A Cross Too Heavy: Eugenio Pacelli : Politics and the Jews of Europe, 1917-1943
The papacy of Pius XII (1939-1958) has been a source of near-constant criticism and dispute since his death half a century ago. Central to the dispute is the alleged 'silence' of the Pope during the years of the Holocaust. By examining the often little studied pre-papal life of Eugenio Pacelli much can be found to understand the policies, actions and statements of Pius XII during the war. When examining the Holocaust, it is imperative to place it within the contexts of Christian Judeophobia, modernity and the many intersections between the two. Powerful myths have been created about this man. Pius XII was not an antisemitic villain; nor a 'lamb without stain'. The opening of the Vatican German archives up to 1939 helped add detail and nuance to the author's writing. His methodology depended upon contextual interpretation of documents and material from many sources over the man's entire professional religious life up to 1943. This led the author to the conclusion that Pius XII did, in fact, act in a consistent manner towards the persecuted Jews of Europe, and had done so since the advent of National Socialism in the 1920s. Pacelli's behaviour during the war confirms his essential consistency, but also reveals the tragic flaw that relegated the Jews to be 'lesser victims'. His failure points to the moral crisis within many parts of the fractured Christian Commonwealth, as well as the personal culpability of Pacelli, the man and pope.
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