Pope Francis on Pope Pius XII’s Mercy Towards Jews

Pope Francis recently gave a sermon on mercy (here). It was reported by the Vatican press, but was not widely covered by either religious or mass media. He starts with a broad definition of mercy: “When I see a person who suffers, who is in trouble, do I suffer too? Can I put myself in somebody else’s shoes?”

Then he goes on to specifics: “Think about Rome. During the war, many were those who risked, starting with Pius XII, to hide the Jews, so they were not killed, so that they would not be deported! They risked their lives! But it was a work of mercy to save those people’s lives! To risk.” 

The pope is once again rewriting history. (For example, see here, here, here.) Pope Francis failed to provide any details about Pius XII hiding Jews. But he pointed out, correctly, that many Catholics in Rome did hide Jews at great risk to themselves.

It has become popular to credit Pope Pius XII for the actions of those Catholics. I suspect this is what Pope Francis had in mind. That is wrong. When his advisors asked Pius XII to do something for the Jews, he told them “Let the Jews take care of the Jews.” That is on the record (see Hitler’s Pope by Cornwell). The pope has one of the greatest bully pulpits in the world. Despite numerous requests, he never used it to criticize Nazi persecution of the Jews. He certainly never put himself in Jewish shoes.