Pope John, As Papal Delegate, Issued Special Passes to Save Jews, Says Aide
Menu JTA Search

Pope John, As Papal Delegate, Issued Special Passes to Save Jews, Says Aide

Download PDF for this date

An American author’s statement that Msgr. Angelo Roncalli, who later became Pope John XXIII, Issued thousands of false baptismal certificates to enable Jews to escape from the Nazis during World War II, was denied today in a newspaper report which said that he used other means for that purpose.

The denial was made by Luciano Bresciani who served in the secretarial office of Monsignore Roncalli when the latter was Papal Delegate in Sofia, Bulgaria and later in Istanbul, between 1930 and 1944. Sr. Bresciani said, however, that the future Pope had instructed him to issue Laisser Passer documents to Jews in the Balkan countries on the basis of which they could receive transit visas to Palestine from the Turkish Government.

The assertion that Monsignore Roncalli sent false baptismal certificates “by the thousands” to the Papal Nuncio in Budapest for the distribution to Jews was made by Arthur D. Morse in his book “While Six Million Died” just published here. Sr. Bresciani who provided Mr. Morse with information for his book, said that “Monsignore Roncalli was too dedicated to truth to say even one lie or to resort to subterfuge.” Bresciani told of one episode in which Monsignore Roncalli’s personal intervention saved the lives of some 20 Jews who had succeeded in escaping to Bulgaria in 1944. Their extradition was demanded by the Germans. Roncalli in a personal letter to King Boris of Bulgaria, asked that the ruler refuse. The King cooperated and helped the Jews obtain Turkish transit visas. Sr. Bresciani insisted that he never mentioned baptismal certificates to Mr. Morse.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund