Catholic-Jewish Commission Will Examine Documents Relating To Churchs
Role In World War II: Why Didnt Pope Pius XII Speak Out?
Dec. 22, 1999 -- If Pope Pius XII had taken
a strong, public stand during the Holocaust, could he have saved
the lives of millions of Jews?
can never know the answer. But a close examination of Vatican diplomacy
during World War II could shed some light on the subject, and in
particular, might suggest why the worlds most recognized religious
figure chose not to use his pulpit in Rome to fight the great evil
then spreading through Europe.
1962, Rolf Hochuch, a German playwright, wrote "The Deputy,"
a play claiming that Pius XII was anti-Semitic and therefore remained
silent in the face of the extermination of millions of Jews. Responding
to the widespread public criticism of the Church that ensued, Pope
Paul VI authorized four Catholic scholars to prepare Vatican documents
of the World War II period for publication. Eleven volumes of documents
were published from 1965 to 1981.
publication still has not put the controversy surrounding the Churchs
role during the war to rest, said the Rev. Gerald P. Fogarty, S.J.,
the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Religious Studies and History
at the University of Virginia and an expert on Vatican diplomacy.
are two main reasons that the controversy continues, Fogarty believes.
First, there were no Jewish scholars among the group of academics
who originally edited the documents for publication. Second, while
the documents have been available in research libraries around the
world for nearly two decades, they have not been translated but
are published only in their original languages, primarily English,
French, German and Italian.
thought there should have been a Jewish scholar on the 1960s commission,"
Fogarty said. Instead, the team was made up of four Jesuits, an
order known to be close to Pope Pius XII.
outside observers, therefore, have raised questions regarding the
independence and credibility of the Jesuits scholarship on
this sensitive topic.
many motives have been suggested for the popes choice of editors,
Fogarty believes Pope Paul VI s motive was purely practical:
As men of a religious order serving Rome, the Jesuits would not
have to be paid.
past October, in an effort to promote better relations with the
world Jewish community, the Vatican and an international group of
Jewish leaders appointed an International Catholic-Jewish Historical
Commission -- made up of three Catholic and three Jewish scholars
to study the published documents and determine whether any
major gaps in the historic record exist.
the Jewish scholarly community -- among others -- is pressing for
full access to Vatican archives, Fogarty believes that much published
material, especially that contained in the 11 volumes, has not been
fully exploited, particularly by Jewish scholars. The Vatican archives
have been opened to researchers through 1921, which includes the
papacy of Pope Benedict XV, but remain closed after 1922, with the
exception of the 11 World War II volumes.
by Cardinal Edward I. Cassidy, president of the pontifical Commission
for Religious Relations with the Jews, the team of scholars was
announced jointly in October by Cassidy and Seymour D. Reich, chairman
of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations.
The commission met twice in December -- once in person, once by
conference call -- and is expected to confer on a regular basis
throughout the year. Commission members have divided the 11 volumes
among them for study and likely will draft a report of their findings
by the end of 2000, Fogarty said.
a scholar of Church history, is a specialist in Vatican-American
diplomatic relations and has written numerous books, articles and
academic papers on the subject. He is the author of "The Vatican
and the American Hierarchy from 1870 to 1965." His forthcoming book,
"Commonwealth Catholicism: A History of the Catholic Church in Virginia,"
is being published by the University of Notre Dame Press.
other two Catholic scholars appointed by the Vatican are Eva Fleischner,
Professor Emerita of Montclair State University in New Jersey; and
Reverend Professor F. John Morley, a Holocaust scholar at Seton
Hall University in New Jersey.
three Jewish scholars appointed by the international Jewish commission
are Michael R. Marrus, professor of history and dean of the School
of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto; Bernard Suchecky,
research director at the Free University of Brussels, Belgium; and
Robert S. Wistrich, professor of history and holder of the Neuenberger
Chair in Jewish Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
more information, contact Gerald Fogarty at (804) 979-8592 or at
Charlotte Crystal, (804) 924-6858