American Jewish Rabbi to Italians: Pius XII a Righteous Gentile

by John Drogin

RIMINI, Italy, August 23, 2001 - American Rabbi David Dalin proclaimed Pius XII a "great friend of Jews" and one of the "righteous among the gentiles" at a meeting last night attended by thousands of Italians in the resort town of Rimini.

Dalin, who lives in West Hartford, Connecticut, made the comments during a panel discussion at the annual "Rimini Meeting" sponsored by the lay Catholic movement "Communion and Liberation."

Pius XII "is a great friend of Jews," Dalin said, "and merits to be called 'Righteous among the Nations.' He saved many of my 'brothers', more than Schindler... At least 800,000 according to some statistics."

The venue for the week-long meeting is the steamy resort town of Rimini, on the Adriatic coast just south of Venice. Dalin, along with the Italian Senator Giulio Andreotti, answered questions posed by host Andrea Tornielli, an Italian journalist who wrote a book entitled "Pius XII: The Pope of the Jews." Some 5,000 people, mostly Italians, gathered under the sweltering-hot circus tent, while thousands more gathered around the outsides of the tent.

The majority of the crowd outside listened to the hidden rabbi's words with great intensity, surprised to hear what had not been said publicly in Italy since shortly after World War II ended in 1945. "We haven't heard any of what you said in at least 50 years," burst out Thomaso Toschi, a professor at the University of Bologna, after the presentation, "and we are all in complete agreement with you." Indeed, many others in the crowd said they felt the same way. To hear Papa Pacelli (Pius XII's name before he became Pope was Eugenio Pacelli) defended so actively for his wartime activity, and from the lips of a Jew, was something many in the crowd thought would never be possible in their lifetimes.

The words were also heard across the country as at least three Italian radio stations, including Vatican Radio, transmitted the discussion live.

Andreotti recalled a Jew who had been positive about Pius XII, but who has not been around in the last 50 years to defend him. "After the war, the chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, went to pay homage to the Pope; Zolli converted and took the name Eugenio." He also said: "Pius XII was very firm against the onslaught of Communism." The comment received loud audience approval.

Dalin, the author of a landmark article entitled "Pius XII and the Jews", originally published in America in the "Weekly Standard" magazine, and reprinted in the most recent issue of "Inside the Vatican" (August-September, 2001) responded to a hypothetical question posed by Tornielli regarding whether the Pope should have formally excommunicated Adolf Hitler.

"First of all, it would have been a merely symbolic act, seeing that when one commits such sins he is automatically excommunicated," Dalin replied. "Secondly, it would not have prevented or stopped the Holocaust, but rather made it much worse.

The American rabbi pointed out that the ex-chief rabbi of Denmark said he could testify that had the Church formally excommunicated Hitler, he would have killed many more Jews. Dalin then posed a question: "What could be worse than the death of six million Jews? The slaughter of thousands and millions more Jewish lives."

Inside The Vatican
23. august 2001

av Webmaster publisert 24.08.2001, sist endret 24.08.2001 - 13:12