I agree with Rabbi Shmuley’s main assessment that Pope Francis needs to show moral clarity and stand with Israel against those who seek to destroy her.
However, to no fault of his own, Shmuley’s argument is based on false premises, as he has fallen prey to an old Soviet disinformation campaign by insinuating that Pius XII was “Hitler’s Pope.” Pope Pius XII, in fact, is precisely the moral leader Pope Francis should look to emulate.
Historian Ronald Rychlak meticulously documented Pius XII’s noble efforts on behalf of the Jews in Hitler, The War, and the Pope.
When the Holocaust was in full swing, Pius XII responded by turning almost the entirety of the Vatican City into a secret refugee shelter for Jews. Historical documents estimate that Pius XII’s personal efforts saved hundreds of thousands of Jews from extermination.
Pius XII’s personal intervention to save as many Jews as possible during the holocaust had such a profound effect on Israel Zolli, chief rabbi of Rome, that he decided to convert from Judaism to Catholicism.
Pope Pius XII despised the Nazis. He was quoted as saying, “The Nazis are in reality only miserable plagiarists who dress up old errors with new tinsel. It does not only make any difference whether they flock to the banners of social revolution, whether they are guided by a false concept of the world and of life, or whether they are possessed by the superstition of a race and blood cult.”
Dr. Rafaele Cantoni, former director of the Italian Jewish Assistance committee, said in the American Jewish Year Book of 1944-1945:
The Church and the papacy have saved Jews as much and in as far as they could save Christians… Six million of my co-religionists have been murdered by the Nazis, but there could have been many more victims, had it not been for the efficacious intervention of Pius XII.
In Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism, Rychlak, along with a former USSR two-star General, carefully trace the Soviets’ decades-long disinformatsiya campaign to destroy their arch enemy: the Vatican.
Rychlak writes, “The Soviets understood that Pius XII was a mortal threat to their ideology, despising communism as much as he did Nazism. They thus embarked on an unholy crusade to destroy the pope and his reputation, to scandalize his flock, and to foment division among faiths.”
The campaign to destroy Pius XII’s reputation started with an innocent 1945 Radio Moscow broadcast that turned into a 1960 KGB-financed play, titled The Deputy, in which Pius was ruthlessly attacked as a willfully blind onlooker to the Holocaust.
Dr. Joseph Lichten, the head of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League in Italy at the time, said of Pius XII’s false portrayal in The Deputy, “[Pius XII] did everything humanly possible to save lives and alleviate suffering among the Jews.”
In 1970, The Silence of Pius XII was published, again backed by KGB efforts and based on fabricated documents. The decades-long masterful disinformation campaign reached its apex with Hitler’s Pope, published in 1999. Author John Cornwell claimed he had new evidence that Pius XII “had a personal antipathy towards the Jews” and found this through research in secret Vatican archives.
In Disinformation, Rychlak shows how Cornwell displayed his supposed new-found evidence through KGB disinformation techniques. He writes, “To support his conclusion that Pius was Hitler’s Pope, Cornwell selectively edited quotes from Western publications, a technique widely used by the ‘science’ of disinformation. By this method, a clever writer can turn a quotation into the exact opposite of what was originally intended.”
Pius XII was not “Hitler’s Pope.” History reflects the aforementioned narrative as truth, and so should we.