Fr. Aldo Brunacci, lauded for his efforts on behalf of at least 250 Jews, credited Pope Pius XII for the large number of Roman Jews saved during the German occupation, and predicted even more evidence will be found about the pontiff’s heroic actions in the future.
The 90-year-old priest from Assisi made this statement in the January issue of Inside the Vatican. In the article, titled “The Secret Letter,” Fr. Brunacci also confirms his earlier testimony that a letter his bishop, Giuseppe Nicolini, read to him during the Second World War – which urged clergy to ensure the safety of Jews – was indeed issued by Pope Pius XII.
Author Susan Zuccotti has challenged the letter in her controversial book “Under His Very Windows”. She argues that the Catholic rescue in Italy was accomplished without the support of Pius XII, who allegedly did "little or nothing" for the Jews. She suggests the bishop lied about the letter “to make his assistants believe that they were doing the pope's work.”
However, Fr. Brunacci denied Zuccotti’s claim and told Inside the Vatican that it was “impossible” that Bishop Nicolini lied to him.
“I saw it with my own eyes, in my bishop's hands, as he read it to me,” he told the English monthly magazine. “It was a letter from the Vatican asking the bishop to take measures to help protect the Jews. And we took those measures.
“Zuccotti doubts that Pius XII could have issued such an order because she is persuaded by the campaign launched against Pius in 1963,” Fr. Brunacci told Inside the Vatican. “But that campaign has been filled with slanders and calumnies.”
The priest warned not to take Zuccotti seriously, citing her unreliable source material.
Fr. Brunacci credits Pope Pius XII for the rescue of 85 percent of the Roman Jews during the German occupation. He predicts that this letter, which was sent out to many other dioceses in Italy, will emerge in the coming years, in addition to many new documents.
The priest recalled the gathering in St. Peter’s Square after the liberation of Rome. Hundreds of thousands came to cheer the pontiff, and many Jews were among them, he said.