60 år siden pavens utfordring mot Hitler

Papal Message of August 24, 1939 Against World War

ROME, AUG 20 (ZENIT).- "Nothing is lost with peace; everything can be lost with war," were the words Pope Pius XII wrote on August 24, 1936 in an effort to stop Hitler's army from invading Poland, the cause of the Second World War.

Eugenio Pacelli was elected Pope on March 2, 1939, at a time of great tension among European states, which were preparing for war. The Pope was very knowledgeable on the political state of the world; for ten years he had been Pius XI's Secretary of State. From the very beginning of his pontificate, he redoubled his efforts to reconcile the countries and avoid incidents that could unleash a world conflict. But, sadly, the political situation reached critical proportions. Following Germany's occupation of Bohemia and Moravia, and Italy on April 7, Hitler was disputing with Albania over Gdansk and the so-called Polish corridor. These incidents led England and France to commit themselves to defend Poland's independence, as well as that of Greece and Rumania. President Roosevelt's sent Hitler and Mussolini a peace proposal on April 14, but it was rejected with harsh irony by the Führer who, in a speech on April 28, made even greater claims on Poland.

Last Attempt It was at this point that Pius XII took the initiative to convince Germany, Italy, France, Great Britain and Poland to come to an agreement without recourse to arms. From May 4-10, the Vatican Nuncios took the first steps, with the governments in question, to see if they would negotiate. But the response was negative, and international tension increased.

Pius XII explained the nature of the diplomatic initiative during an address to Cardinals on June 2; he said he would continue his efforts in favor of peace. The Holy See's strategy was to exert pressure on Mussolini, as there was virtually no chance of influencing Nazi Germany. The government of the Third Reich was far too convinced of its superiority and independence, and would not seek help from anyone, especially the Holy See.

Persecution of Church and Pope Germany had experienced tremendous attacks on religious institutions and Catholic schools. Spectacular prosecutions were dreamt up against ecclesiastical personnel, and an unscrupulous, scandalous press campaign was launched against the Pontiff himself. Nazi hatred against Pius XII was well known. When he was elected Pope, the whole world reacted positively except the German government. The Nazi press accused him of being anti-German, and the International Communist newspaper called him a relentless opponent of Hitler.

In spite of the Holy See's efforts, the situation deteriorated. On August 23, the Wehrmacht's High Command decided to attack Poland at 4:50 a.m. on August 26. On the night of August 23-24, Ribbentrop and Molotov signed the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, which included Poland's partition between German and the Soviet Union. Thus, forgetting ideological differences, the Nazi and Communist governments were united in a common objective. While German troops gathered on the Polish border, at 7 p.m. on August 24 Pius XII sent a radio-message from Castelgandolfo calling Hitler to negotiation and peace.

"At present, in spite of Our repeated exhortations and Our special interest, the fears of a bloody international conflict are ever more tormenting. Today, when the tension of spirits has reached a level that makes the unleashing of the tremendous whirlwind of war imminent, in a spirit of paternity we make a new and heartfelt appeal to governments and peoples: to the first so that, laying aside accusations, threats, and the reasons for reciprocal mistrust, they try to resolve present differences through the only suitable means, that is, loyal, joint agreements. To the peoples so that in calm and serenity, and devoid of uncontrolled agitation, they will encourage efforts for peace on the part of their leaders," Pius XII pleaded.

He concluded: "Along with us, the whole of humanity hopes for justice, bread and freedom, instead of iron that kills and destroys."

The radio-message took the world by surprise. President Franklin D. Roosevelt also sent a message calling the contenders to peace. On August 25, Great Britain signed a defense pact with Poland. This peace offensive took Hitler by surprise; he revoked the order to attack Poland. However, the attack took place at 4:45 a.m. on September 1, 1939. Having failed in the possibility of a peace conference, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany on September 3.

In spite of the Holy See's efforts, war broke out and spread throughout Europe, but Pius XII did not weaken in his resolve to reach peace at the earliest possible date. On August 22, 1940 he wrote the American President: "In spite of the fact that the horrors of war are increasing, and our sorrow grows deeper with the passing days, We want to renew our efforts and prayers in order to find the practical means for a rich and lasting peace, which will free men from the harsh nightmare of unrest and constant uncertainty," Pius XII concluded in hope. ZE99082003


av Webmaster publisert 13.10.1999, sist endret 13.10.1999 - 11:56