Friday, October 10, 2008

Pope Pius XII: 50 years on

On 9th October 2008, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII. (see above)

He took the opportunity to say that:

"The historical debate on the figure of the Servant of God Pius XII, which has not always been the calmest, has prevented us shining a light on all the aspects of his multifaceted Pontificate...

There was a great multitude of speeches, addresses and messages delivered to scientists, doctors, and representatives of the most varied categories of workers, some of which even today still possess an extraordinary relevance and continue to be a concrete point of reference

The debate over what Pope Pius XII did or did not do during the Second World War in relation to people of the Jewish faith, while very important, has overshadowed his teachings.

The canard that he was somehow Hitler`s Pope has made his important teachings unattractive for many.

The debate over Pius`s role or acts in the Second World War is often confusing. No sooner is one charge successfully refuted then another bit of evidence "emerges" which brings forward another charge.

One work which may be of use to those trying to assess the evidence for themselves is The Pius War. Edited by Joseph Bottum, David G. Dalin, and William Doino Jr. Lexington Books. 282 pages. $29.95. (2004)

The book deals with those authors who have been critical of Pope Pius XII's handling of the Holocaust.

In his Introduction, Bottum may surprise the reader with this summary at the end of his opening paragraph: "It [the Pius War] was a long and arduous struggle, vituperative and cruel, but, in the end, the defenders of Pius XII won every major battle. Along the way, they also lost the war."

The editors also provide an extensive annotated bibliography of many books, articles and other items pertaining to Pius XII and the Holocaust.

One reviewer of the book wrote:

"The leitmotif running throughout the volume -- that attacks on Pius’ reputation as a leader of outstanding moral courage are ill-informed, pseudo-historical and often derived from wells of anti-Christian animus -- is eminently supported by a mountainous reserve of primary and secondary source material."

In an elegant section entitled, "The Words of Eugenio Pacelli [Pius XII]," Doino provides nearly 15 pages of documentation of Pacelli’s (largely unknown) forceful and very pointed statements against anti-Semitism, racism, Hitler, Nazism, and the Holocaust -- both before and after he became Pope -- forever demolishing the charge that he was "silent" in the face of evil. Most welcomingly too, Doino does not confine himself to English speaking historians but points to works by French, Italian and German historians.