It is said that if an untruth circulates long enough it will eventually be taken as truth. I was saddened, therefore, to read “Hitler’s Pope” in a Scotsman headline reporting the Holy See’s recent decision to open up Vatican wartime archives relating to Pius XII and the Jews (your report, 1 December).
While the report itself was balanced in content, the headline was misleading, incorporating, as it did, the aforementioned title of John Cornwell’s long-discredited book, which in turn was based on the seriously flawed revisionist works that followed on from Rolf Hochhuth’s 1960s German play, The Deputy.
The truth about Pius XII has always been there for historians who wish to review his wartime pontificate with an objective mind. It is the truth of the universal gratitude expressed by Pius’s Jewish contemporaries, the world’s leading Jewish figures and organisations upon the death of the Pontiff in 1958.
One such leading figure was the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, who was so touched by the pope’s efforts on behalf of his persecuted people that he converted to Catholicism and took the Christian name Eugenio in honour of Pius.
That this post-war global Jewish testimony is now called into question by a minority of zealots, whose real agenda is to discredit the Catholic Church, is as dishonouring to the Jews who perished under the Nazis as it is to the pope who did his best to save as many as he could in the tragic circumstances.
If Pius XII is to be adjudged today as having made mistakes, then let us at least accord him the irrefutable grace of having erred with the noblest of intentions.
He was, after all, a fallible human being faced with the unenviable task of countering the evil regime of an atheistic madman.
Better to have acted and made mistakes than not to have acted at all, as in the puzzling case of the silent authorities of the allied nations. Perhaps after 70 years it is time to move on from Pius XII and the Shoah to consider more recent atrocities that have resulted in the destabilisation of the Middle East and the rise of IS. For those who may not have noticed, there is a Christian holocaust going on there right now.
You quote Pope Francis as saying anent the Holocaust: “When you interpret history, you need to do so from the way of thinking of the time in question. I can’t judge historical events in modern-day terms.”
Can he assure us he will adopt that approach, but coupled with a modern-day Christian perspective of course, when he instructs his compatriots and their government that they have no valid claim whatsoever to the Falkland Islands?