Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, offered a strong defense of Pope Pius XII yesterday, at a press conference for a new book on the pope’s life.
The Vatican Secretary of State charged that Pius XII has become the victim of a “black legend,” which has “become so firmly established that even to scratch it is an arduous task.”
Pope Pius XII has been “falsely portrayed as indulgent toward Nazism and insensitive to the fate of victims” of the Hitler regime, Cardinal Bertone said. That portrait endures, he added, in spite of “documentation and witnesses that have abundantly proven it is nonsense.” In light of that evidence, he said, the continuing criticism of the wartime Pope has become “an attack on good sense and on rationality.”
It’s been well documented that Pius XII went to great lengths to save Jews and others from persecution by the Nazis and was recognized as a “Righteous Gentile” by Israel after World War II. But it wasn’t until 1963 that the black legend began to arise with the publication of a scurrilous play, “The Deputy,” by an obscure German playwright named Rolf Hochhuth. John Cornwell’s later effort in the same vein, Hitler’s Pope, has also since been debunked and his so-called research revealed to be trash to the point that Cornwell has reportedly retracted most of his allegations.
Hopefully, as more authoritative biographies—ones based on fact, not prejudice—are published, like this new one by Andrea Tornielli, called Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli: A Man on the Throne of Peter, a good pope will finally have his good name restored.
Perhaps part of that restoration will come with a decree for beatification sometime soon.
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