Did the Pope neglect Jews in the Holocaust? New evidence says no
Belgian Deacon Domenico Oversteyns presented evidence at a March 2 conference indicating that the pope ultimately provided direct assistance to two-thirds of the nearly 10,000 Jews in Rome while the Nazis were in power.
Titled “Píus XII: The Black Legend is at an end; New proofs and points of view,” Deacon Oversteyns’ presentation followed a 2014 conference where substantial new documentation was first revealed about Pius XII’s efforts to prevent persecution of Roman Jews during the Holocaust.
“We now possess new witnesses by Jews, new documents and records,” the deacon said.
Deacon Oversteyns is with the Spiritual Family L’Opera Catholic community of consecrated life. Through the years, he has collected witness statements and logged documents disproving the allegations against Pius XII in regard to Roman Jews during the Holocaust.
The March 2 conference took place at Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Saint Mary above Minerva), a major Dominican church in Rome, and was organized by the committee for Pius XII’s canonization. A writer for the Italian online newspaper Interris.it, which reported on the conference, moderated.
The former Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli served as pope from March 1939 to his October 1958 death. He has been the subject of controversy for decades from allegations ranging from his having been too cautious, that he didn’t do enough, or was even silent in response to the Holocaust.
Pius XII’s prospective canonization has been a topic of discussion between the Catholic Church and Jewish groups worldwide.
Pope St. John Paul II declared Pope Pius XII a Servant of God in 1990. Pope Benedict XVI originally chose to postpone Pius XII's cause for sainthood and encouraged waiting until related archives would be open for researchers in 2014. However, Pope Benedict changed his mind and declared Pius XII Venerable on December 19, 2009, based upon the recommendation of the committee investigating the canonization cause.
In 2014, Pope Francis announced that the cause for canonization had stalled because of a lack of reported miracles via Pius XII’s intercession.
Among Deacon Oversteyns’ findings were that by making an explicit request to Nazi General Rainer Stahel, Pius XII secured the release of 245 Jews on October 16, 1943, the day of the Roman razzia, or roundup. The razzia was the infamous mass deportation of the Jews from Rome to concentration camps, with 1,000-plus Jews deported from Rome that day.
Pope Pius XII intervened to save another 60 Jews before the June 1944 liberation of Rome, also according to Deacon Oversteyns’ new information. This was done through the pope’s “longa manus,” long arm, or intermediary, Father Pancratius Pfeiffer, superior general of the Society of the Divine Savior.
And the pope had tried unsuccessfully to intervene in the case of another 131 Jews, for a total of 110 explicit demands of liberation revealed at the March conference.
“This demonstrates the viciousness of the argument of those who say that Pius XII did nothing to save the Jews that were arrested,” the international online newspaper’s Salvatore Caporale wrote.
The deacon summarized that of 2,228 Jews captured by the Nazis during the occupation, 305 of the 345 who were ultimately freed were released as a result of the interventions of the pope and the Vatican, his article said.
Even before the Roma razzia, Pope Pius had helped some 500 Jews, Caporale reports, hosting them in convents, colleges or parishes, in the Vatican or in outside Vatican territories. And as of the date of Rome’s liberation, there were 4,112 Jews hidden in 235 convents and monasteries and 115 in the extraterritorial sees of the Vatican.
Spero News called the revelations regarding Pope Pius XII during World War II “new, shocking information.”
The outlet reported that the update from Deacon Oversteyns led researchers to increase the number of Jews in Rome known as being saved by Pius XII to 6,288. Furthermore, according to the report, 1,680 foreign Jews were assisted by economic support from the Vatican.
In all, Pope Pius XII directly assisted 63,04 percent of the Jews in Rome, or two-thirds the 9,975 Jews there during the Nazi years.
The conference results were presented to Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.