Matt C. Abbott
Israel should honor Pius XII
By Matt C. Abbott
May 17, 2014

From The Jerusalem Post:
    In an unprecedented event, the Knesset on Tuesday [May 13] commemorated Pope John XXIII, who helped save thousands of Jews from the Holocaust and initiated a process of reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people.

    Born in 1881, John XXIII, whose given name was Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, served as the head of the Catholic Church from 1958 until his death in 1963....

    Roncalli's efforts during the war are believed to have helped save thousands of Jews from the Nazi death camps....
Sadly, his predecessor, the holy Pope Pius XII, has been defamed over the years by those who should instead be honoring him as they have Saint John XXIII.

I asked two experts on Pius XII and the Holocaust – author and professor Ronald J. Rychlak and writer William Doino Jr. – to comment on the matter.

Professor Rychlak wrote:
    When he was thanked for his work on behalf of persecuted Jews, the future Pope John XXIII declined, saying all he had done was carry out the orders of the Holy Father, Pope Pius XII. The future Pope Paul VI said a very similar thing. In fact, numerous rescuers and Righteous Gentiles named Pius as their inspiration; others said they acted only on his orders. I spoke to some of these witnesses, and others left written records. Victims thanked him, Nazis despised him, and rescuers cited them as their inspiration. It's time to listen to the witnesses.
Mr. Doino wrote:
    I applaud Israel's parliament for paying a special and well-deserved tribute to Saint John XXIII. Pope John's record of rescuing Jews during the Holocaust while he was a papal diplomat in Turkey is well-known, as is his fostering of strong Jewish-Catholic relations both before and after he became pope.

    One thing I would add to extend and fully appreciate this recent tribute is to highlight the direct and inspiring influence Pope Pius XII had on Saint John XXIII when the latter was rescuing Jews as papal diplomat in Turkey during the Holocaust.

    As I pointed out in my section on Roncalli in the anthology The Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XII, Roncalli's longtime private secretary, Loris Capoviilla – who is still living, and was recently made the Church's oldest living cardinal by Pope Francis – sent a signed statement to the Vatican's 'relator' (independent judge) for the cause of Venerable Pius XII, in which Capovilla affirmed:

    'With regard to the actions in favor of the Jews, affected particularly in Instanbul in the years 1935-1944, which was recognized and praised by Hebrew communities in Jerusalem, Istanbul and the United States, it is obligatory to recognize that Roncalli was and declared himself the executor of the thought and the directives of Pius XII. He [Roncalli] repeated, in fact: 'The papal representative is the eye, the ear, the mouth, the heart and the effective hand of the pope.''

    Capovilla continued that Roncalli's rescue efforts make sense 'only if they are referred above everything else to Pius XII, of whom Roncalli was the careful and most faithful interpreter. Any strictly personal action, even though it be heroic, of Roncalli himself, would otherwise be inconceivable.'

    In light of this testimony, and the growing body of evidence revealing Pius XII's efforts on behalf of Jews, I think it would be fitting for everyone who has rightly honored Saint John XXIII to similarly honor Pope Pius XII for his humanitarianism and Christian compassion during the war.

    Pope Francis, it should be noted, has already publicly praised Venerable Pius XII's wartime actions, and many believe the Vatican's remaining wartime archives, soon to be released, will enhance Pius XII's record even more.

    For additional commentary on John XXIII's saintliness, his commitment to Catholic orthodoxy and genuine reform, and the influence Pius XII had on him, please note my three articles on Good Pope John – the first two for First Things, the last and most recent one for Catholic Pulse:

    'Pope John XXII: Conserver of Tradition'

    'John XXIII's Prophetic Encyclical'

    'A Holy Reformer: Saint John XXIII'
© Matt C. Abbott


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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 'Unsolved' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and other media outlets. In 2005 and 2006, he was among the first writers to expose former cardinal Theodore McCarrick's abuse of power with and sexual harassment of seminarians. He can be reached at

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