Two Popes and the Holocaust

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Perhaps we can’t always determine guilt from a distance.

I learned long ago that criticizing other faiths is fraught with danger. We often lack some of the pieces.

Despite what I intuit, I am not going to come to any conclusions about the behavior of Pius XII during World War II. I grew up with the demonic version, as per The Deputy. I have seen reasonable people attempt justifications that cannot be dismissed with the wave of a hand.

So I will leave his the piety of Pius to others.

Goodness, however, is something we ought to be able to recognize. It should be apparent in the conduct of Pius’ Paris representative, Angelo Roncalli, as reported by Israelinsider. Roncalli, defied direct orders from Pius not to return children who had been baptized to their people after the War, and to treat all Jewish orphans as “fair game” for conversion if they had been entrusted to the Church for safekeeping. Roncalli not only worked to reunite children with their Jewish families, but helped Jews leave Paris to join the emerging Jewish State.

Christianity prides itself on not being “stuck” in legalism. The individual often has the right to decide when keeping to the letter of the law does not suit its spirit. Ironically, Pius seems to have played the role of the literalist, disregarding the horrific circumstances of the War and the wishes of parents who brought their children to the gates of the convent in order to save their lives, not to entrust their immortal souls to the embrace of the Church. Angelo Roncalli understood the difference.

Perhaps that is why in 1960, he placed on the agenda of the Second Vatican Council a repudiation of anti-semitism as one of his first activities as Pope John XXIII.

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