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April 18, 2013 - Image 49

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Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-04-18

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Commentary

Revealing The Truth In Vatican Stories Untold

W

hen the Rev. Martin Luther and Earth, with the prominent rabbi
all Semites," he said famously in
King Jr. envisioned a
Abraham Skorka. Skorka, for his part,
1938, after Mussolini began parroting
future in which "black men
praises the new pope as an open per-
Hitler's attacks on the Jews.
and white men, Jews and Gentiles,
son and a man of peace. Undoubtedly,
He had engaged an American Jesuit
Protestants and Catholics (would be)
that is true.
journalist, John LaFarge, to write
able to join hands," he
However, truth should not
an encyclical in defense of the Jews
also quoted the American
stand on a scaffold of stories
and attacking Hitler's mad campaign.
poet James Russell Lowell:
untold. Perhaps the greatest
LaFarge — who by the way eventually
"Truth forever on the scaf-
issue outstanding between
became a friend and ally of Martin
fold, Wrong forever on the
Jews and Catholics is the
Luther King — worked in secret to
throne, — Yet that scaf-
question of the Vatican's role
write that document that summer of
fold sways the future, and,
during World War II. To date,
1938. Once complete, he delivered the
behind the dim unknown."
the Vatican has not released
condemnation of Hitler to the Vatican.
My interpretation: A
all of its files from that peri-
Opponents within the Vatican — con-
solid future must be built
od. Will the new pope do so?
servatives, pro-Germans and anti-Sem-
on the reality of the past.
I have been studying this
ites among them — delayed delivery of
This is where we stand
issue for the last several
LaFarge's declaration to the pope. Pius
Peter Eisner
with a new pope in Rome,
years in the course of writing
XI, however, was already known to the
who has made extraor-
The Pope's Last Crusade. The
world for his outspoken stance.
dinary moves in a short time to
book is about a little-known pontiff,
"If pessimism is the dominant mode
join hands with Jews, Protestants,
Pius XI, who served
at the close of the year
Orthodox Christians, Muslims and the
between the wars,
1938," wrote Rabbi Israel
leaders of other religions. He wrote to
from 1922 to 1939
Goldstein, a founder
Rome's chief rabbi, Riccardo di Segni,
(not to be confused
of Brandeis University
saying that he "profoundly hopes
with his controversial
and later the head of
The p 0 PE'S
to be able to contribute to the pro-
successor, Pius XII).
the New York Board of
LAST CR USADE
gram that Jewish Catholic relations
The ailing Pius XI was How on American Jesuit Helped Pope P ius Campaign to Stop Hitler Rabbis, Pius XI brought
PETER E ISNER
have seen starting from the Second
desperately trying to
hope and was a hero for
sr of The Freedom Line • Read by
Adamson
Vatican Council."
rally world leaders to
his "valiant espousal of
When he was archbishop of Buenos
fight Hitler, Mussolini
human rights."
Aires, the pope, then Jose Mario
and anti-Semitism.
Hope died with this
Bergoglio, penned a book, On Heaven
"Spiritually, we are
pope on Feb.10,1939.
Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli became Pope
Pius XII and buried his predecessor's
planned declaration against Hitler in
a mountain of files. Those files remain
unopened to this moment at the
As lawmakers in Washington D.C. work on immigration
Vatican Secret Archives.
reform, would you support a bill that includes a "path to
Some people praise Pius XII, who
citizenship" for people who are in the country illegally?
undoubtedly protected thousands of
• " •
Jews in Italy and elsewhere during
❑ Yes. These people need a chance
Scan the OR code
to achieve their American dream.
the war. Others say that the Vatican's
with your smart
silence when faced with death camps
1 phone to take our
.■
is unconscionable.
❑ No. A path to citizenship
y survey, or logon to
rewards illegal behavior.
Under Pope John Paul II,
www.jewishnews.
an International Catholic-Jewish

com/survey.
Historical Commission convened

essm4;?..rr

Rick

JN Survey

in 1999 to examine such questions.
It disbanded a year later when
members said they had been
stonewalled by the Vatican in seeking
the answer to at least 47 questions
about the war period. Then in 2009,
still with the files closed, the now
pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, placed
Pius XII on a fast-track toward
becoming a saint.
And that brings us back to the new
pope, Francis I, who
has spoken of the
need for openness
and compassion. Can
he further friendship
and speak openly to
the world if he stands
on a platform of
truths untold?
Pope Francis
The Church faces
other challenges
as well, concerning, for example, its
position on contraception and on the
issue of celibacy for priests. No great-
er issue will be the airing of the child
abuse scandal that has challenged its
right to stand as a moral beacon for
Catholics and others.
However, one issue of the more dis-
tant past remains. Rabbi Skorka once
raised the question of the Holocaust
with his friend, then the archbishop,
who replied: "Let us continue search-
ing to reach the truth."
Skorka takes that to mean that
"yes, his attitude will be to search for
all of the details and to open all the
archives. He will use this opportunity
to learn the truth."
And the truth will set us free, as
Martin Luther King said. "Free at
last."



Peter Eisner is an award-winning author and

journalist, formerly with the Washington

Post, Newsday and the Associated Press.

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