"Be Proud to Be a Jew!" Pius XII Told Visitor in '41
Incident Was Published in Palestine Post
ROME, DEC. 3, 2006 (Zenit.org).- An article published in 1944 by a young German Jew in the Palestine Post, the future Jerusalem Post, points up Pope Pius XII's appreciation for the "Chosen People."
The article was published April 28, 1944, on Page 6 and headlined "A Papal Audience in Wartime." It was signed by a "refugee"; a footnote states that the article's author arrived in Palestine on the ship Nyassa.
The writer recounts that in autumn of 1941 he was received in audience along with numerous other people by Pius XII.
When the young Jew approached the Pope, he revealed that he was born in Germany but was a Jew.
The Holy Father responded, "What can I do for you? Tell me, my son!"
The young Jew told Pius XII about a group of shipwrecked Jewish refugees, saved by Italian warships in the Aegean Sea, who were then starving in a prisoner of war camp on an island. The Pope listened carefully and showed concern about the physical and health conditions of the Jewish prisoners.
According to the article, Pius XII then said to him: "You have done well to come and tell me this. I have heard about it before. Come back tomorrow with a written report and give it to the secretary of state who is dealing with this question. But now for you, my son. You are a young Jew. I know what that means and I hope you will always be proud to be a Jew!"
Then, the author of the article wrote, the Pope raised his voice, so that everyone in the hall could hear it clearly: "My son, whether you are worthier than others only the Lord knows, but believe me, you are at least as worthy as every other human being that lives on our earth! And now, my Jewish friend, go with the protection of the Lord, and never forget, you must always be proud to be a Jew!"
The author goes on to say that, after having uttered these words in a pleasant voice, Pius XII lifted his hands to give the usual blessing, but he stopped, smiled and touched the author's head with his fingers, and then lifted him from his kneeling position.
Pius XII uttered these words during an audience attended by cardinals, bishops -- and a group of German soldiers.
Details of this incident were discovered in an archive in Tel Aviv University by William Doino, contributor to the magazine Inside the Vatican, and author of an annotated bibliography on Pius XII, published in "The Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XII" (Lexington Books, 2004).
According to Doino, "This testimony is significant because it shows the attention and great love with which the Pontiff regarded the Jews, in addition to reaffirming the rejection of the Nazi racial theories that pointed to the Jews as the last of the earth."
On this matter, Doino will publish a full-scale commentary in an upcoming issue of Inside the Vatican magazine, in which, among other things, he will evaluate the importance of this testimony for Pius XII studies.