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French Publication Prints Report Alleging Vatican Condoned Vichy Anti-jewish Measures

January 17, 1947
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A report by the former Vichy ambassador to the Vatican which indicated that the Holy See did not look with disfavor on all the anti-Jewish restrictions introduced by the Petain Government, has been published in the French magazine, Le Monde Juif, a copy of which has been received here.

The text of the report appears in the magazine–which is the official organ of the Jewish Documentation Center in Paris–without any editorial comment. According to a summary in English, published recently in the London Jewish Chronicle, the Vichy Ambassador, M. Leon Benard, told Petain not to worry about the consequences of anti-Jewish legislation; there had never been any protests on the part of the Papal authorities, who, he claimed, actually favoured “charitable” discrimination against the Jews.

“In your letter of August 7, 1941,” wrote M. Berard, “you did me the honour of requesting certain information as to the questions and difficulties that might crop up, from the Roman Catholic point of view, in connection with the measures adopted by your Government in regard to the Jews. In an earlier reply, I had the honour of stating that at no time has anything been said to me at the Vatican to suggest that the Holy See is critical, or views with disfavour, the aforesaid legislative measures. Now I am able to affirm, moreover, that the pontifical authority shows no sign whatever of ever having paid the slightest attention to this feature of French policy.”

After declaring that his report was based on long and scrupulous investigation, M. Berard said: “The Church has condemned racialism as it has condemned Communism. It should not be inferred, however, that the Church necessarily condemns any and every individual measure taken by the State against what is termed the Jewish race. The Church makes mantal distinctions and provides for nuances which are worth noting…”


“We know from general history that the Church has often protected the Jews against the violence and injustice of their persecutors, and that at the same time it relegated them to the ghettoes. One of its greatest doctors, St. Thomas Aquinas, has handed down teachings explaining this attitude. Here is a summary of his doctrine: One must be tolerant towards the Jews in the exercise of their religion…But, while proscribing any policy of oppression towards the Jews, St. Thomas recommends none the less that proper measures be taken to limit their activities in society and to restrict their influence. It would be unreasonable to permit them, in a Christian State, to exercise the functions of government, thereby subjecting the Catholics to their authority. Whence it follows that it is legitimate to forbid their access to official posts; and likewise legitimate to impose a numerus clausus on their entry into the universities and the liberal professions.

“In fact,” added M. Berard, “this practice was very strictly adhered to in the Middle Ages. To this end, it was prescribed that the Jews shall be distinguished from the Christians by some mark of recognition on their apparel…In principle, there is nothing in these measures (the Vichy regime’s anti-Jewish legislation) to arouse criticism on the part of the Holy See. The latter deems that in instituting such regulations a State legitimately wields its power and that the spiritual authority has no cause to interfere, on this score, in the internal policing of the State. For the rest, the Church has never professed that equal rights ought to be accorded to, or recognized for, all citizens…The Church has in no wise ceased to admit and to practise an essential distinction–full of wisdom and reasonableness–between thesis and hypothesis: the thesis where the principle is invariably affirmed and maintained, the hypothesis where practical matters are regulated.

“As someone in authority told me at the Vatican,” M. Berard concluded, “there is no intention to take us to task, in any form or fashion, over our Jewish legislation. A twofold wish was, however, expressed by the representatives of the Holy See, with the obvious desire that this be submitted to the head of the French State: That no provision should be made in our Jewish legislation on the subject of marriage, which would provoke difficulties of a religious order…and that in the application of the law, the precepts of justice and charity should be taken into consideration. My interlocutors appeared to be thinking, above all, about the liquidation of business concerns involving Jewish interests.”

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