The Magazine

Popes and Jews

Truths and Falsehoods in the history of Catholic-Jewish relations.

Nov 5, 2001, Vol. 7, No. 08 • By DAVID G. DALIN
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Pius XI's contemporaries didn't miss it. After the publication of "Mit brennender Sorge" the Nazis launched a vitriolic counterattack on the "Jew-God and His deputy in Rome"--while the February 1939 issue of B'nai B'rith's National Jewish Monthly featured the pope on its cover. "Regardless of their personal religious beliefs," wrote the editors, "men and women everywhere who believe in democracy and the rights of man have hailed the firm and uncompromising stand of Pope Pius XI against Fascist brutality, paganism and racial theories. In his annual Christmas message to the College of Cardinals, the great Pontiff vigorously denounced Fascism of both the Italian and German varieties . . . and described the Nazi swastika as a 'cross hostile to the cross of Christ'. . . . The first international voice in the world to be raised in stern condemnation of the ghastly injustice perpetrated upon the Jewish people by brutal tyrannies was Pope Pius XI."

In his effort to vilify the modern papacy--and to hold each and every pontiff responsible for all anti-Semitism from Napoleon to Hitler--Kertzer must dismiss or ignore the many instances of papal support for the Jews and the legacies of those modern popes who were known for their decidedly philo-Semitic policies and pronouncements. Worse, he must dismiss or ignore the testimony of those who were actually there at the time. Kertzer's "The Popes Against the Jews" is both false and unpersuasive.

A rabbi and historian, David G. Dalin is the author of six books. His essay "Pius XII and the Jews" appeared in the February 26, 2001, issue of The Weekly Standard.

November 5, 2001 - Volume 7, Number 8