Cornwell's Book on Pius XII Still Draws Criticism

Italian Historian Takes Issue with British Author

ROME, SEPT. 25, 2000 ( As soon as John Cornwell's book on Pius XII, «Hitler's Pope,» went on sale in Italy, it came under attack from a historian.

Emma Fattorini, professor of contemporary history at Rome's La Sapienza University, said she would file a complaint against the British author.

Cornwell's book was already denounced by L'Osservatore Romano last year. In his book, Cornwell states that he discovered an unpublished 1919 document which he claimed were proof of future pope Eugenio Pacelli's anti-Semitism. Cornwell referred to the document as a «time bomb,» concealed by the Vatican.

In fact, L'Osservatore Romano pointed out that the document, which Cornwell quotes in several instances out of context, had already been published in Italy earlier years earlier, in a book written by Fattorini entitled, «Germany and the Holy See: The Pacelli Nunciature between the Great War and the Weimar Republic.»

Fattorini said that «they had only just opened to scholars the archives of the Vatican Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs relating to the 1917-1922 period, which conserved nuncio Pacelli's correspondence. I was one of the first to consult it, and was able to reproduce it in my book.»

The document, dated April 18, 1919, is a letter that refers to a meeting of the nunciature's auditor with someone called Levin, who was then «head of the Republic of Councils of Munich.» The auditor described Levin as «Russian and Jewish, pale, dirty, with expressionless eyes,» who could only be seen by obtaining a pass from his lover who was «a young Russian, Jewish, divorced woman, who gave orders as though she was in charge.»

This letter was used by Cornwell to accuse Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, of fostering «stereotyped, racial contempt» for Jews.

In fact, Fattorini clarifies, it was not Pacelli who gave that description, but the auditor of the nunciature. Moreover, Pacelli's stance during those years is not revealed within that letter, she said.

Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel, relator of the cause of beatification of Pope Pius XII, added that «the meeting with the leaders of the Communist revolution took place and Bishop Schioppa, Pacelli's envoy, wrote a report, which Pacelli signed and sent to the Secretariat of State. This was the letter of April 18, 1919. The latter has a detailed description of the dirty deals and behavior of the Communist leaders, and what is written there is amply confirmed by contemporary sources, including that of a commander of these hordes who later admitted the facts spontaneously.»

«It is true that this document refers to some Jewish leaders,» Father Gumpel said, «but what is said in a negative vein . refers to individual persons and never to Jews in general. I have shown this document to several of my Jewish friends, some of whom are university professors like me.

«Their answer was that they were ashamed of such behavior on the part of some Jews, whom they described as 'terrorists and gangsters'; they denied that the said document had general affirmations on the Jews, and regarded as absurd the affirmation that Pacelli both then and on other occasions, would have posited the equation 'Jew equals Communist.'»

Among Cornwell's claims, he maintains that a group of conservatives in the Vatican have blocked the cause of beatification of John XXIII, while they accelerate that of Pope Pius XII.

John XXIII was beatified Sept. 3.

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av Webmaster publisert 27.09.2000, sist endret 27.09.2000 - 19:45