How The Pope Affected The Holocaust

1970 words - 8 pages

Before judging one person on their action or inaction, you should first educate yourself on the facts of the situation. Although you might think you know all there is to know about a certain subject, there is always more to be learned. One person to consider with this is Pope Pius XII, The Vatican’s pope during the time of World War II and the Holocaust. Although he didn’t say much outwardly and publicly, he did do things behind the scenes to aid the Jews and attempt to better the circumstances. The Pope and the Vatican, being in a position of power, should have taken greater action during the Holocaust, but his reasons behind his inaction were good-willed and preventive.
Background
In order to understand Pope Pius XII’s reasons for his actions during the Holocaust we must first look at the apology submitted by the pope long after the war. Fifty five years after the Holocaust ended, Pope John Paul II quoted a public apology for the actions of the Catholic Church over the past 2000 years (PBS). People were unsatisfied by the Roman Catholic Church’s apology after the war because they felt it was not sincere enough (Kertzer). On March 12, 2000, Pope John Paul II stated: “(translated) We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant” (PBS). The pope did not directly reference the events of the Holocaust, but he did make somewhat of an effort to make amends.
Defending the church
Pius XII tried to protect the Catholic Church from being further persecuted by Hitler and the Nazis. Even though he was expected to attempt to protect the Jews, he had his Catholic congregation to care for. The Pope did not speak out against Hitler and his actions out of fear of what Hitler was capable of (Oates). He did not want there to be repercussions towards more Jews or a larger number of Catholics (Oates). The Vatican did not protest on behalf of the Jews because Jews were seen as enemies of Germany, and any support in their favor would be perceived as aggression (Lang). He feared physical attack on the Vatican or German occupation, and the ruin of Rome by the wartime powers (Lang). Although Pius XII was a man of high status who could’ve done more, his first priority was protecting the people of the church.
The Nazis also persecuted and diminished the rights of Catholics. Church residences were searched in major European and German cities; crucial files were seized (Blet, 52); eighty two Catholic schools were shut down (Blet, 52); anti-Catholic propaganda was printed in national-socialist party newspapers (Blet, 57); baptisms were declared illegal for children/young adults (Oates). Censorship of Catholic publications restrained the Church from fighting back (Blet, 57). Large amounts of Catholic priests and nuns also perished in the Holocaust (Kertzer). “It is estimated that in...

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