Wednesday, December 29, 2004

New take on old Vatican anti-semetism

The bitter, long-running controversy over the attitude of Pope Pius XII to the Holocaust has taken a new turn with the publication of diaries that prove he opposed the return of Jewish children to their parents after the Nazis' defeat.

The diaries were kept by Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, from 1945 to 1948 when Pius XII was on the Vatican throne and Cardinal Roncalli was papal nuncio to Paris.

The diaries document the efforts by Cardinal Roncalli to reunite Jewish families torn apart by the war and whose children had been taken under the wing of the Catholic Church. The future pope's role in helping Jews escape from Nazi persecution has long been acknowledged. But the diaries show Pius XII was hostile to such efforts.

In 1946, Rabbi Herzog of Istanbul came to see Roncalli in Paris to ask that Jewish children rescued during the war and taken care of in Catholic convents should be returned to the Jewish community. Cardinal Roncalli was happy to oblige: he wrote authorising him "to use his authority with the relevant institutions, so ... these children may be returned to their original environment."

But Pius XII, who has frequently been accused of anti-semitism, sent a message via the Vatican's Holy Office ordering that Jewish children who had been baptised as Christians after being separated from their parents should not be returned unless they could be guaranteed a Christian upbringing. Children "who no longer have parents" were not to be handed over. If the parents eventually showed up, only those children who had not been baptised should be restored, the Pope proclaimed.

From Pope Pius's perspective, I'm sure this made perfect sense.The Jews would all go to Hell, so why not try to save a few? And along the way, give them the benefits of education in the Catholic approach to things like... buggery.


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