October 9, 2008 marked the 50th anniversary of the death of the Servant of God, Pope Pius XII, who was pope from 1939 to 1958. This book commemorates this event and helps promote the continuance of Pope Pius’s cause for canonization, which has been temporarily halted due to protests accusing him of being “silent” during the Jewish Holocaust of World War II. That argument boils down to belief that Pope Pius could have done more to protest what Hitler and others did to the Jews and others during WWII. Sr. Margherita Marchione has made it her life’s work to combat this conventional wisdom and to reveal that he did more than any other world leader during World War II concerning the Holocaust.
The 1963 publication of Rolf Hochluth’s book The Deputy accused the Pope of being anti-Semitic and collaborating with Hitler in the murder of millions of Jews and other “undesirables” during WWII. Others have picked up on this notion and expanded on it, furthering some anti-Catholic causes – including some Catholics who, according to Marchione, oppose to the Church’s leadership and teachings. She argues that the individuals furthering this meme were encouraged by Communism and liberalism. Marchione (and others whom she mentions and notes) have doggedly combated these notions over the past few decades.
Marchione notes the many Jewish organizations and individuals who praised Pope Pius XII for his help in protecting and saving Jews and members of other oppressed groups, including Israel prime minister Golda Meir and Albert Einstein. Many thanked him while he was alive or showed their appreciation upon his death. Today, some of these formerly grateful organizations and their present-day leaders believe the anti-Semitic accusations against him and oppose to his canonization and his inclusion as a “Righteous Gentile” at the Holocaust Memorial in Israel.
As she has done in previous books in defense of Pope Pius, Marchione presents evidence of Pius’s heroic attempts to save as many Jews as possible, buoyed by the testament of others. Many who have been declared to be Righteous Gentiles have maintained that they acted on orders from or in concert with the Pope. Survivors have said they were saved through the help that the Pope provided them through the clergy, religious and laity of the Catholic Church at risk of their own lives; some who helped Jews and others were caught and killed by the Nazis.
Marchione sometimes repeats facts here, as she has done in her previous books. While this practice may seem redundant, it is an educational method to help the reader retain facts. In this case it works. She reminds the reader what the pope did and what those who thanked him for his help said, helping to refute what she calls the “black legend.”
Pope Pius spoke out through the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, and Vatican Radio, through the Vatican’s ambassadors and through ordinary bishops and clergy in individual countries. He encouraged his diplomatic corps to physically help Jews and others escape by providing false papers such as baptismal certificates. He also provided money to help Nazi victims escape. Many of these things the Pope ordered done in secret; some of these have been known, but many are still coming to light. As the New York Times said, Pope Pius XII was the one world leader who was doing the most for Jews and others by word and deed. He spoke out against the Nazis in a way that the Nazis understood - and which Marchione shows were documented in Nazi records, where he was referred to as the “Jews’ mouthpiece,” among other names.
Even though the process for the canonization of Pope Pius has been halted in order to provide time to review more documents from the Vatican’s Archives and other sources, Marchione and others are convinced that these materials will only re-enforce the case for his canonization and his cause to be declared a Righteous Gentile.
Robert Moynihan, editor of the magazine Inside the Vatican, provides the preface to The Truth Will Set You Free: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Death of Pope Pius XII and is quite blunt about his support for Sr. Margherita Marchione’s work. He also lists a selection of the supporters of the cause of Pope Pius.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, provides the foreword for this book and is known to be a major supporter of Pius’ cause – an influential voice, since he is somewhat the number-two person in the Catholic Church behind the Pope.
Black-and-white photos of Pope Pius and of events from his pontificate, a bibliography and an index are provided.
Pope Pius XII likely will eventually be canonized (and declared a Righteous Gentile); the evidence as it now stands shows his holiness and heroism. In the meantime, Marchione will continue arguing his case.