Pope Pius XII did everything humanly possible to protect Rome’s Jews from the Nazis and only learned of the Nazi roundup of Jews in Rome after it had occurred, says an article in a recent issue of the influential Italian Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica.
The Associated Press reported on the article, published in Civilta Cattolica’s Dec. 4 issue, which challenges claims that Pius did little or nothing to protect Jews during the Holocaust. Citing newly unearthed World War II documents, it also reports that Pius tried to gain the Jews' release and prevent further arrests.
Pius "did everything humanly possible," to save Rome's Jews from the Nazis, the article's author, Fr. Giovanni Sale said in an AP interview.
Pius learned of the roundup only in the morning of Oct. 16, 1943, after the operation had ended, says the article. That day, the pope dispatched his nephew, Carlo Pacelli, to ask the rector of a German church in Rome to secure the release of 1,000 detained Jews. But the response came that nothing could be done “because the order had come from the general quarter of the Fuhrer and thus couldn't be canceled," the article said.
Sale also says that the known efforts by churches, convents and other religious institutions to take in many of the remaining 8,000 Jews, who had fled Rome's after the roundup, were the result of the pope's wishes.
"All this was possible because the pope himself authorized the religious men and women and Roman priests to open their doors to their 'needy brothers,'" the article says, citing a Nov. 1, 1943 Civilta Cattolica diary found in the archives.
The article comes as the Church continues efforts to beatify the wartime pope.