Question: Are you aware of the letter dated June 22, 1943 from Pope Pius XII to President Roosevelt recently discovered in the U.S. Archives? It very clearly expresses the Pope’s opposition to allowing the Jews to establish a homeland in Palestine. If you are aware of it, do you have any comments?
Response: Yes, the discovery and contents of the letter have been fairly widely reported, though I don’t believe the letter has received the attention it deserves. For forty years there has been a controversy surrounding Pius XII. He has been faulted for his failure to speak out publicly in opposition to the Holocaust, which he surely knew was in process. Roman Catholic apologists have attempted to explain this away and pointed to his help in hiding many Jews in Italy from the Nazis. It has also been argued that had he spoken out publicly it would only have inflamed Hitler and made matters worse, in spite of the fact that it couldn’t have been worse than it was. (We dealt in depth with this subject in July 1993, July 1994, and September 1998.)
It was actually Sister Pascalina (the nun who was his housekeeper and close associate and confidante for many years) who introduced the Pope to the idea of saving Jews and who conceived and carried out the clever and secretive way in which this was accomplished. Her biographer reports that she “risked everything for the Jews...and issued hundreds of papal identity cards...so [that Jews] could pass as Christians through Nazi lines for safety in the Vatican.” This fact, however, is never mentioned by those praising the Pope for saving Jews.
This June 22, 1943 letter is devastating for those who have defended the Pope. In part this is what it said: “It is true that at one time Palestine was inhabited by the Hebrew Race, but there is no axiom in history [what about God’s Word!] to substantiate the necessity of a people returning to a country they left nineteen centuries before. If a ‘Hebrew Home’ is desired, it would not be too difficult to find a more fitting territory than Palestine. With an increase in the Jewish population there, grave, new international problems would arise.” His language and intent is clear.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, calls the letter “an indictment of Pius XII, because it basically says that when the Pope wanted a point of view expressed about how he clearly felt, he said it clearly. Where is a similar letter to Adolf Hitler, telling Hitler that the Vatican finds his policies against the Jews repugnant? But at the height of the Holocaust, the Vatican knew how to oppose the State of Israel.”
Furthermore, we have a copy of Pius XII’s first letter to Hitler upon becoming pope. In part it said, “To the Illustrious Herr Adolf Hitler, Führer and Chancellor of the German Reich! We recall with great pleasure the many years we spent in Germany as Apostolic Nuncio, when we did all in our power to establish harmonious relations between Church and State. Now...how much more ardently do we pray to reach that goal....” Remember, this was 1939 and Hitler’s evil had been exposed to the world.
As the war neared its end, the Pope pleaded with the Allied Forces to deal leniently with both Hitler and Mussolini. Both were Catholics to their death. Pius XII never excommunicated either of these master criminals in spite of their unspeakable evils. Pius XII himself merely reflected centuries of anti-Semitism on the part of his predecessor popes and Church involving the most vicious persecution and death of multitudes of Jews.
Commenting upon the discovery of this letter, Rabbi David Rosen, head of the Israel office of the Anti-Defamation League, remarked, “It has been well known for a long time of the shameful policy the Holy See maintained during that period, and this is just one [more] confirmation of that fact.”
In fact, we are dealing with more than anti-Semitism. In this letter, the Pope placed himself clearly in opposition to God who throughout the entire Old Testament repeatedly promised the land of Israel to His chosen people in perpetuity. There are so many prophecies promising that God would bring the Jews He had scattered all over the world back to their promised land in the last days and that the Messiah would return to reign over them on David’s throne in Jerusalem (and over the world), that the popes (who claim to be Christ’s vicars) cannot be excused on the grounds of ignorance. They have, in fact, wilfully opposed the plain teaching of Scripture concerning Israel. Therefore, it is not surprising that Roman Catholicism stands in such opposition to the biblical teaching on salvation.