New eyewitness evidence that Pope Pius XII acted to protect Jews in war-time Italy

Inside the Vatican News February 2 2004

New Evidence on Pope Pius XII

Robert Moynihan and Delia Gallagher

Exclusive to ITV: New eyewitness evidence that Pope Pius XII acted to protect Jews in war-time Italy

Famous Priest-Rescuer Praises Pius XII, Rebuts Anti-Pius Scholars

Don Aldo Brunacci, a priest-rescuer from Assisi honored by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentile for his life-saving efforts on behalf of at least 250 persecuted Jews, has publicly spoken out in strong support of Pope Pius XII, and directly responded to the campaign against him.

In an interview published in the January issue of "Inside the Vatican", entitled, "The Secret Letter," Brunacci, now 90, describes the day that his bishop, Giuseppe Nicolini (the ordinary of Assisi during the war years), called him into his office to describe a letter he had received from the Secretariat of State on behalf of the Holy Father: "He (Nicolini) said he had received the letter from Rome, and he read what it said--that the Holy Father wanted us to to see to it in our diocese that something would be done to ensure the safety of the Jews...."

In her controversial book, "Under His Very Windows" (Yale University Press: New Haven, 2000), which has been heavily criticized by historians, Susan Zuccotti maintains that Catholic rescue in Italy was accomplished without the direct support of Pius XII, who allegedly did "little or nothing" for the persecuted Jews. She recounts Don Aldo's testimony about Bishop Nicolini and the letter, but suggests, without evidence, that Nicolini may have lied to Brunacci: "Nicolini may have considered it useful to make his assistants believe that they were doing the pope's work.... it is not likely that the paper in Nicolini's hand said what he, Nicolini, implied that it did" ("Under His Very Windows", p. 264).

Asked by "Inside the Vatican" about Zuccotti's speculation, and if "it might be possible that the letter was not what Bishop Nicolini told you it was, that he was in some way deceiving you?", Don Aldo responded emphatically: "Impossible, impossible.... It is not possible that Bishop Nicolini was deceiving me. I am certain of that.... Zuccotti doubts that Pius XII could have issued such an order because she is persuaded by the campaign launched against Pius in 1963. But that campaign has been filled with slanders and calumnies. Stll, Signora Zuccotti is persuaded by it, and so cannot accept that this letter was sent out, and she has to invent the story that the bishop deceived me to explain it away. But the letter was sent out. I saw it with my own eyes, in my bishop's hands, as he read it to me. It was a letter from the Vatican asking the bishop to take measures to help protect the Jews. And we took those measures.

"Don't take Zuccotti too seriously. She cites the book "The Assisi Underground" [by Alexander Ramati, later made into a movie] which is just a tissue of lies from start to finish. But she accepts it and cites it as a reliable source."

Brunacci credited Pius for the large number of Roman Jews (85 percent) saved during the German occupation, and predicted even more evidence will be found in the future: "This same order went out to many other dioceses in Italy. I have spoken with many historians, and they tell me that these letters were sent out and I think they will emerge in the coming years. I think many new documents will appear in the future, especially from the papers of Montini [Giovanni Battista Montini, Pius XII's wartime assistant, and the future Pope Paul VI]. The work of Pope Pius XII was a majestic work, a work of deeds, not of words."

The priest-rescuer concluded with a fond recollection of the liberation of Rome (June 4-5, 1944), when hundreds of thousands of people came out to cheer the pontiff for his tireless and courageous protection of the city and its inhabitants during the German occupation: "I saw St. Peter's Square and the Via della Conciliazione fill up with crowds who had come to thank Pius XII. There were many Jews among them!"

Inside the Vatican
2. februar 2004

av Webmaster publisert 03.02.2004, sist endret 03.02.2004 - 10:08