Had the legislation passed, it would have forbidden Jewish ritual practices, and constituted a “true persecution for Jews,” Pope Pius wrote at the time.
“If you examine Pacelli’s life, you’ll find early friendships with Jewish schoolmates; an appreciation for Jewish theology; support for the Jewish community in America, when he visited in 1936; sympathy for the Jewish people in the Holy Land, and an openness toward their yearning for a Jewish state – long before Israel was established; and an affirmation of both Jews and Judaism,” Doino said.
Later in 1941, “just as the anti-Semitic persecutions were entering their worst phase,” Doino said, a Jewish refugee visited the Vatican and begged the Pope to intervene for his persecuted brethren who had been shipwrecked and imprisoned on a Fascist-controlled island.
Not only did Pius XII promise the young man his support, but said before a large audience that he was just as worthy as every other human being, and encouraged him to “always be proud to be a Jew.”
“The refugee was so moved by this encounter that he later wrote an unforgettable first-person narrative about it for the Palestine Post,” Doino recounted.
Later that same year, Pius XII published his first encyclical, “Summi Pontificatus,” which “condemned the evils of racism and totalitarianism, and similarly stressed the unity of mankind, expressing solidarity with non-Catholics as well,” the expert recalled.
Doino's research surfaces just after the Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, Mordechai Lewy, aroused controversy in Israel and abroad by praising Pius XII for helping save Jews during the Holocaust.
In the wake of criticism from Jewish groups, the ambassador said on June 27 – days after his positive comments about the pontiff – that his words were historically “premature.”
However, Doino expressed support for Ambassador Lewy and welcomed his remarks as an occasion for renewed dialogue on the issue.
He also said that he is looking forward to the public release of the Vatican’s remaining wartime archives.
Doino referenced “significant leads and discoveries” from “at least half a dozen top-flight Pius XII specialists who are engaged in historical research revealing Pius XII’s active support for the Jewish community, both before and after he became Pope.”
(Story continues below)
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“The idea that he was a self-enclosed Catholic leader, insensitive to Jewish concerns, is pure myth – an image that is thankfully being reversed by modern scholarship,” he said.
Marianne is a journalist with a background in writing and Catholic theology. When not elaborating on the cinematic arts, she enjoys spending time with people, reading thick books and traveling anywhere and everywhere.