Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Publisher in Italy Withdraws Book on Jews and the Church

July 17, 1997
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

An Italian publisher has withdrawn a book about Jews and the Catholic Church in the wake of protests from Italy’s Jewish leadership and others that it smacks of anti-Semitic historical revisionism.

Critics said that the book, “Gli Ebrei e la Chiesa,” or “Jews and the Church,” sought to blame the Jews themselves for the Holocaust and absolve the Catholic Church and Pope Pius XII for not speaking out against Nazi atrocities during the war.

The book, published by Mursia earlier this year, was written by a priest, Vitaliano Mattioli, who teaches at two Roman Catholic colleges.

Tullia Zevi, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, lodged a protest against the book to the publisher and to senior officials at the Vatican.

Italian Christian-Jewish friendship organizations also protested.

Central themes in this book are the innocence of the church in the “persecution of the Jews throughout the centuries, the justification of the attitude of Pope Pius XII toward Nazism and the exaltation of his work in favor of the victims,” Zevi wrote to Cardinal Edward Cassidy, president of the Vatican Commission for Relations with Judaism.

“What is very serious is that in order to sustain these theses, the author carries out a work of historical revisionism parallel to that of certain elements of the European right wing,” she wrote.

“Making distorted and deceptive use of quotations studded with imprecisions and errors, the author in substance attributes to the Jews themselves and to their presumed congenital defects and vices the responsibility for the disasters that have befallen them.”

Others joined Zevi in lashing out at the book.

“The book is full of obscene errors,” said a researcher at the Milan-based Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation. “It seemed malicious.”

Milan’s Corriere della Sera newspaper quoted Mursia spokesman Sergio Bollani as saying that the firm had decided to withdraw the book, which has sold 4,000 copies, because “criticisms came from such sources that one could not think that there was not reason behind them.”

Bollani said that Mursia had known that Mattioli was on the far right of Catholic thought, but that the book had seemed well documented.

Corriere della Sera quoted an editor at Mursia as being surprised at the protests.

“Mattioli certainly has a position on the right-wing of Catholicism, but it doesn’t really seem to me as if it could be considered related to the [Holocaust] denial of certain pro-Nazi authors,” editor Cesare de Simone was quoted as saying.

“Indeed, in the book it states clearly that the Holocaust was an infamy.”

Recommended from JTA