Monday, August 05, 2013

Pope Pius XII...

...has been cruelly and shockingly maligned over his wartime role. But the truth is steadily emerging, and no serious historian would now give credence to the lies circulated by the old East German regime. 

I spent a good deal of time researching the story of one particular family of Jewish refugees in Rome, and the results are in my new book Courage and Conviction  describing how the Brigettine sisters successfully hid this group and thus saved their lives.

Sitting in the parlour of the Brigettine sisters, and talking to the elderly Jewish gentleman who had lived there as a teenage boy, and hearing him describe what it was all like, is something I will remember for always...the stories of the atmosphere in the house, of the kindness of the nuns, of listening in secret to the BBC, of the tension of the final days of the war... and it was rather touching to see how the friendship with the sisters had continued down the years, as we sat chatting over drinks and little cakes with the Italian sunshine pouring in, and later joined the sisters and some other guests out in the courtyard...

Incidentally, one aspect of the wider story of how Jewish lives were saved in Rome during those ghastly years is the role of Mgr Montini, later Paul VI.  He worked with zeal and courage to find hiding-places for Jewish families, facing personal danger in doing so.

Want to know more? Get the book.


TL said...

Will that book be available at Gracewing too?
And do you think the saints and heroes books would be suitable as confirmation presents, or a bit too young?
Thank you also for comments re the Franciscan and the EF mass. I think you are always very balanced in these situations..

Joanna Bogle said...

Yes, the book "Courage and Conviction" is published by Gracewing and can be ordered from them.

I think the Saints and Heroes/Heroines books would work well as confirmation presents. The style and presentation is aimed at teenagers.

johnf said...

Professor Sir Martin Gilbert, who is Jewish himself wrote a detailed account of the efforts made to save Jews during the Nazi onslaught. The book is called 'The Righteous'

In Sir Martin's book the Catholic Church is praised for its efforts across Europe. In Italy especially great efforts were made to save Jewish families. (In this context it is surprising to find that Mussolini drove the Nazis to frustration by refusing to deport Jews.)

Pius XII comes in for special praise in particular for his actions in October 1943, with only 24 hours notice, over 4000 Jews had been given sanctuary in monasteries and convents in Rome. Sadly the remainder of Rome's 5000 Jewish population were captured and deported to Auschwitz, with very few surviving.

Malcolm said...

The problem with canonising John Paul II is that it's a bit insulting to Paul VI, who wasn't a great success as Pope, though personally an honourable man.
If you ask anyone to name a papal encyclical, however, they'll always say "Humanae Vitae", and they'll be able to tell you what it said.

Edward Kendall said...

I have just finished reading The Galloping Nun which was published earlier this year ( This is the autobiography of Sister Chiara, the socialite who became a Franciscan nun. Born into the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, presented at court and married to an army officer, Chiara Hatton Hall set up a riding school for the international social elite. Her students included the young Princess Royal, Princess Anne. At the age of 42, after the death of her husband, Chiara found her vocation as a religious and exchanged her jodhpurs for a Franciscan habit. Embracing a life of poverty, chastity and obedience, she was later to become an instructing judge on a diocesan marriage tribunal. Then, at the suggestion of an imaginative superior, she took up the reins again - this time to work for Riding for the Disabled, travelling the world to teach riding instructors how to bring confidence, self-respect and joy to mentally and physically handicapped adults and children. In her book, Sister Chiara looks back on a life of dramatic contrasts that were ultimately reconciled by embracing the spirit of St Francis.

Would anyone be interested in reviewing this?