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DATE 2005-01-01

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MESSAGE
DATE 2005-01-09
FROM Ruben Safir
SUBJECT Subject: [hangout] It never ends......

January 9, 2005
Saving Jewish Children, but at What Cost?
By ELAINE SCIOLINO and JASON HOROWITZ


PARIS, Jan. 8 - In October 1946, just a year after the defeat of the
Nazis, the Vatican weighed in on one of the most painful episodes of the
postwar era: the refusal to allow Jewish children who had been sheltered
by Catholics during the war to return to their own families and
communities.

A newly disclosed directive on the this subject provides written
confirmation of well-known church policy and practices at the time,
particularly toward Jewish children who had been baptized, often to save
them from perishing at the hands of the Nazis. Its tone is cold and
impersonal, and it makes no mention of the horrors of the Holocaust.

Its disclosure has reopened a raw debate on the World War II role of the
Catholic Church and of Pope Pius XII, a candidate for sainthood who has
been excoriated by his critics as a heartless anti-Semite who maintained
a public silence on the Nazi death camps and praised by his supporters
as a savior of Jewish lives.

The one-page, typewritten directive, dated Oct. 23, 1946, was discovered
in a French church archive outside Paris and made available to The New
York Times on the condition that the source would not be disclosed. It
is a list of instructions for French authorities on how to deal with
demands from Jewish officials who want to reclaim Jewish children.

"Children who have been baptized must not be entrusted to institutions
that would not be in a position to guarantee their Christian
upbringing," the directive says.

It also contains an order not to allow Jewish children who had been
baptized Catholic to go home to their own parents. "If the children have
been turned over by their parents, and if the parents reclaim them now,
providing that the children have not received baptism, they can be given
back," it says.

Even Jewish orphans who had not been baptized Catholic were not to be
turned over automatically to Jewish authorities. "For children who no
longer have their parents, given the fact that the church has
responsibility for them, it is not acceptable for them to be abandoned
by the church or entrusted to any persons who have no rights over them,
at least until they are in a position to choose themselves," the
document says. "This, obviously, is for children who would not have been
baptized."

The document, written in French and first disclosed last week by the
Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, is unsigned but says, "It
should be noted that this decision taken by the Holy Congregation of the
Holy Office has been approved by the Holy Father."

The publication of the document is likely to embolden those who do not
think Pius XII is worthy of becoming a saint. Some prominent Jews and
historians have attacked the document for its insensitivity to the
Holocaust.

The Rev. Peter Gumpel, a Rome-based Jesuit priest and a leading
proponent for the beatification of Pius XII, the first step toward
sainthood, said he was convinced that the document did not come from the
Vatican. He pointed out that it is not on official Vatican stationery,
that it is not signed and that it is written in French, not Italian.
"There is something fishy here," he said.

But √Čtienne Fouilloux, a French historian who is compiling Pope John
XXIII's diaries during his years in France, said that the document had
been discovered recently in church archives outside of Paris by a
serious researcher and that it is genuine. John has been beatified, the
last formal step toward sainthood.

At the time, Pope John XXIII was Monsignor Angelo Roncalli, Pope Pius
XII'S representative to France. During the war, Monsignor Roncalli was
credited with saving tens of thousands of Jews from Nazi persecution by
using diplomatic couriers, papal representatives and nuns to issue and
deliver baptismal certificates, immigration certificates and visas, many
of them forged, to Jews. He also helped gain asylum for Jews in neutral
countries.

"This document is indicative of a mind-set at the Vatican that dealt
with problems in a legal framework without worrying that there were
human beings involved," Mr. Fouilloux said. "It shows that the massacre
of Jews was not seen by the Holy See as something of importance."

He said he would include the document in the next volume of the diaries.

The document underscores the sanctity with which the Vatican treated the
sacrament of baptism at the time - no matter how or why it was
administered.

The church's stance that a baptized child is irrevocably Christian was
established nearly a century before the Holocaust, when, in 1858, papal
guards took Edgardo Mortara, 6, from his family in Bologna when word
spread that he had been clandestinely baptized by a Catholic maid. It
was relaxed only in the 1960's.

More important, the directive captures the church's failure to grasp the
enormous implications of the Nazi extermination of the Jews. "It shows
the very bureaucratic and very icy attitude of the Catholic Church in
these types of things." said Alberto Melloni, an Italian historian with
the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies in Bologna, who is
working with Mr. Fouilloux to publish the diaries of Pope John XXIII. He
called the tone of the directive "horrifyingly normal."

A second document that was also discovered by the French researcher is a
letter in July 1946 to Monsignor Roncalli that noted his pledge to
intervene to return Jewish-born children to their community and asked
for his help to return 30 Jewish-born children living in a Catholic
charity.

"Almost two years after the liberation of France, some Israelite
children are still in non-Jewish institutions that refuse to give them
back to Jewish charities," said the letter, which was signed by the
Grand Rabbi of France and the head of the Jewish Central Consistory. It
added, "We are in advance, grateful for your help."

It is not known whether there was a reply.

No reliable figures exist on how many French Jewish children were saved
by the church from the Nazis, or affected by its decision to prevent
them from rejoining their families and communities after the war. The
French Jewish population had limited success in recovering Jewish
children who had been adopted by non-Jews.

In the most well-documented case in France, two Jewish boys, Robert and
Gerald Finaly, were sent in 1944 by their parents to a Catholic nursery
in Grenoble. The parents perished at Auschwitz. Family members tried to
get the boys back in 1945, but in part because they had been baptized,
it took an additional eight years and a long legal battle to prevail
over the church.

"Look, I know that for the church, baptism means the child belongs to
the church, you can't undo it," said Amos Luzzatto, the president of the
Union of Italian Jewish Communities. "But given the circumstances they
could have made a human decision."

Mr. Luzzatto described himself as "speechless" that the Vatican
directive on the children does not mention the Holocaust and questioned
the worthiness of Pius XII to be made a saint.

"If they beatify him, don't ask us to applaud," he said.

Some corners of the Catholic Church are suspicious that the document,
and the ensuing debate that has played out in Italian newspapers, was
produced to create obstacles in Pius XII's march toward sainthood.

But Pope John Paul II strongly supports the campaign to make Pius XII a
saint, and in February 2003, the Vatican announced the opening of some
secret archives to help clear Pius XII's name, although the papers do
not deal with his activities as pope.

Elaine Sciolino reported from Paris for this article, and Jason Horowitz
from Rome.


____________________________
NYLXS: New Yorker Free Software Users Scene
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because it's either fair use or useless....
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