"We gather in faith..."

Teaching and commentary from our pastor, Bishop Francis J. Christian


For many years, Pope Pius XII and the Vatican have

been criticized for their alleged “silence” in regard to the

Holocaust during the Second World War. Recently, in

England the British Broadcasting Corporation aired a

program making the same claim. This program elicited a

stern response from Lord David Alton, a former member of

the House of Commons. I offer this enlightening response

in this space for the next three weeks hoping it will assist

you to have a more objective understanding of the truth of

the matter.

In a significant finding, the British Broadcasting

Corporation has conceded that in their main evening news

bulletin, seen by millions, it falsely described the Church

as being ‘silent’ in the face of Nazism and that it has not

reported correctly on the Church’s opposition to Hitler.

The finding was made by the BBC’s internal watchdog

after Father Leo Chamberlain and I jointly lodged a

complaint. Chamberlain, a Benedictine, is a historian and

former headmaster of Ampleforth College.

The broadcast was made last July during a visit to

Auschwitz by Pope Francis. The reporter stated as fact

that, “Silence was the response of the Catholic Church

when Nazi Germany demonized Jewish people and then

attempted to eradicate Jews from Europe.”

After several unsuccessful attempts to seek a

correction, we felt that we had no choice but to make a

formal complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU).

We presented a dossier of material - all of it publically

available to any reporter.

Having studied this, the ECU said that, in their

judgment, the news report had not given “due weight to

public statements by successive popes or the efforts made

on the instructions of Pius XII to rescue Jews from Nazi

persecution, and perpetuated a view which is at odds with

the balance of evidence.”

Ironically, part of the BBC report came from St.

Maximilian Kolbe’s cell at Auschwitz. St. Maximilian,

was executed after taking the place of another prisoner.

He had been arrested for publishing a denunciation of the

Nazis in his magazine, Knight, which had a circulation of

around one million people.

Hardly silence, then.

Nor was silence the response of the 6,066 Poles

(overwhelmingly Catholic) who have been officially

recognized in Israel as “Righteous Among the Nations,”

for their role in saving the lives of Polish Jews.

One charitable interpretation of the Auschwitz report

was that it was a sloppy, lazy, throw-away remark -

indicative of the sort of religious illiteracy that can cause

so much offense; and part of a blurring between the

straightforward reporting of news and the desire to add

some melodrama to spice it up. Don’t let facts or truth

spoil a good story.

Less charitably, the BBC report may be seen as simply

the latest example of a long-running attempt to rewrite