Pope John Paul II’s Defense of Pius XII by Sr. Margherita Marchione

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The position of Pope John Paul II about Pope Pius XII

By Sr. Margherita Marchione - When the Vatican chastised the Anti-Defamation League for its ads in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, Walter Cardinal Kasper, head of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, in a letter dated May 18, 2001, to Abraham Foxman obtained by The Jewish Week, defended John Paul II. “To defame the Holy Father by attributing ‘silence’ to him is quite unjust and cannot go uncontested. …It wounds our relationship.” In August, historian Peter Gumpel, representating the Vatican, denounced the “slanderous campaign” against the Catholic Church and accused some Jewish historians of “clearly incorrect behavior.” The vilification of the person of Pope Pius XII and the denigration of our present Pope John Paul II affects the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Today, Catholics should promote the truth about the Holocaust—an important contemporary issue. Both Popes are accused of “silence.”

Although fifty years hae passed, the faithful continue to remember Pius XII. Several years ago, a “Petition,” asking His Holiness Pope John Paul II to expedite his beatification, was circulated and the signatures of thousands of people from all parts of the world were deposited in the Vatican.

The Petition reads: “With profound respect and sincere devotion, We, the undersigned, humbly request that the cause for the beatification of Pope Pius XII proceed without delay. Pius XII's virtuous life speaks for itself and is supported by an abundance of incontestable documentary evidence. The truth regarding his service to the Church and the World, as a diplomat and during his pontificate, prior to and through the World War II period, is also historically established. He has been the victim of an unjust smear campaign for fifty years. Now, however, overwhelming evidence has been amassed that proves beyond doubt that he labored without pause for peace, that he sought to assist in every way possible the victims of war, especially Jews, hundreds of thousands of whom were spared through his efforts, and that he constantly warned the world of the horrors of Nazism and Communism. We urge that you honor this holy and brave Pontiff at the soonest possible date.”

It is interesting to note that Pius XII is the Pope who consecrated John Paul II a bishop. On March 18, 1979, forty years after Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli became Pope, John Paul II recalled: “I shall never forget the profound impression which I felt when I saw him close-up for the first time. It was during an audience which he granted to the young priests and seminarians of the Belgian College. Pius came to each one and when he reached me the College Rector (Monsignor Fürstenberg) told him that I came from Poland. The Pope stopped for a while and repeated with evident emotion ‘from Poland’; then he said in Polish ‘Praised be Jesus Christ.’ This was in the first months of the year 1947, less than two years after the end of the Second World War, which had been a terrible trial for Europe, especially for Poland.”

John Paul II continued: “On the fortieth anniversary of the beginning of this important pontificate we cannot forget the contribution that Pius XII made to the theological preparation for the Second Vatican Council, especially by his teachings on the Church, by the first liturgical reforms, by the new impetus he gave to biblical studies and by his great attention to the problems of the contemporary world.”

Speaking to a group of Jewish leaders, Pope John Paul II stated that documents “reveal ever more clearly and convincingly how deeply Pius XII felt the tragedy of the Jewish people, and how hard and effectively he worked to assist them.” His Holiness called for “genuine brotherhood” between Christians and Jews.

On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the “Uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto” (April 6, 1993), Pope John Paul II stated: “As Christians and Jews, following the example of the faith of Abraham, we are called to be a blessing for the world (Gen. 12:2 ff). This is the common task awaiting us. It is therefore necessary for us, Christians and Jews, to be first a blessing to one another. This will effectively occur if we are united in the face of the evils which are still threatening: indifference and prejudice, as well as displays of anti-Semitism.”

Throughout his pontificate, the voice of Pope John Paul II has been heard again and again as he pleaded for courageous workers willing to serve and suffer, for peace, in the footsteps of Christ. On Palm Sunday (March 28, 1999), he declared to a crowd in St. Peter’s Square: “The Pope stands with the people who suffer, and cries out to all: it is always time for peace! It is never too late to meet and negotiate!” In his Easter message, he pleaded: “Peace is possible, peace is a duty, peace is a prime responsibility of everyone!” On May 3, he stated: “I raise my voice again, in the name of God, that this attack of man against man come to an end, that the instruments of destruction and death be stopped, that all channels of aid be activated to help those who are forced to flee their land amid unspeakable atrocities…” John Paul II picked up on the legacy of his predecessors and faced world conflicts from Vietnam to the Balkans to the Gulf and the never-ending strife in the Holy Land, Palestine, Afganistan, and Iraq.

--Press Contact: Daniela Puglielli 908 212 7846


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