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Pius XI

(1857 – 1939)

Pius XI was the pope from 1922. Concerned about the safety of the holy places, Pius XI had misgivings regarding the Palestine mandate. A decree of the Holy Office (March 21, 1928) proscribed the Amici Israel Association (founded two years earlier) which, though missionary in its ideology, tried to promote better understanding of Judaism. The Holy Office declared the organization contrary to the spirit of the Church, finding fault specifically with its publication Pax super Israel, which called upon its members to promote rapprochement with the Jews, while avoiding all offensive references and stressing the fact that the Jews continue to be the Chosen People. At the same time, however, the decree also proscribed antisemitism on the basis that it is contradictory to Christian doctrine.

Although Pius XI did not respond to a plea submitted to him in 1933 by a Catholic convert from Judaism, Edith *Stein, to issue an encyclical on the so-called Jewish problem, he condemned racism repeatedly. To a group of Belgian pilgrims, whom he received on Sept. 8, 1938, Pius XI declared: "It is not possible for Christians to take part in antisemitism. Spiritually we are Semites." His efforts to protect the Jews in Fascist Italy against antisemitic actions met with some success. He also helped immigrants and on Jan. 14, 1939, called upon the envoys accredited to the Holy See to provide as many immigration visas as possible "for the victims of racial persecution in Germany and Italy." It was during his pontificate that La *Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit organ which had previously been anti-Jewish, protested that the periodical had been misused by the Fascists.


G. Lewy, The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany (1964); G. Schwaiger, Geschichte der Paepste im 20. Jahrhundert (1968); S. Friedlaender, Pius XII and the Third Reich (1966), index.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.