By Msgr. Pedro Lopez-Gallo
For five years after his death Pope Pius XII was reputed to be one of the most intelligent Popes in the history of the Church. His career as a Holy See diplomat and his command of several languages were appreciated by everyone, and his encyclicals, which included Mystici Corporis Christi (1943), and Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943), were admired and studied in all Catholic universities.
He had been responsible for 33 canonizations, perhaps the most spectacular of which was that of St. Pius X, since no Pope had been elevated to the altar since Pope St. Pius V, who died in 1572. Pius XII had also proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We, in Rome, always considered him a true saint.
Then, suddenly, scandal! Performances of Rolf Hochhuth's Der Stellvertreter (The Vicar) were staged simultaneously in 1963 in Berlin, London, New York, and Paris. A real contrived conspiracy! The play condemned the Pope as a criminal for his silence about Hitler's plan to exterminate the Jews.
Interestingly the year 1963 was also the year John Kennedy was assassinated, the year of the invention of the birth control pill and the birth of the sickness that became sex, drugs, rock 'n roll and the turning of the baby boomers into 18 year old adults. It was also the first full year of the Second Vatican Council, first convened in October of 1962.
In substance, here is the narrative [of The Deputy]: a Jesuit, Father Fontana, comes to know, through an SS officer of the Reich, that Hitler has decided to slaughter the Jews. Father Fontana goes to Rome to urge the Pope to reveal Hitler's intention to the world. Pope Pius XII refuses. Frustrated, Father Fontana pins on his cassock the yellow star, the symbol that all Jews were obliged to wear, and he is deported to Auschwitz to be gassed.
Very concerned, I questioned my mentor, Cardinal Eugene Tisserant, about this huge scandal. I was serving as his secretary at that time. The following is a summary of the notes I have kept. The cardinal told me that he himself had advised the Pope not to intervene: "Your Holiness, you have already worked so hard to edit the encyclical of your predecessor, Pope Pius XI, Mit brennender Sorge (With burning concern), which spoke out against Germany's National Socialism and Racism and which was read from all German Catholic pulpits on Palm Sunday, 1937, two years before the outbreak of the war.
"Hitler was already preparing to attack Poland, but the encyclical did not stop his apocalyptic madness then. We are now at war and his reaction now will be disastrous. Hitler has no respect for Your Holiness and you cannot stop him. On the contrary, you will move him to exterminate Catholics as well. If you ask the advice of the German bishops, I am sure they will implore you to stay away."
Only one or two of his advisers urged the Pope to denounce Hitler's intention.
The cardinal continued, "I also repeated this same advice some years later, when President Roosevelt of the U.S., through his personal representative, Myron Taylor, informed the Pope of the extermination of the Jews. I advised the Holy Father to tell President Roosevelt that he was in a better position to negotiate with such a dictator, as the commander-in-chief of the American forces would have more impact than the Vatican, which has, literally, no army."
Cardinal Tisserant, who was well-versed in 13 languages and familiar with oriental religions, drew several parallels between Hitler and fanatical Muslims who felt directed to dominate the world by violence, destruction, and jihads (holy wars), especially against Christians and Jews.
For instance, Muslim tradition says that Muhammad's wife, Khadidja, played an influential role in his religious teachings. When the Muslim Prophet retreated to an isolated mountain to meditate, she accompanied him and encouraged him to "hear the voice of Allah" who wanted him to be his prophet and put down his guidelines for world dominance in the Koran.
Hitler, while writing Mein Kampf in prison, was advised by Rudolf Hess, who was born in Egypt and schooled in the principles of intolerance preached in Islamic warfare. In his book Hitler exalts the superiority of the Aryan race that must conquer the world by Teutonic strength. "So acted the Arab sovereigns, and Hitler wanted to be a prophet for his people" (Rauschning, Hitler m'a dit, p. 272).
Cardinal Tisserant's views on the fanaticism of Hitler and Muhammad were published in the newspaper La Croix in January 1940. His warning now seems appropriate, considering the terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001; the jihad of Osama bin Laden; and the training of the Taliban.
Incidentally, the Arabic word Taliban is similar in meaning to our words sacristan and altar server; the movement indoctrinates young children that it is an honour to offer themselves for suicidal missions in religious wars. The destruction of countless innocent lives assures them entry into heaven!
Religious leaders can have some influence on secular leaders, provided they do not interfere with their plans. We know today how long and hard the Dalai Lama has struggled to obtain independence for Tibet.China has answered by sending in armed cars and arresting the protesters. Beijing's brutality and torture has violated human rights even while attempting to create a better image of themselves in the eyes of the world by the Olympic Games. B.C. Catholic