ROME (May. 18)
A priest who served as an Italian army chaplain during “World War II has quoted the late Pope Pius XII as saying he had thought many times of excommunicating Nazis for their persecutions of Jews, but held back because of pressures on the Vatican and for fear of making things even worse for the Jews.
This latest development in the controversy over the late Pontiff’s stand on Nazism, touched off by the play. “The Deputy,” appeared in the Italian religious monthly, “The Paria,” in an article by Father Pirro Scavizzi. “The Deputy,” by West German playwright Rolf Hochhuth, charges that the late Pontiff failed to speak out against the Nazi slaughter of European Jewry.
Father Scavizzi wrote that he learned about the mass murders of Jews while he accompanied Italian troops through Germany and Austria en route to the Russian front. Later,” he had a private audience with Pope Pius, he stated, and “I told him all I knew.” The priest added, “I saw him cry like a boy and pray like a saint.”
The Pope told him: “Please tell everyone, everyone you can, that the Pope agonizes for them (the Jews). Many times I thought of scorching Nazism with the lightning of excommunication and of denouncing to the civilized world the criminality of the extermination of Jews. We have heard the grave menace of retaliation not on our person but on the poor nation. We have received from various channels urgent recommendations that the Holy See not take a drastic stand.”
“After many years and many prayers, I Judged that any protest of mine not only would fail to help anyone but would create even more fury against the Jews, multiplying the acts of cruelty. Perhaps my solemn protest would have earned me praise from the civil world, but it also would have provided for the Jews a more implacable persecution …I love the Jews,” the late Pontiff was quoted by the priest as having said.