Three Popes and the Jews

Last updated

Three Popes and the Jews is a 1967 book by Pinchas Lapide, a former Israeli Consul to Milan, who at the time of publication was a deputy editor in the Israeli Prime Ministers press office. [1] The "three popes" are Pope Pius XII (1939-1958), Pope John XXIII (1958-1963), and Pope Paul VI (1963-1978).

Pinchas Lapide Israeli academic and diplomat

Pinchas Lapide was a Jewish theologian and Israeli historian. He was an Israeli diplomat from 1951 to 1969, among other position acting as Israeli Consul to Milan, and was instrumental in gaining recognition for the young state of Israel. He wrote more than 35 books during his lifetime. Pinchas Lapide was married to Ruth Lapide with whom he shared his interests and endeavors.

Pope Pius XII 260th Pope of the Catholic Church

Pope Pius XII, born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli, was head of the Catholic Church from 2 March 1939 to his death. Before his election to the papacy, he served as secretary of the Department of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, papal nuncio to Germany, and Cardinal Secretary of State, in which capacity he worked to conclude treaties with European and Latin American nations, most notably the Reichskonkordat with Nazi Germany.

Pope John XXIII 261st Pope of the Catholic Church

Pope John XXIII was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 28 October 1958 to his death in 1963; he was canonized on 27 April 2014. Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was the fourth of fourteen children born to a family of sharecroppers who lived in a village in Lombardy. He was ordained to the priesthood on 10 August 1904 and served in a number of posts, as nuncio in France and a delegate to Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. In a consistory on 12 January 1953 Pope Pius XII made Roncalli a cardinal as the Cardinal-Priest of Santa Prisca in addition to naming him as the Patriarch of Venice.



The Catholic Herald in its review of the book observed, "The intentions of Mr. Lapide, deputy editor of the Prime Minister's press office in Israel and a pioneer of inter-faith relations, are so excellent that the reviewer finds it embarrassing to point out mistakes. These cast some doubt on the accuracy of the facts and figures of the rescue operations given later in great detail." [2] The Roman Catholic periodical The Tablet observed "Embarrassed enquirers into the alleged "guilty silence" of the papacy over the Nazi extermination of the Jews have had to wait rather long for a comprehensive, well-documented and almost unreserved vindication." [3]

<i>The Catholic Herald</i> newspaper

The Catholic Herald is a London-based Roman Catholic weekly newspaper and starting December 2014 a magazine, published in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and the United States. It reports a total circulation of about 21,000 copies distributed to Roman Catholic parishes, wholesale outlets, and postal subscribers.

Rabbi David G. Dalin in The Myth of Hitler's Pope calls the book "meticulously researched and comprehensive" as well as "the definitive work by a Jewish scholar on the subject". [4]

David G. Dalin is an American rabbi and historian, and the author, co-author, or editor of twelve books on American Jewish history and politics, and Jewish-Christian relations.

<i>The Myth of Hitlers Pope</i> book by David G. Dalin

The Myth of Hitler's Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis is a 2005 book by American historian and Rabbi David G. Dalin. It was published by Regnery Publishing.

Holocaust historian Dr. Susan Zuccotti calls the work "consistently erroneous" [5] as well as "replete with egregious mistakes and distortions". [6] Lapide's work makes many claims to which he himself claims to have been the witness, but also makes other claims, generally without citing sources. [5] One of Lapide's main goals as Consul to Milan was Vatican recognition of the State of Israel, and Zuccotti assesses that "memories of past commissions and omissions were readily sacrificed to the goal of constructing a better future". [7]

Susan Sessions Zuccotti is an American historian, specializing in studies of the Holocaust. She holds a PhD in Modern European History from Columbia University. She has won a National Jewish Book Award for Holocaust Studies, and the Premio Acqui Storia – Primo Lavoro for Italians and the Holocaust (1987). She also received a National Jewish Book Award for Jewish-Christian Relations, and the Sybil Halpern Milton Memorial Prize of the German Studies Association in 2002 for Under His Very Windows (2000). She was married to real estate developer John Zuccotti until his death in 2015.

Holy See–Israel relations

Holy See–Israel relations deals with the diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel. Formal diplomatic relations between the two states were established in 1993 after the adoption of the Fundamental Accord by the two States on 30 December 1993. A Vatican Nunciature in Israel and an Israeli embassy in Rome were established on 19 January 1994. From the Vatican's point of view, the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two states is part of the Christian–Jewish reconciliation; and from the Israeli point of view, the normalisation of diplomatic relations. Prior to the establishment of diplomatic relations, the interests of the Catholic Church in Israel were looked after by the Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Custodian of the Holy Land, all of which continue to function.

John Cornwell states that Three Popes is a "formidable and scholarly riposte to those who would paint Pius XII and the Holy See as villains but it carried the taint of diplomatic self-interest". [8] For example, the book ends with an alleged quotation from "Papa Roncalli" to Maurice Fisher, the Israeli ambassador in Rome, that "I would recognize the State of Israel here and now". [8]

John Cornwell is a British journalist, author, and academic. Since 1990 he has directed the Science and Human Dimension Project at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he is also, since 2009, Founder and Director of the Rustat Conferences. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters in 2011. He was nominated for the PEN/Ackerley Prize for best UK memoir 2007 and shortlisted Specialist Journalist of the Year, British Press Awards 2006. He won the Scientific and Medical Network Book of the Year Award for Hitler's Scientists, 2005; and received the Independent Television Authority-Tablet Award for contributions to religious journalism (1994). In 1982 he won the Gold Dagger Award Non-Fiction (1982) for Earth to Earth. He is best known for his investigative journalism; memoir; and his work in public understanding of science. In addition to his books on the relationship between science, ethics and the humanities, he has written widely on the Catholic Church and the modern papacy.

Use by defenders of Pius XII

The book is the source of many claims made by defenders of Pope Pius XII about his attempts to save Jews during The Holocaust. In Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy , Zuccotti traces a variety of claims by Pius XII's defenders (cited or uncited) back to Lapide. [9] Roth and Ritner criticize defenders of Pius XII such as Rychlak, Dalin, and William Doino, for drawing on "problematic sources such as Pinchas Lapide"; they note that the book is "filled with errors" and "cited endlessly by papal defenders". [10]

The Holocaust Genocide of the European Jews by Nazi Germany and other groups

The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was a genocide in which Nazi Germany, aided by its collaborators, systematically murdered some six million European Jews—around two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe—between 1941 and 1945, during World War II. Jews were targeted for extermination as part of a larger event during the Holocaust era, in which Germany and its collaborators persecuted and murdered other groups, including Slavs, the Roma, the "incurably sick", political and religious dissenters such as communists and Jehovah's Witnesses, and gay men. Taking into account all the victims of Nazi persecution, the death toll rises to up to 17 million.

The most famous and widely quoted (and misquoted) claim of Lapide is that "The Catholic Church, under the pontificate of Pius XII was instrumental in saving at least 700,000 but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands" (pp. 214–215). [11] Lapide claimed to have reached this number by subtracting "all reasonable claims of rescue made by the Protestant Churches [...] as well as those saved by Communists, self-described agnostics and other non-Christian Gentiles" from his estimate of 1,300,000 European Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. [11] Lapide gives no calculation or documentation for this figure. [11] Even José M. Sánchez, himself a defender of Pius XII, states that "the undocumented calculation and suggestive wording have been ignored by Pius's defenders. Their uncritical acceptance of Lapide's statistics and statements has weakened their arguments". [11]

The book also contains a quotation allegedly from Pope John XXIII (well known for his own efforts to save Jews) that "In all these painful matters I have referred to the Holy See and simply carried out the Pope's orders: first and foremost to save human lives" (p. 181). [5] Lapide claims that Roncalli personally made this statement to him in 1957 in Venice, although there are no other witnesses. [5] This quote is repeatedly uncritically by Ronald J. Rychlak among others, although Rychlak alters it to say "Jewish lives" instead of "human lives". [5]

Lapide also claims a similar quotation by Pope Paul VI (again repeated by Rychlak), allegedly refusing an award from an Italian Jewish delegation because "All I did was my duty. And besides I only acted upon orders from the Holy Father. Nobody deserves a medal for that." [5] The source for this quote is again only Lapide (p. 137), but this time he does not claim to be an eyewitness. [5] Zuccotti regards this anecdote as unconvincing because "there is little evidence that [Paul VI] ever did much for the Jews" and the ADSS even contains examples of his refusing requests for assistance. [5] The quote is also inconsistent with his 1963 article in The Tablet defending Pius XII which claims not that he directed others to save Jews, but that he refrained because it would have been "not only futile but harmful". [5]


  1. GABRIEL, LOUIS (4 August 1967). "The Catholic Herald". Generous report on Church and Jews, p. 6. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  2. "Generous report on Church and Jews", The Catholic Herald, 4 August 1967, p. 6
  3. Books of the Week, The tablet, p. 10, 6 May 1967
  4. Dalin, David G. 2005. The Myth of Hitler's Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis . Regnery. ISBN   0-89526-034-4. p. 11.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Zuccotti, Susan. 2004. "Pope Pius XII and the Rescue of Jews in Italy: Evidence of a Papal Directive?". Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 18(2): 255-273.
  6. Zuccotti, 2002, p. 304.
  7. Zuccotti, 2002, pp. 303-304.
  8. 1 2 Cornwell, John. 1999. Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII . Viking. ISBN   0-670-87620-8. p. 379.
  9. Zuccotti, 2002, pp. 71, 81, 304, 330-331, 336-337, 347, 350, 352, 364, 368.
  10. Ritner, Carol and Roth, John K. (eds.). 2002. Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust. New York: Leicester University Press. ISBN   0-7185-0275-2. pp. 215, 220.
  11. 1 2 3 4 Sánchez, José M. 2002. Pius XII and the Holocaust: Understanding the Controversy. Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press. ISBN   0-8132-1081-X. pp. 139-140.

Related Research Articles

<i>Hitlers Pope</i> book by John Cornwell

Hitler's Pope is a book published in 1999 by the British journalist and author John Cornwell that examines the actions of Eugenio Pacelli, who became Pope Pius XII, before and during the Nazi era, and explores the charge that he assisted in the legitimization of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime in Germany, through the pursuit of a Reichskonkordat in 1933. The book is critical of Pius' conduct during the Second World War, arguing that he did not do enough, or speak out enough, against the Holocaust. Cornwell argued that Pius's entire career as the nuncio to Germany, Cardinal Secretary of State, and pope was characterized by a desire to increase and centralize the power of the Papacy, and that he subordinated opposition to the Nazis to that goal. He further argued that Pius was antisemitic and that this stance prevented him from caring about the European Jews.

Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy is a book by Susan Zuccotti which examines the role of the Catholic Church in providing aid to Jews in Italy during the Holocaust, and is critical of the actions of the papacy in this regard.

<i>A Moral Reckoning</i> book by Daniel Goldhagen

A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair is a 2003 book by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, previously the author of Hitler's Willing Executioners (1996). Goldhagen examines the Roman Catholic Church's role in the Holocaust, and offers a review of scholarship in English addressing what he argues is antisemitism throughout the history of the Church, which he claims contributed substantially to the persecution of the Jews during World War II.

Robert Leiber German Roman Catholic priest, theologian and papal adviser

Robert Leiber, S.J. was a close advisor to Pope Pius XII, a Jesuit priest from Germany, and Professor for Church History at the Gregorian University in Rome from 1930 to 1960. Leiber was, according to Pius' biographer Susan Zuccotti, "throughout his entire papacy his private secretary and closest advisor".

Ronald J. Rychlak is an American lawyer, jurist, author and political commentator. He is the Associate Dean For Academic Affairs and the Mississippi Defense Lawyers Association Professor of Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law, and is known for his published works, career as an attorney, and writings on the role of Pope Pius XII in World War II.

We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah is a document published in 1998 by the Catholic Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, under the authority of Pope John Paul II. In this document the Vatican condemned Nazi genocide and called for repentance from Catholics who had failed to intercede to stop it. It urges Catholics to repent "of past errors and infidelities" and "renew the awareness of the Hebrew roots of their faith" while distinguishing between the Church's "anti-Judaism" as religious teaching and the murderous antisemitism of Nazi Germany which it described as having "roots outside Christianity."

Pave the Way Foundation (PTWF) is a non-sectarian organization whose mission is to identify and eliminate non-theological obstacles between religions, headed by Gary Krupp. The organization is dedicated to achieving peace by closing the gaps in tolerance, education and the practical relations between religions, through cultural, technological and intellectual exchanges. PTWF strives to eliminate the use of religion as a tool to achieve personal agendas and to cause conflicts.

The relations between Pope Pius XII and Judaism have long been controversial, especially those questions that surround Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust. Other issues involve Pius's Jewish friendships and his attitude towards the new state of Israel.

The relations between Pope Pius XI and Judaism during his reign from 1922 to 1939 are generally regarded as good. The pontiff was particularly opposed to antisemitism, an important issue at the time when Nazi Germany was rising. Certain favourable opinions of Pius XI were subsequently used to attack the perceived silence of Pope Pius XII.

Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust

The start of the pontificate of Pius XII occurred at the time of the Second World War and the Nazi Holocaust, which saw the industrialized mass murder of millions of Jews and others by Adolf Hitler's Germany. Pius employed diplomacy to aid the victims of the Nazis during the war and, through directing his Church to provide discreet aid to Jews and others, saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Pius maintained links to the German Resistance, and shared intelligence with the Allies. His strongest public condemnation of genocide was, however, considered inadequate by the Allied Powers, while the Nazis viewed him as an Allied sympathizer who had dishonoured his policy of Vatican neutrality.

Pope Pius XII's response to the Roman razzia or mass deportation of Jews on October 16, 1943 is a significant issue relating to Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust. Under Mussolini, no policy of abduction of Jews had been implemented in Italy. Following the capitulation of Italy in 1943, Nazi forces invaded and occupied much of the country, and began deportations of Jews to extermination camps. Pius XII protested at diplomatic levels, while several thousand Jews found refuge in Catholic networks, institutions and homes across Italy - including in the Vatican City and Pope Pius' Summer Residence. The Catholic Church and some historians have credited this rescue in large part to the direction of Pope Pius XII, however, Susan Zuccotti researched the matter in detail and discovered that although the pope was aware of The Holocaust, he did not issue a rescue order. Zuccotti states that there is, in fact, "considerable evidence of papal disapproval of the hiding of Jews and other fugitives in Vatican properties."

Pope Pius XII's 1942 Christmas address was a speech delivered by Pope Pius XII over Vatican Radio on Christmas 1942. It is notable for its denunciation of the extermination of people on the basis of race, and followed the commencement of the Nazi Final Solution program to exterminate the Jews of Europe. The significance of the denunciation is a matter of scholarly debate.

The conversion of Jews to Catholicism during the Holocaust is one of the most controversial aspects of the record of Pope Pius XII during The Holocaust.

Yad Vashem, the state of Israel's official Holocaust memorial, has generally been critical of Pope Pius XII, the pope during The Holocaust. For decades, Pius XII has been nominated unsuccessfully for recognition as Righteous Among the Nations, an honor Yad Vashem confers on non-Jews who saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust altruistically and at risk to their own lives.

Sister Margherita Marchione is an American Roman Catholic sister, writer, teacher and apologeticist, who dedicated herself in her later years to the defense of Pope Pius XII. A member of the Religious Teachers Filippini for most of her life, she had access to the sisters of her order in Italy, who reportedly sheltered some Jews during the Second World War.

The Pope's Jews: The Vatican's Secret Plan to Save Jews from the Nazis is a 2012 book by the British author Gordon Thomas concerning the efforts of Pope Pius XII to protect Jews during the Nazi Holocaust. The Observer reported in 2013 that "Gordon Thomas, a Protestant, was given access to previously unpublished Vatican documents and tracked down victims, priests and others who had not told their stories before" and had uncovered "evidence on Pius XII's wartime efforts to save Jewish refugees".

Rescue of Jews by Catholics during the Holocaust Overview Article of the Wikipedia

During the Holocaust, the Roman Catholic Church played a role in the rescue of hundreds of thousands of Jews from being murdered by the Nazis. Members of the Church, through lobbying of Axis officials, provision of false documents, and the hiding of people in monasteries, convents, schools, among families and the institutions of the Vatican itself, saved hundreds of thousands of Jews. The Israeli diplomat and historian Pinchas Lapide estimated the figure at between 700,000 and 860,000, although the figure is contested.