03 November 2011

Pope Pius XII

How could a man praised for his defense of the Jewish people during World War II by everyone from Franklin Roosevelt to Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir become known as “Hitler’s Pope” 50 years later?
Good question. Attorney Ronald Rychlak offers a comprehensive and meticulously researched answer in his excellent Hitler, the War, and the Pope, which was compiled in part by accessing closed sections of the Vatican archives. I read the book some years ago and came away rather enlightened about this courageous pope, whose reputation for heroism during World War II and his sheltering of thousands of Jews garnered him the highest title a non-Jew could be awarded: that of Righteous Gentile.
Numerous Jewish leaders, including Albert Einstein, Israeli Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Moshe Sharett, and Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, expressed their public gratitude to Pius XII, praising him as a "righteous gentile," who had saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. In his meticulously researched and comprehensive 1967 book, Three Popes and the Jews, the Israeli historian and diplomat Pinchas Lapide, who had served as the Israeli Counsel General in Milan, and had spoken with many Italian Jewish Holocaust survivors who owed their life to Pius, provided the empirical basis for their gratitude, concluding that Pius XII "was instrumental in saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands." To this day, the Lapide volume remains the definitive work, by a Jewish scholar, on the subject.
Rychlak has recently had to revise his book because of new, rather explosive information that has come to light: the original play that vilified Pius XII, The Deputy, which debuted in West Berlin in 1963 and has done so much damage to the good Pope's reputation, was actually a communist plot to smear the Pope's name.
Rychlak revealed the most stunning evidence supporting the theory that “The Deputy” was a Soviet scheme to discredit Pius—in 2007, the highest ranking Soviet bloc officer ever to defect to the West revealed his part in plan.

“I thought it sounded fishy at first,” Rychlak said. “Then I started to doing the research.”

He found that after World War II, Communist regimes had convicted many religious leaders in show trials.

“It happened from place to place. They’d take well-known leaders and charge them with collaboration with the Nazis. Later, many of those who did this apologized and talked about it," Rychlak said providing several examples.

Drawing from his research, Rychlak noted how almost every person involved in producing, translating, and publishing “The Deputy” had close ties to the Communist Party. Many had ties to the KGB or its predecessor.

“’The Deputy’ was a Kremlin plot, part of a plan to discredit the West,” Rychlak said. And such new evidence required the revision and updating of his book, which came out last May.
You can order the revised version here.

In the meantime, let us pray that the beatification process for this pope moves forward, regardless of any political outcry.