Pius XII…remembering his legacy to preserve all human life!


Since the death of Pope Pius XII there have been remarkable changes in the Catholic Church in terms of its relationship to the Jewish People of God. The modifications to the Roman Liturgy for the prayers on Good Friday are especially remarkable in their newfound appreciation for the Jewish people and faith as an essential link to the unfolding of salvation history through the manifestations of the great prophets of the Old Testament up to and including the Incarnational manifestation of the Word in the historical and physical manifestation of Jesus Christ. For critics of Pope Pius XII to continue to insist his pontificate was silent during the period of the Jewish persecutions by the National Socialist movement of the Second World War again marks the inability of Jewish and Gentiles to understand the sensitive position Pius XII negotiated during this period. In addition to concern for the plight of Europe’s Jewish community, the Holy See during the Second World War had an obligation of overwhelming responsibility for all of the Catholics in Europe that were part of the systematic persecution of established religion as well.
Hundreds of Catholics Bishops, Priest and Religious of all communities, along with Catholic faithful people suffered along with the religious atrocities committed against the Catholic faith as well as Judaism. While not as obvious as the NAZI plan of subjugation and eradication of the Jewish people, Catholicism and all of its principles and moral and ethical foundations were also targeted as part of the new German Reich of National Socialism.
The fact that Pope Pius XII was able to involve the Catholic Church in diplomatic and humanitarian efforts to save migrant Jews without unleashing the full force of NAZI military retaliation against the Catholic Church is itself a remarkable accomplishment of his pre-pontificate efforts as Nuncio to Germany and his efforts as Pope.
Additionally, we look today in historical hindsight on the actions of the Catholic Church in regards to its activities during the Second World War in much the same manner as armchair quarterbacks on a Monday morning after a Superbowl. It is always miraculously simple to make suggestions and recommendations for the loosing team’s strategy with historical evidence and in the case of American football…the instant replay. However, Pius XII was not engaged in a post-WWII analysis of the implications of the Church’s activities or inactivity. He acted in the manner best suited to preserve all human lives that were endangered in Europe and indeed the world during war. The Jewish persecutions were indeed part of his humanitarian aide in assisting a persecuted European society that was being destroyed by NAZI injustices and cruel indignities against the human person. Pius XII also had to assist not only the Jewish expatriates of Germany, but safeguard thousands of Catholics that were also drawn into the chaotic and systematic military destruction of modern society by Adolf Hitler’s legions of committed soldiers and political allies.
Today recalls the death of Pius XII. In recalling his death, the heroic virtues of his life and pontificate should also be recalled, not as a Jewish or Gentile subject, rather a subject common to all in a persecuted society. Namely the preservation and protection of all human life and freedoms. Untold injustices were committed against millions of human beings in NAZI occupied Europe; their religious faith had nothing to do with the associated atrocities. Everything including all attempts to rescue these afflicted peoples had to do with their common humanity. Pius XII attempted in the best manner he had available to save and preserve human existence during the Second World War. For his efforts and results he deserves adulation from both the Jewish Community of Faith and the global community as well.
Whenever the subject of Pius XII is mentioned, the cause for his beatification and sainthood is always included in the discussion. As contemporary Catholics we should always consider the fact that Pius XII lived, worked and prayed in the context of a world that was involved in a social, and political global upheaval. As a Pope his actions should be considered in light of not only his own humanity, but also in the context of the global warfare that was unfolding against all of humanity in the fight between good and evil during the Second World War. For some, he was a saint, for others he was not. However, he was like all of us a fallible and fragile human being that was trying to help mankind regardless of their faith to endure the untold injustices of war.
Pius XII is indeed an example of Catholic strength against adversity because of his faithful adherence and beliefs in the power of a loving God to comfort and assist His people. Hopefully soon, he will be raised to the dignity of the altars and recognized not just for the assistance he seemingly did not publically offer to European Jews. Hopefully he will be recognized for the Catholic charitable assistance he did negotiate and provide in quiet humility and in diplomatic secrecy to preserve human lives and dignities throughout a world shattered by a devastating war that engulfed Jews and Christians together.
Pius XII, ora pro nobis!

Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist that writes on Catholic topics and issues. Hugh studied both philosophy and theology at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He writes daily at: http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com & http://catholicsacredarts.com & http://pewsitter.com

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