A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH
More Testimonies Defend Pius XII
Corroborate Cardinal Bertone's Citation of '43 Letter
ROME, 25 APRIL 2007 (ZENIT)
Many past testimonies support Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's announcement that Pope Pius XII signed a letter in 1943 asking religious institutes to open their doors to persecuted Jews.
That wartime letter undercuts the theory that bishops, religious and many Catholics who risked their lives to save Jews from extermination did so without the Pope's knowledge.
Even before Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone's statement, many testimonies had been published corroborating the information.
According to these testimonies, some of which ZENIT is summarizing here, the assistance project organized by the Catholic Church to save persecuted Jews was directly ordered by Pius XII.
Monsignor Aldo Brunacci, the canon of Assisi, said in various interviews that "on the third Thursday of September 1943, after the usual monthly reunion of the clergy that had taken up residence in the diocesan seminary, the bishop called me aside to the room in front of the chapel and showed me a letter from the secretary of state and told me: 'We must get organized to come to the aid of all the persecuted people and especially the Jews. This is the will of the Holy Father Pius XII. This all must be done with the greatest caution and prudence. Nobody, not even the priests, must know about this.'"
Monsignor Brunacci added that he saw the letter sent by the Vatican Secretariat of State.
The monsignor and Bishop Giuseppe Placido Nicolini of Assisi were recognized as "Righteous Among the Nations" by the Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to Holocaust victims.
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The testimony of Emilio Viterbi of the University of Padua, a Jewish refugee in Assisi, was released on Jan. 6, 1947. It confirms Pius XII's involvement in the rescue of Jews by religious institutes.
In the 1990s, on the occasion of Bishop Nicolini's 70th birthday, Viterbi said that many episodes "could be mentioned to illustrate the tireless and holy humanitarian actions that the Assisi clergy did for the persecuted Jews under the noble guidance of Bishop Placido Nicolini, who with the greatest love and highest zeal had thus followed the philanthropic will of the Holy Father."
Viterbi added: "During the last period of German occupation, his diocese had become an asylum for many refugees and persecuted persons. Nonetheless when I went to him to ask him, in a case of extreme need, if they could welcome me with my family, he — with great simplicity and a loving smile — answered: 'Only my bedroom and my study are free, however, I can sleep in the latter. The bedroom is available for you.'"
The dear refugees
A similar story is told by Sister Ferdinanda Corsetti of the Institute of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambéry in Rome. The religious revealed that "it was the Holy Father, Pius XII, who ordered us to open our doors to all the persecuted. If we hadn't received the order from the Pope, it would have been impossible to save so many people."
On March 17, 1998, Sister Ferdinanda was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by the Israeli Embassy in Rome, for having contributed in saving so many Jews during the Nazi occupation of Rome.
On that occasion, to confirm Pius XII's intentions, Sister Ferdinanda displayed a letter from the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Luigi Maglione, sent to the Mother Superior on Jan. 17, 1944.
In the letter, the secretary of state, on behalf of Pius XII and in reference to the many Jews hidden at the institute, wrote that he wished for "these chosen sons and daughters such ineffable recompense from divine mercy, so that, shortening the days of such great suffering, the Lord may grant them a serene, tranquil and prosperous future."
The letter continued: "In the meantime, as a particular sign of benevolence, His Holiness, grateful to those beloved sisters of St. Joseph of Chambéry for the work of mercy they do with such Christian understanding, sends them and the dear refugees the comforting apostolic blessing."
Sister Maria Piromalli, of the Institute Pius X in Rome, told how the Vatican secretary of state was in direct contact with the convents hiding the Jews.
Her institute, managed by the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, hid 44 Jewish men and women.
Sister Maria recalled that Pius XII "sent an appeal to all the religious institutes in Rome to help the Jews" and added that Don Emilio Rossi alerted her institute.
In the Vatican secret archives published in 2004 — "Inter Arma Caritas. The Vatican Information Office on Prisoners of War, Instituted by Pius XII (1939-1947)" — Don Emilio Rossi is listed as the secretary of the Information Office for Prisoners of War, under the Secretariat of State, that is, the office that dealt with matters related to helping the Jews. ZE07042510
This article has been selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch
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