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Pius XII's Massive Crusade (Part 2)

10/12/2006 - 6:10 AM PST

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Interview With Sister Margherita Marchione

ROME, OCT. 11, 2006 (Zenit) - Pius XII did an immense amount of work to help victims of World War II, including Jews -- and the archives show that, says a scholar.

Sister Margherita Marchione, of the Religious Teachers Filippini, is a historian and expert on the life of Pius XII. She wrote the recently published "Crusade of Charity: Pius XII and POWs" (Paulist Press).

In Part 2 of this interview with us, Sister Marchione, described her particular interest in Pius XII.

Part 1 appeared Tuesday on Catholic Online.

Q: Pius XII has been accused of being indifferent to the sufferings of the victims of the Nazis. Your book tells a very different story. How did so much misinformation come about?

Sister Marchione: Ignorance of the historical truth is the only answer. How can anyone accuse Pius XII of indifference? My book reveals the truth and proves that Pius XII was not indifferent to the sufferings of the victims of the Nazis.

These [wartime] letters [to the Vatican] express the faith and confidence of families with regard to their loved ones who were prisoners of war or missing in action. Some beg for his blessing, confide in him, ask for food, clothing and financial assistance.

There are many very personal letters: An invalid father begs to see his son before he dies; a young mother thanks His Holiness for clothes she received for her children; a little child asks that her father be present for her first holy Communion; the father of nine children, with the four oldest serving in the army, implores Pius XII's help in a letter dated May 21, 1943: "You can perform a miracle. I know that the other three boys must still make their contribution toward victory; but at least try to have Mario, my son who is a prisoner, come back to us."

Writing in the name of a group of prisoners, one soldier begged His Holiness to contact their families in a letter dated November 22, 1943: "For the past several years we have been away from our country, from our family, from our home. We recall the smile of a mother, the embrace of a father, the kiss of a brother. Some of us long to see a son, whom we have not yet seen; men subjected to all the elements of bad weather dream of an oasis, a little green, a little rest in the midst of so much battle, so much blood, so much chaos, so much death. A funereal shadow envelops humanity, and we are fighting without hope in the midst of so much ruin and devastation."

The 100 letters I included are addressed to Pius XII. He read them and, at times, noted what the response should be in his own handwriting. They are among the 20 million in the Vatican Secret Archives.

Personally and through his representatives, Pius XII employed all the means at his disposal to save Jews and other refugees during World War II.

It should be noted that in every country, the Catholic Church had apostolic delegates who were asked to visit hospitals, prisons and concentration camps in order to report to the Vatican.

As a moral leader and a diplomat, Pius XII was forced to limit his words; he privately took action and, despite insurmountable obstacles, saved hundreds of thousands of Jews from the gas chambers.

Q: Any comments on the canonization process of Pius XII?

Sister Marchione: I understand that the canonization process is proceeding rapidly. Ever since the death of Pius XII, every Pope from John XXIII to Benedict XVI noted his sanctity.

In fact, in his first Christmas message, John XXIII called his predecessor: "Supreme doctor, light of holy mother Church, lover of the divine law."

Q: What do we have to learn from this Pope?

Sister Marchione: Thousands of available documents in the Vatican Secret Archives record the humanitarian work of the Holy See. Pius XII directed the greatest rescue program in the history of the Catholic Church and served as a beacon of hope throughout his pontificate, 1939-1958.

He knew that explicit condemnations would have sabotaged rescue operations and provoked more brutal reprisals. With "diplomacy" rather than "confrontation" he saved hundreds of thousands of Jews and Christians from death in the concentration camps.

He was a moral hero: a man solicitous on behalf of Jews and Gentiles alike who worked tirelessly for peace. Among his many prayers, he wrote "Ten Commandments for Peace." His was a crusade of charity!

The documentation will show convincingly that during the period leading up to, during, and after the Second World War, the Vatican used its moral prestige, limited funds, and extraordinary network of contacts to work consistently for the protection of human life and human dignity.

The humanitarian work of ...

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