Pope Pius XII and the Chief Rabbi of Rome

Pope Pius XII cannot win with certain kinds of people. No matter how many people he saved, someone will always say, “So, nu, only 850,000 Jews? Why didn’t he save two million Jews?” Even if the Pope had saved two million, someone would say, “Nu, only two million? Why not four million?”

If the mighty European nations couldn’t stop Hitler, how could the Pope? Maybe, just maybe, given the limitations of his office, he ended up saving more Jews than he would have had he made a public protest against Hitler …

Who can presume to have God-like power and adjudicate this matter once and for all? I know that I sure can’t, but the many Jewish witnesses I mentioned above saw firsthand what the Pope did; I think many folks may not like the quiet way the Pope got things done, but it is quite possible that he did the best he could given the circumstances he had to deal with.

The study of Jewish history is anything but boring. Here’s a little known fact: The Chief Rabbi of Rome, Rabbi Yisrael Zolli, converted to Catholicism because of the Pope’s efforts in saving Jewish lives.

In a statement of thanks, Zolli said, “What the Vatican did will be indelibly and eternally engraved in our hearts. . . . Priests and even high prelates did things that will forever be an honor to Catholicism.”[1] Although Zolli said he converted for “theological reasons,” it is generally believed that he did so out of gratitude for what the Pope did for his people. Rather than encouraging a massive conversion on the part of Jews to Catholicism, Zolli preferred to state that his conversion was a personal one based on his rethinking of Catholic theology and teachings and his personal friendship with Pope Pius XII, a man  whose personal integrity he deeply respected and admired.

Lapide writes: “When Zolli accepted baptism in 1945 and adopted Pius’s Christian name of Eugene, most Roman Jews were convinced that his conversion was an act of gratitude for wartime succor to Jewish refugees and, repeated denials not withstanding, many are still of his opinion. Thus, Rabbi Barry Dov Schwartz wrote in the summer issue, 1964, of Conservative Judaism: ‘Many Jews were persuaded to convert after the war, as a sign of gratitude, to that institution which had saved their lives.’ “[2] Continue reading “Pope Pius XII and the Chief Rabbi of Rome”