Catholic Church Without A Pope

A Profile Without Courage

Controversy, Historical significance, Turmoil, Transformation


Catholic Church Without A Pope

Catholic Church, is facing both controversy and historical significance, in a time of turmoil and transformation.  On this day, the 1st of March, 2013, the Church, is without a Pope.  Pope Benedict XVI resigned yesterday, amid an air of controversy and even disbelief.  It has been 600 years since a Pope resigned.

I set out to write an article about Papacy in the Catholic Church.  But with Pope Benedict having been the 265th, it would have to be a book.  So, I decided to focus on one of the most controversial, and one, who occupied the throne in my lifetime.

Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli became Pope Pius XII on March 2, 1939, and served until he died in 1958.  He succeeded, Pope Pius XI, and took his name in respect of his predecessor.  Only Italians have taken the name Pius.

In Conclave, the Cardinals were faced with choosing a pope for spirituality, or one who was a diplomat.  After only one day and three votes Pacelli was selected because of his diplomatic relations with Germany.

Elected on the eve of World War II, many Polish Catholics, described the Pope’s failure to denounce Germany, for the invasion of their country, a “betrayal”.

After Germany invaded the Low Countries during 1940, Pope Pius XII sent expressions of sympathy to the, Queen of the Netherlands, the King of Belgium, and the, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg.  Benito Mussolini, took this as an affront to his German allies.  Mussolini’s foreign minister claimed that, Pope Pius XII, was “ready to let himself be deported to a concentration camp, rather than do anything against his conscience.”

Although, Pope Pius XII, protested against the deportation of Jews from France and other countries, and condemned anti-Semitism, he insisted the Church continue a policy of neutrality.

When 80,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps, Pope Pius XII wrote a letter condemning the atrocity, but took no further action.

On  September 18, 1942, Pope Pius XII received a letter from Monsignor Montini (future Pope Paul VI), saying, “the massacres of the Jews has reached frightening proportions and forms.”  Later that month, Myron Taylor, U.S. representative to the Vatican, warned Pope Pius XII, that the Vatican’s “moral prestige” was being injured by being silent on the European atrocities, a warning which was echoed simultaneously by representatives from the United Kingdom, Brazil, Uruguay, Belgium, and Poland.  The Cardinal Secretary of State replied that, the rumors about genocide could not be verified.  In December 1942, when Tittman asked Cardinal Secretary of State Maglione if Pope Pius XII would issue a proclamation, similar to the Allied declaration “German Policy of Extermination of the Jewish Race”, Maglione replied that the Vatican was “unable to denounce publicly of particular atrocities”, Pope  Pius XII directly explained to Tittman that he could not name the Nazis, without, at the same time mentioning the Bolsheviks.

Pope Pius XII refused to publicly condemn the Nazi massacre of 1,800,000–1,900,000 Poles, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic (including 2,935 members of the Catholic clergy).  He also failed to condemn 1,000,000 Poles slaughtered by the Soviet Union.

In January 1943, Pope Pius XII declined to publicly denounce the Nazi discrimination against Jews, following requests to do so from, Władysław Raczkiewicz, president of the Polish government-in-exile, and Bishop Konrad von Preysing of Berlin.

When Jews were targeted in Rome, some were hidden in the Vatican, but  German diplomats in Rome, were the “initiators of the effort to save the city’s Jews”, but Pope Pius XII, “cooperated in this attempt at rescue”, while noting that the pope “did not give orders” for any Roman Catholic institution to hide Jews.”

Although Pope Pius XII ordered pastors throughout Europe to “hide Jews”, he never formally recognized the holocaust, or condemned the Nazi effort to exterminate a race of people.

As with all deceased Popes, Pope Pius XII was considered for canonization.  Instead he was declared “Venerable”.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean at the Simon Wiesenthal Center said, “…there would be a great distortion of history” if Pope Pius XII were canonized, Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, the head of Sydney’s Great Synagogue, said: “How can one venerate a man who… seemed to give his passive permission to the Nazis as the Jews were prised from his doorstep in Rome?”

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express