the book "Never Again: A History of the Holocaust." Interviewed by United Press International, the English historian said: "Christians were among the first victims of the Nazis. ... One of the things I try to bring out in the book is that the Christian churches took a very powerful stand. ... At every stage of the Holocaust, the Church had no hesitation ... all the great bishops of France protested the deportations, ... Poland had more Righteous Gentiles than any other country."

In the same book, Gilbert says that he is not unaware that some Christians, violating their faith, did not oppose the Nazis, but he explained "that they did so, in spite of, and not because of, their religion. This was particularly true regarding the Catholic Church, whose moral teachings against racism, anti-Semitism and murder were perfectly clear."

Gilbert added: "I try to find out what the Catholic Church and churchmen and Pacelli himself actually did do. So the test for Pacelli was when the Gestapo came to Rome to round up Jews. And the Catholic Church, on his direct authority, immediately dispersed as many Jews as they could."

That's a perspective on the Pope that I had not considered before: the hour of decision was the attempted round-up of Roman Jews--and the Pope used his authority to intervene decisively in favor of the Jewish population. The attempted round-up was his "Schindler moment"--and four-fifths of Rome's Jewish population was saved at his direct order. A very helpful way to look at the Pope's conduct.

Mr. Cameron also provides a link to The Righteous, which is selling quite briskly at Amazon (# 1,118 as of this post).

Gilbert is one of the premier historians of our time. If, at a minimum, these books are not on your shelf, your personal library is by definition deficient. His book on the Second World War is especially poignant, as it makes a determined effort to document atrocities that are otherwise forgotten or left out of books of comparable scope.

Gilbert's stature ensures that no credible account of the Pope's actions will be able to ignore his perspective. Perhaps the tide turns. If so, it is long overdue.

[P.S.--Thanks to Mark for his kind reference to the Pagans post.]

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