Page 1, 29th May 1987

29th May 1987
Page 1
Page 1, 29th May 1987 — Pius' silence hid perils

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Organisations: British government
Locations: Rome


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Pius' silence hid perils

Adolf Hitter — papal plot Pius XII — conspirator by Peter Stanford POPE Pius XII, if publically silent on Hitler's rule in Germany, was part of a plot by some of the fascist dictator's generals to overthrow him and bring an end to the second World War in 1940. Pius XII, often criticised for his inactivity during the war years, took a "terrible risk" in entering the conspiracy according to Jesuit historian Fr Robert Graham.

The papal involvement in the planned coup was first revealed in an article penned by Pius himself in the Vatican newspaper, L 'Osservatore Romano, in 1946, Fr Graham said. However, despite the existence of documents to support the Pope's contention, many distinguished

commentators have continued to cling to the view that Pius was a Nazi collaborator, Fr Graham pointed out.

H was Pius' involvement in the abortive putsch — the generals eventually got "cold feet" and dropped the plan that left him compromised in regard to Hitler according to the

distinguished Jesuit historian. He had relayed the news of the scheme to the British government — as set out in Owen Hardwick's recent book Britain and the Vatican During the Second World War — and thereafter feared that if Hitler got to know of his role, "the information would have

scandalised German Catholics, risking a schism".

Also, Fr Graham added, the credibility of the Vatican as a neutral state during the 1939-1945 conflict would have been threatened. Therefore, the Pope kept his part secret.

In a front page article in the Rome daily 11 Tempo last week, Italian foreign Minister, GiBIDO Andreotti, who played a minor role in the plan, confirmed Pius' commitment to the overthrow of Nazism as set out by Fr Graham and Owen Chadwick. He pointed out that much of the evidence remained hidden in the Vatican during the war for fear that once the Germans entered

Rome, they would also take over the Holy See.

Throughout the war years, Pius XII was committed to the "cause of peace", Fr Graham said in an interview. When he was approached by the German generals "the Pope thought about it and agreed the next day" according to Fr Graham. "If it worked, 20 million people wouldn't have died".

The Vatican's role in the second World War, and particularly in regard to Nazi Germany and the growing evidence of its policies of gefforick in the 2940s, has bong been a subject of controversy. Pius' silence and later documentation about the role of the Holy See in arranging for the passage of war criminals to South America, has led many to condemn the papacy in this period for its failure to speak up.

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