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Vatican-Israel Relations: The Vatican Opposes Jewish Home in Palestine

(June 22, 1943)

The following letter, written by the apostolic delegate to Washington, Archbishop A.G. Cicognani, to President Roosevelt's special envoy to the Vatican, Ambassador Myron Taylor, explains that the Pope's willingness to help save 4,000 Slovakian children and getting them to Palestine should not be interpreted as support for the creation of a Jewish state there.

3339 Massachusetts Avenue
Washington, D.C.

No. 219/43

June 22 1943

Your Excellency,

In reference to our conversation of a few days back, I wish to present for Your Excellenecy's consideration and attention the following points relative to the situation in Palestine.

The Holy See has despite grave difficulties constantly manifested deep interest and concern in “non-arians.” This is quite clear from the recent action taken in favor of the Jewish youths and infants interned in Slovackia to prevent their removal from that Republic.

The aid of the Holy See has recently been enlisted to assist In the removal of difficulties so that Jewish children may be transported to Palestine. Their immigration from European countries has been permitted by this British Government.

Although the Holy See is deeply interested in the welfare of these children, it seems opportune to recall at this time of general question of the “Hebrew Home” in Palestine. Since 1917, when the question first arose, the Holy See has made known its attitude on the point and has repeated it in several formal documents.

In 1919 His Holiness, Pope Benedict IV, in speaking to a Consistory of Cardinals, mentioned the great solicitude the Popes have shown for the preservation of the venerable and holy places in Palestine. For years they hare sacrificed to keep them from the hands of infidels. Now that their possession has been secured, it must be protected and strengthened. If the power of the infidels in Palestine increases, the monuments will again be in danger. (A.A.S. Vol. XI, page 100).

On June 13, 1921, the same Sovereign Pontiff pointed out that although he did not want to interfere with any rights of the Jewish people, neither did be desire to prejudice in any way the rights of Christians in Palestine. (A.A.S. Vol. XIII, page 283). The attitude of the Church was set forth in an “Aide Memoire” to the Council of the League Of Nations on June 4, 1922. A copy is attached to this letter. There is also a copy of a letter from Cardinal Gasparri under date of March 6, 1922.

In this question two points must be considered. The first concerns the Holy Places (for example, the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, Bethlehem, etc.). Catholics rejoice in certain rights regarding these places and in justice their rights must be rocognized, and respected. Repeated formal assurances that these rights will be respected are ever necessary and will again be required after the present war,

The second point concerns Palestine itself. Catholics the world over are piously devoted to this country, hallowed as it was by the presence of the Redeemer and esteemed as it is as the cradle of Christianity. If the greater part of Palestine is given to the Jewish people, this would be a severe blow to the religious attachment of Catholics to this land. To have the Jewish people in the majority would be to interfere with the peaceful exercise of these rights in the Holy Land already vested in Catholics.

It is true that at one time Palestine was inhabited by the Hebrew Race, but there is no axiom in history to substantiate the necessity of a people returning to a country they left nineteen centuries before.

If a “Hebrew Home” is desired, it would not be too difficult to find a more fitting territory than Palestine. With an increase in the Jewish population there, grave new, international problems would arise. Catholics the world over would be aroused. The Holy See would be saddened, and justly, so, by such a move, for it would not be in keeping with the charitable assistance non-arians [sic] have received and will continue to receive at the hands of the Vatican.

I am confident that from these points, Your Excellency will appreciate the position of the Holy See in this matter.

'With sentiments of esteem and every good wish, I remain

Yours very sincerely,

(Signed) A. G. CICOGNANI.

Archbishop of Laodicea
Apostolic Delegate.

Source: Courtesy The Simon Wiesenthal Center