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The Vatican & the Holocaust: Pope Pius XII Urges a Charitable Peace

(March 18, 1945)

The prompt devotion with which, beloved sons and daughters, you have come here in great numbers from every part of Rome, our Episcopal See, affords a living testimony to your willing response to the exhortation which the Church addresses to all the faithful on Passion Sunday. Would that you would hear His voice today (Psalm 94, 7). This voice of the Lord, which the bells of your churches and the resonant chimes of this patriarchal basilica bring to you even as a murmuring echo, has resounded during the past weeks of Lent in your innermost hearts as, while gathered around the pulpits of your churches, you have listened to the words of zealous Lenten preachers in the course of the missions which we had ordered.

These preachers, like their predecessors in past centuries, have impressed upon you with a burning zeal, and sometimes also with a loving severity, the duty of giving serious thought to and providing for the "unum necessarium" (Luke, x, 42), the one thing necessary-namely, your own personal spiritual salvation and sanctification.

In this blessed time, the Divine Sower has passed amongst you and has abundantly sown the seed of His word in your souls, which by constant prayer and penance, had been made ready to receive it as upon good and fertile soil. And now, in the presence of the true Cross, from which Christ with arms extended invites and awaits you, we, His unworthy vicar, beseech you, beloved sons and daughters, "that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus, ii, 12-13).

Henceforward, let none of you fail with each passing day to raise his heart and hands to God in humble and confident prayer of adoration, praise, impetration and thanksgiving. Keep holy Sunday, the Lord's day, as the faithful of Rome, your fathers, have given example from the time of the Apostles.

Let all of you assist faithfully at the sacrifice of the mass, partake in large numbers of eucharistic banquet and conduct yourselves in a manner that the God of Peace and Love may dwell amongst you in your domestic and social life. Parents, remember always that you are responsible before God, before the Church, before all of human society, for the spiritual and temporal welfare of your children. And you, sons and daughters, renew in yourselves that proper respect and obedience toward those who have given you life and hold in your regard the place of God.

You, O husbands and wives, be mindful of the moment in which before the altar of God you solemnly promised to one another inviolable fidelity. Keep it and guard it integrally without the slightest stain or shadow, and it will be until the end for you and your family a source of the most abundant blessings. For if, on the other hand, the fatal canker of marital infidelity should spread and become general in a people, malediction and misfortune would be called down upon them for their great guilt. All of you, together in general competition, strive in all things to reintegrate and restore the uprightness of moral conduct.

In all things: In the education of offspring, in the formation of youth, chaste, sound, sincere, holily proud and jealous of its virtue. In all things: In the life of labor, in recreation, in amusements, in athletic activity. Otherwise the Christian honor of the people and human dignity itself will be no more, for "God hath not called us unto uncleanness but unto sanctification" (I Thessalonians, iv, 7).

Let none of you be numbered amongst those who, in the midst of the terrible calamity in which the human family finds itself at present, see in that tragedy only a propitious occasion to enrich themselves through dishonest means, by taking advantage of the suffering and need of their neighbor and raising prices without limit in order to procure profits that are scandalous.

Look at their hands: They are besmirched with blood; the blood of widows and orphans; the blood of children and youths, whose physical development is impeded or retarded by malnutrition and hunger; the blood of thousands and thousands of unfortunates of all classes whom they have sacrificed at the altar of their despicable trade. This blood, like that of Abel, cries to heaven against the new Cains. And on their hands the smirch remains indelible, just as down deep in their conscience their crimes must remain unforgivable until they shall have recognized it and through tears and expiation made amends to the extent to which reparation of so great a crime is possible.

Do not shut your hearts to the voice of the Divine Master: "Blessed are the merciful," he said, "for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew v, 7). For the love of Christ, join together in the spirit of brotherhood, lend a helping hand to one another, you who enjoy still, or who recently acquired, a measure of the world's goods, and you who have tragically lost everything, in order that through mutual support you may overcome the economic crisis into which the country has fallen and which would be ever so greatly relieved were all men united by truly human solidarity and by a real divine Christian charity.

Listen today, then, to the voice of God, and do not harden your hearts. That voice counsels: "Let the wicked forsake his way and the unjust man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord." (Isaiah lv, 7). To those who would turn a deaf ear to this invitation of the Almighty, to those who would not listen to the persuasive voice of the shepherds of souls, even in the face of the clear and commanding call of conscience, another voice, the savage and atrociously real voice of the cruel events of our times, makes itself audible to announce and warn that war is the fruit and the wages of sin.

The sinner well may try to bury his head in the sand, the wicked man well may insist on following obstinately the ways of evil, far removed from God: But that tragic voice will become ever louder, ever more terrifying, will penetrate the innermost recesses of their heart, even through the immediate cause and responsibilities of the inhuman conflict and through the mist of external acts and words, to seek out and expose the profound cause which has given rise to and nourished the horrible conflagration, the spirit which has aroused and embittered the strife, which is the spirit of pride of ambition and of greed.

It is the spirit of evil which wars against the spirit of God and which would banish from the earth the kingdom of Christ and deify material force, in order to drive out of the lives of peoples and still more to abolish from international relations, every essential distinction between good and evil and between what is just and what is unjust.

To those who have allowed themselves to be seduced by the advocates of violence and who, after having thoughtlessly followed them, begin finally to reawaken from their deception, in consternation at seeing to what their servile docility has led them, there remains no other way to salvation than that of repudiating definitely the idolatry of absolute nationalism, the pride of race and blood, the desire for hegemony in the possession of worldly goods, and to turn resolutely toward that spirit of sincere fraternity which is founded on the worship of the Divine Father of all men and in which those ideas, for too long a time opposed, of right and of duty, of advantage and of disadvantage, are reconciled in justice and in charity.

But the reconciliation of peoples will only be able to guarantee stability if it is carried out faithfully and with large-mindedness. We cannot even suppose that after so many sorrowful events there is anyone who might give in to the temptation of profiting by the present situation of affairs to turn the organization of peace to his own advantage against the dictates of justice. He, in fact, would be for the moment in a position indeed to present himself as a benefactor of humanity, but later history, which judges in the light of higher principles and vaster experience, will classify him not among those who have contributed to redeem the world from oppression and violence, but rather among the deceivers who in a grave and decisive hour have betrayed the expectations of peoples to whom indescribable suffering conferred a new title to respect for their inviolable rights.

Let us not forget that before God (for whom every heart is open and to whom every will speaks) votive mass of the Holy Ghost (hearts hold no darkness, nor wills secrets). Teacher and Sovereign Lord, He holds in His hands and can move at will the spirit of the men who believe they have in theirs the destinies of the world. He can cause the birth, the sprouting and the blossoming of thoughts and sentiments that will inspire a peace corresponding to His designs and to the hopes of men of good-will.

He can do it but He awaits our cooperation and desires that we supplicate and pray to Him. And that is the reason why the whole of Christianity, and why on this day the children of the Eternal City, with a contrite and humble heart in repentance and expiation, in prayer and penance, raise eyes and hands to Him Who alone can cause the serenity and pacification of all peoples to follow Him from the horrors of discord and hatred, the innumerable anxieties of peoples, especially in those countries that are still fields of battle.

And that is why also, mindful that the Lord and Father "manifests His omnipotence above all in mercy and forgiveness" (Oration Mass of Tenth Sunday after Pentecost), we beg Him to put an end to so mighty a scourge, to bring about the great and much desired regeneration of deeply wounded humanity and to hasten the coming of a true and lasting peace. The path that will have to lead from the conflict to the suspension of hostilities, from the truce of arms to peace, is still in each of its stages covered over with shadows that may perhaps conceal surprises and dangers.

The more that man endeavors with his reflections and calculations to foresee and prevent conflicts, so much the more he at times perceives an evil spirit across his path to upset, at least momentarily, his best thought-out plans. But at long last-and may it be soon-the hour shall come, the hour determined by God and hastened by the merits and prayers of the elect. May that hour find you ready, especially you beloved children of our Rome, seeing you in this moment thronged at the foot of the great obelisk which was witness to the passion of Peter. Our thoughts go back to your ancestors whose grateful faith chiselled on the granite pedestal of that obelisk the joyful acclamation "Christus vincit" (Christ conquers). Your fathers, before chiseling in stone the memory of this triumph of Christ, pledge of consolation and hope, had exalted it with valor in battle and with generosity in suffering.

This, indeed, is the honor of Christian Rome, which is now entrusted to you, an honor which is embodied not so much in the stones of its basilicas and monuments as in the faith, in the love and in the virtue of its children. Woe betide us if the children of Rome should leave the care and conservation of that faith to the marble, the canvasses, the memories of ancient glory.

Sons and daughters of Christian Rome be proud of the heritage that your fathers have deeded to you, hold it aloft in honor, in honor before a past that recalls and summons to heroism, in honor before future generations for whom you must prepare in this anguished present the way of orderly progress and of true and unephemeral greatness for the achievement of earthly and eternal happiness.

Sources: ibiblio