Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, we have much to be thankful for, even if we do not realize it. Even in the worst of times, there is great cause for showing our gratitude to God for His blessings; even when things are bad and life is hard, we are still thankful for His loving mother Mary because, if we have her, we have hope, we have comfort, and we have her Son.

Coming in December, Cinema Catechism will being presenting the feature film Guadalupe, a drama in which la Virgen de Guadalupe brings a message of love, hope, and salvation to Juan Diego and a troubled contemporary family from Spain.

"Do not be distressed, my littlest son. Am I not here with you, I who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection?"

Monday, November 22, 2010

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio

This evening our parish rejoiced as our eighth graders received the Sacrament of Confirmation. Together with our three priests, the Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, who served in various postings with the Vatican diplomatic corps before being named Archbishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

The 2001 ordination of then-Monsignor Broglio as an Archbishop was featured in the National Geographic documentary, Inside the Vatican --


Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Church against Hitler - Continued

In the final weeks of the Church calendar, we have considered often the persecution of the Church. As we enter the final week, celebrating Christ the King, here is the conclusion of that Italian documentary on the Church during World War II.

The priests and religious at Dachau --

The White Rose, German resistance movement influenced by Blessed Bishop von Galen and Blessed John Henry Newman* --

The end comes to the Nazi regime --

* In June 2011, Cinema Catechism is planning to show the film Sophie Scholl, the Last Days about the White Rose.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Church against Hitler

Since the very beginning, Jesus promised us that the Church would suffer persecution and so it has for nearly 2,000 years. One of the great periods of persecution was, of course, the early years of persecution by Rome. Another of the great periods of persecution was the 20th century. Indeed, Pope John Paul II noted that, in terms of numbers of people, the Church has suffered more persecution in the 20th century than any other time in history.

With respect to World War II, the Church has, in fact, suffered persecution twice. Once at the hands of the Nazi regime, before and during the war, and again many decades later, when people have maliciously and falsely accused the Church of, not merely not doing enough to stop atrocities, but even actively assisting Hitler and the Nazis.

Previously, we posted an Italian documentary on Pope Pius XII. Below begins another documentary, this one on "The Church Against Hitler."

The Beginning --

Bishop von Galen, part one --

Bishop von Galen, part two --

Bishop von Galen, part three --

To be continued . . .

More on Blessed Clemens August von Galen, Bishop of Münster (March 16, 1878 – March 22, 1946) here and here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Film on the Life of Pius XII Coming to Cinema Catechism?

Maybe! At least two films are being produced about Pope Pius XII, but it appears that they will not be released for at least a year. Here are a couple of reports on the films.

The last years of Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli 1951-58)

This intriguing Italian documentary on the life of His Holiness Pope Pius XII concludes (see parts 1-3 and parts 4-8)--

Newsreel Archive - World Mourns Pope Pius XII 1958
(includes some footage of the Pope giving a greeting in English) --

News report on Hitler's desire to assassinate Pope Pius XII --

Benedict XVI names Pope Piux XII venerable --

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pope Pius XII - From the Conclave to the End of World War II

This quite interesting Italian documentary on the life of Eugenio Pacelli (Pope Pius XII) continues below (see parts 1-3 here) --

Friday, November 12, 2010

Did Pius XII Remain Silent?

Fr. William P. Saunders
Straight Answers

April 14, 1994
To begin to understand Pius XII’s actions during the World War II, we must remember the world in which he lived. Hitler had assumed control of Germany in 1933. In July of that same year, he began not only persecuting Jews but also Christians. He infiltrated the German Evangelical Federation (the Lutheran Church), removing leaders who were opposed to his agenda. Many of these ministers died in concentration camps or prisons, like the famous Deitrich Bonhoffer.

The persecution was even more intense for the Catholic Church. Gestapo agents attended Mass and listened to every homily preached, prepared to arrest any priest attacking or criticizing the regime. Chanceries were searched for any “incriminating” documents. Communication with Rome was limited. Nazi propaganda represented the Church as unpatriotic and hoarding wealth with clerics portrayed as idle and avaricious. By 1940, all Catholic schools had been closed, and religious instruction confined to the Church itself or at home. Meanwhile, anti-Christian teaching was imparted in the public schools.

Please note that the first concentration camp was established in 1933 at Dachau, outside of Munich; this camp was not so much an “extermination camp” as one for the political prisoners, including priests. At Dachau alone, 2,700 priests were imprisoned (of which 1,000 died), and were subject to the most awful tortures, including the medical experiments of Dr. Rascher.

Such persecution was not confined to Germany. The Church in Poland also suffered severely. During the first four months of occupation following the September 1939 invasion, 700 priests were shot and 3,000 were sent to concentration camps (of which 2,600 died). By the end of the war, 3 million Polish Catholics had been killed in concentration camps. How many other Catholics — priests, religious, and laity — in other countries died for the faith during the Nazi era?

Pope Pius XI, who had condemned Nazism in his 1937 encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge, died in February 1939, and Pope Pius XII followed him as the successor of St. Peter on March 12. Think of the world — and the Church — Pope Pius XII had inherited.

To make matters worse, by 1940 Hitler controlled Europe and Northern Africa, and was planning the invasion of Britain. The Vatican, officially a neutral country, was isolated. Hitler had plans to depose Pius XII, appoint his own “puppet” pope, and move the Vatican administration to Germany, plans which would have been executed if the war would have gone in the Nazi’s favor. Who then was to come to the aid of the Vatican? Pius XII, who had to insure the survival of the Church, was very much alone.

Nevertheless, Pius XII spoke out. After the invasion of Poland in September l939, he denounced the aggression of the Nazis and proposed a peace plan. In 1940, he called for the triumph over hatred, mistrust, and the spirit of “cold egoism.” The following year, he pleaded for the rights of small nations and national minorities, and condemned total warfare and religious persecution. In his Christmas message of 1942, he specifically denounced the extermination of the Jews: The New York Times praised this message, writing,
“This Christmas more than ever Pope Pius XII is a lonely voice crying out in the silence of a continent. The pulpit whence he speaks is more than ever like the Rock in which the Church was founded, a tiny island lashed and surrounded by a sea of war... When a leader hound impartially to nations on both sides condemns as heresy the new form of national state which subordinates everything to itself; when he declares that whoever wants peace must protect against ’arbitrary attacks’ the ‘juridical safety of individual’; when he assails violent occupation of territory, the exile and persecution of human beings for no reason other than race or political opinion; when he says that people must fight for a just and decent peace, a ‘total peace’— the ‘impartial’ judgment is like a verdict in our high court of justice.”
Besides these worldwide pleas for peace, the Vatican persistently issued communications to protest to Hitler which were attested to by Von Ribbentrop at the Nuremburg war trials, who said,
“I do not recollect [how many] at the moment, but I know we had a whole deskful of protests from the Vatican. There were very many we did not even read or reply to.”
Pope Pius XII also acted. According to Israeli archives, papal relief programs saved at least 860,000 Jews, more than any other agency or organization. His Holiness also allowed the Vatican diplomatic corps, which were protected by diplomatic immunity, to carry messages between the allied powers. Vatican Information Services also sent over 5 million messages for soldiers.

During the Nazi occupation of Rome (September 1943 to June 1944), Pius XII helped to raise the Gestapo’s demand of 50 kilos of gold of the Jewish community for “their safety”; unfortunately, the payment did not prevent the eventual round-up of Jews.

He also lifted cloister restrictions, allowing religious houses to offer refuge for Jews. He allowed the issuance of false baptismal certificates to Jews. These deeds do not even include the general relief efforts and distribution of food coordinated by the Vatican for the city of Rome.

We must remember that any defiance of the Nazi regime meant immediate and severe retaliation. Jean Bernard, Bishop of Luxembourg, who has detained at Dachau, later wrote,
“The detained priests trembled every time news reached us of some protest by a religious authority, but particularly by the Vatican. We all had the impression that our warders made us atone heavily for the fury these protests evoked.”
Cardinal Sapieha, Archbishop of Krakow, wrote to Pius XII in 1942,
“We must deplore that we cannot communicate Your Holiness’ letter to the faithful, for that would provide a pretext for fresh persecution. We already have many who are victims because they were suspected of being in secret communication with the Apostolic See.”
Pius XII was burdened with speaking the truth while safeguarding the survival of the Church.

When Pope Pius XII died on October 9, 1958, Golda Meir, then Israeli delegate to the United Nations, sent official condolences:
“When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the pope was raised for the victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out on the great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace.”
Dr. Raphael Cantoni, a leader in Italy’s Jewish Assistance Committee added,
“The Church and the papacy have saved Jews as much and insofar as they could Christians. Six million of my co-religionists have been murdered by the Nazis... but there would have been many more victims had it not been for the efficacious intervention of Pius XII.”
With all of the talk of Oscar Schindler and “Schindler’s List,” someone ought to make a movie about Pius XII and his courageous efforts.

Father William Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls, Virginia, and Professor of Catechetics and Theology at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College.
Copyright © 2003 Arlington Catholic Herald

Pius XII and the Jews – Fact Sheet

860,000 lives saved—the truth about Pius XII and the Jews
National Association of Catholic Families
People often ask: why did Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli, not speak out more forcefully against Hitler? Historian Fr Dermot Fenlon of the Birmingham Oratory looks at the facts and sets the record straight.

The answer is recounted by a former inmate of Dachau, Mgr Jean Bernard, later Bishop of Luxembourg:
"The detained priests trembled every time news reached us of some protest by a religious authority, but particularly by the Vatican. We all had the impression that our warders made us atone heavily for the fury these protests evoked ... whenever the way we were treated became more brutal, the Protestant pastors among the prisoners used to vent their indignation on the Catholic priests: 'Again your big naive Pope and those simpletons, your bishops, are shooting their mouths off .. why don't they get the idea once and for all, and shut up. They play the heroes and we have to pay the bill.'"
Albrecht von Kessel, an official at the German Embassy to the Holy See during the war, wrote in 1963:
"We were convinced that a fiery protest by Pius XII against the persecution of the Jews ... would certainly not have saved the life of a single Jew. Hitler, like a trapped beast, would react to any menace that he felt directed at him, with cruel violence."
The real question is, therefore, not what did the Pope say, but what did the Pope do? Actions speak louder than words. Papal policy in Nazi Europe was directed with an eye to local conditions. It was coordinated with local hierarchies. Nazi policy towards the Jews varied from country to country. Thus, although anti-Jewish measures were met in France by public protest from Archbishop Saliege of Toulouse, together with Archbishop Gerlier of Lyons and Bishop Thias of Mantauban, their protest was backed by a highly effective rescue and shelter campaign. 200,000 lives were saved. In Holland, as Fr Michael O'Carroll writes, the outcome was 'tragically different'. The Jewish historian Pinchas Lapide sums it up:
"The saddest and most thought provoking conclusion is that whilst the Catholic clergy of Holland protested more loudly, expressly and frequently against Jewish persecutions than the religious hierarchy of any other Nazi-occupied country, more Jews—some 11,000 or 79% of the total—were deported from Holland; more than anywhere else in the West."
Van Kessel's view is therefore borne out by the experience of Nazi Holland: protest merely made for more reprisals.

What of Rome itself? In 1943 the German ambassador to the Holy See, Von Weizsaecker, sent a telegram to Berlin. The telegram has been cited as damning 'evidence' against Pius XII.
"Although under pressure from all sides, the Pope has not let himself be drawn into any demonstrative censure of the deportation of Jews from Rome ... As there is probably no reason to expect other German actions against the Jews of Rome we can consider that a question so disturbing to German-Vatican relations has been liquidated."
Von Weizsaecker's telegram was in fact a warning not to proceed with the proposed deportation of the Roman Jews: 'there is probably no reason to expect other German actions against the Jews of Rome'. Von Weizsaecker's action was backed by a warning to Hitler from Pius XII: if the pursuit and arrest of Roman Jews was not halted, the Holy Father would have to make a public protest. Together the joint action of Von Weizsaecker and Pius XII ended the Nazi manhunt against the Jews of Rome. 7,000 lives were saved.

In Hungary, an estimated 80,000 baptismal certificates were issued by Church authorities to Jews. In other areas of Eastern Europe the Vatican escape network (organised via Bulgaria by the Nuncio Roncalli - later John XXIII) has impressed those writers who have studied the subject, with the effectiveness of the Church's rescue operation. David Herstig concludes his book on the subject thus:
"Those rescued by Pius are today living all over the world. There went to Israel alone from Romania 360,000 to the year 1965."
The vindication of Pius XII has been established principally by Jewish writers and from Israeli archives. It is now established that the Pope supervised a rescue network which saved 860,000 Jewish lives—more than all the international agencies put together.

After the war the Chief Rabbi of Israel thanked Pius XII for what he had done. The Chief Rabbi of Rome went one step further. He became a Catholic. He took the name Eugenio.
This article first appeared in Catholic Family #10, Autumn 1991. Electronic version of this text copyright (c) 1995 National Association of Catholic Families.

“The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican”

Book Review for The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican, by J.P. Gallagher
Ignatius Press
Born in Killarney, Ireland, Hugh O’Flaherty was an avid athlete—becoming a formidable boxer, handball player, hurler, and golfer. From an early age, however, he knew his calling was to the priesthood. After his ordination, he served first as an Apostolic Delegate in Egypt, Haiti, Santo Domingo, and Czechoslovakia, then in Rome at the Holy Office (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith).
Msgr. Hugh O’Flaherty
It was here in Rome that his greatest work began. After the surrender of Italy in 1943, Rome came under the command of Nazi Colonel Herbert Kappler of the dreaded SS, who began the deportation of Italian Jews to Auschwitz. Kappler was a notorious hater of the Jews, persecuting them at every turn.
Lt. Col. Herbert Kappler of the SS
As a top man in the Vatican Holy Office, Msgr. O’Flaherty sprang into action, organizing a sophisticated team that included men and women of many nationalities, religions, and political views. There was one goal—to save Jews and POWs from the Nazi machine. Despite Kappler’s numerous attempts to assassinate him, O’Flaherty persisted, and his efforts saved thousands of Jews and POWs.

Using private homes and apartments, churches and monasteries, the effort was all orchestrated by Msgr. O’Flaherty. Each day his familiar figure would stand on the steps of St. Peter’s - neutral ground that even the Nazis wouldn’t violate - to welcome any fugitives who might be sent his way. All told, of 9,700 Roman Jews, most were saved, with 1,007 shipped to Auschwitz. The rest were hidden, 5,000 of them by the official Church - 3,000 at the Pope’s Castel Gandolfo, 200 or 400 (estimates vary) as "members" of the Palatine Guard, and some 1,500 in monasteries, convents and colleges. The remaining 3,700 were hidden in private homes, including Msgr. O'Flaherty's network of apartments. After the war, O’Flaherty was honored by various Allied countries with awards and decorations for his heroic acts to save Jews and POWs.

For more information --
Hugh O’Flaherty: The Vatican Pimpernel
Hugh O'Flaherty Memorial Society
Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty: Hero of the VaticanHugh O'Flaherty - County Kerry

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Scarlet and the Black (1983)

Cinema Catechism continues this Thursday, November 11, 2010, at 7 p.m., with a showing of the outstanding film The Scarlet and the Black at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church Parish Center, together with further discussion and reflections on this fall's theme of Love and Truth.

I was unable to find a clip of the movie in English, but here is a good one in French --

Movie Review
by Steven D. Greydanus

Overall Recommendability A+
Also known as The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican, The Scarlet and the Black tells the true story of a Holy Office notary who, during Nazi occupation of Rome, covertly ran an underground railroad for Jews, anti-Fascists, and escaped Allied POWs.

Riveting and edifying, this WWII drama stars Gregory Peck as Msgr. Hugh O’Flaherty, a plain-speaking, straight-dealing Irish priest who boldly aids enemies of the Third Reich under the watchful eye of Christopher Plummer’s Nazi Lt. Col. Herbert Kappler. Their cat-and-mouse game is thrilling and great fun, and culminates in a startling showdown in a very significant setting.

John Gielgud plays Pius XII, who is depicted sympathetically and is shown to be willing to stand up to the Nazis. In one scene he is depicted as having had second thoughts about his Concordat with the Nazi regime — a portrayal the well-meaning filmmakers undoubtedly meant to put the Holy Father in the best possible light. . . .

Movie Review
by Richard Pettinger

Blog Critics
The Scarlet and The Black tells the true story of Irish priest Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, who helped to save thousands of Allied POWs and Jews during the German occupation of Rome in 1943-44.

Monsignor O’Flaherty got to know British servicemen by visiting Italian POW camps. When Italy switched sides in 1943, many Allied servicemen fled to Rome, where they sought the help of O’Flaherty in the Vatican. The Gestapo learned that there was a network dedicated to hiding Allied prisoners and sought to break the network. In particular the Gestapo chief Kappler becomes obsessed with finding and capturing the priest at the centre of the huge operation.

The film, directed by Jerry London for television, creates a great sense of tension as the Gestapo try every means to capture or assassinate O’Flaherty. This tension is heightened by the personal battle of wills between O’Flaherty (Gregory Peck) and Kappler (Christopher Plummer). The acting is superb and there are some very sharp, incisive and memorable dialogues between the two.

Gregory Peck successfully pulls off portraying a priest who embodies both great compassion and a burning sense of indignation at the actions of the Nazis. His role is equally well matched by Christopher Plummer, who portrays the complex character of Kappler. On the one hand Kappler is responsible for the most appalling atrocities, on the other hand we are aware of his good nature which is slowly squeezed as he serves the Nazi regime. He is devoted to the Nazi ideology but we see it gnaws at his hidden consciousness. His hatred of O’Flaherty is perhaps a realisation he secretly admires his nobility and selflessness. At the end of the war, as the Nazis are in full retreat, we see Kappler make an emotional appeal to his arch-enemy O’Flaherty to save help save his family.

The Scarlet and The Black is a good action film, but also portrays the complex moral dilemmas that many faced during the Nazi occupation of Rome.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The First Years of Eugenio Pacelli (Pope Pius XII)

Jesus assured us that, if we follow Him, the world would hate us. Far from promising us a party, He told us that to be a Christian would be to know persecution, and the Church has indeed been persecuted ever since her Founder was nailed to the Cross.

The 20th century did not see any diminishing in the persecution of the Church and the faithful, and the 21st century is no different. The Church, and especially the popes, have been routinely slandered and attacked with malicious lies and twisting of facts.

In the last offering of Cinema Catechism, with the showing of The 13th Day, we explored how the "third secret" of Fatima was a vision about the persecution of the Church, that the popes would suffer much. In our next showing, The Scarlet and the Black, we will examine the question of the historical truth of the Catholic Church and Pope Pius XII during World War II.

In preparation for that discussion, here is a documentary on the life of Eugenio Pacelli (Pope Pius XII) --