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(Last Updated: 16 Sep 2000 )
I have come across many claims on the Internet that the Catholic Church and the Pope at the time supported Hitler and the Nazis during World War II.
Here are paraphrases of some quotes from atheists I have corresponded with recently on this very issue, along with my responses.
The statements I respond to are in <red text, in brackets>. My responses are in normal text.
Quick Index: The Church Standing Up For Justice / "We Remember" / Mit Brennender Sorge / Hitler Excommunicated? / Links
That's a good point. It is certainly surprising that there was not more protest from parties on both sides of the philosophical fence in Germany (Christians and atheists) when it was time to stand up for the Jews. But it's interesting to note that Albert Einstein (who was Jewish), reacting to the Nazi persecution of the Jews, was dismayed at the lack of outcry or assistance from secular establishments. He said:
By apology, do you mean last year's document We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah? The apology in that document said nothing about a pope siding with Hitler, because no pope ever did side with Hitler. That document discussed the history of Jewish-Christian relations. It did contain an apology, but not of the sort you are getting at. It quoted Pope John Paul II's letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente saying:
But the idea that any pope sided with Hitler in his anti-Semitism is absurd.
The pope immediately before World War II was Pius XI, who wrote an encyclical condemning National Socialism called Mit Brennender Sorge (On the Church and the German Reich, March 1937). Some citations are included in this article below.
When that pope died in 1939 he was succeeded by Pope Pius XII, who had previously been Vatican Secretary of State. In that role he frequently spoke out against the Nazis, including one notable speech to 250,000 people at Lourdes in 1935 where he said that the Nazis
As Pope he secretly worked to save as many Jewish lives as possible from the Nazis. Jewish Rabbi Pinchas Lapide wrote that
Well, maybe you should read Mit Brennender Sorge (On the Church and the German Reich, by Pope Pius XI, March 1937). Here are some relevant extracts:
Well, I have read (but cannot provide citations) that the conference of German bishops excommunicated all Nazis in 1930 and in the 1932 elections told Catholics not to vote for a Nazi.
Whether Hitler was personally
formally excommunicated doesn't matter - the whole purpose of
excommunication is to help the sinner recognize the seriousness
of his sins so he will seek forgiveness and return to the
Church. To someone like Hitler, who didn't believe in the truth
of Christianity, excommunication would be of no concern. He had
already put himself outside of the Church.
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