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In 1933, the very first year of the Nazi regime, Sister Edith wrote to Pope Pius XI, warning about persecution and hatred levied against the Jews. Stein implored for intervention against this inhumanity. In her letter to the Pope she wrote:
"As a child of the Jewish people who, by the grace of God, for the past eleven years has also been a child of the Catholic Church, I dare to speak to the Father of Christianity about that which oppresses millions of Germans. For weeks we have seen deeds perpetrated in Germany which mock any sense of justice and humanity, not to mention love of neighbor. For years the leaders of National Socialism have been preaching hatred of the Jews. Now that they have seized the power of government and armed their followers . . . this seed of hatred has germinated. . . . But the responsibility must fall, after all, on those who brought them to this point and it also falls on those who keep silent in the face of such happenings.
In 1942, she was arrested at a Netherlands convent. Later that year, she was murdered at Auschwitz. Sr. Stein's letter received no public acknowledgement until the Church released it in 2003, seventy years after its receipt!
Although it wasn't intended as a direct response to Edith Stein's letter, Pope Pius XII eventually gave the following explanation of why he chose not to speak-out publicly about the Jewish Holocaust :
See the answer given to his pope by the Austrian farmer, whom the church has since beatified, and who deplored his church's silence at the time: StFranz.html.
'The Pope knew that the German Catholics were not prepared to suffer martyrdom for their Church; still less were they willing to incur the wrath of their Nazi rulers for the sake of the Jews whom their own bishops for years had castigated as a harmful influence in German life. In the final analysis, then, as Poliakov has also concluded, "the Vatican's silence only reflected the deep feeling of the Catholic masses of Europe" – those of Germany and eastern Europe in particular. – The failure of the Pope was a measure of the Church's failure to convert her gospel of brotherly love and human dignity into living reality."
One of the principal reasons given by the Vatican for the silence of the Pope Pius XII was that "the Holy See did not want to jeopardize its neutrality". But Pius XII himself exposed the problem with that argument as Lewy points out:
Would that the Roman Catholic Church had indeed been "neutral". That would have been bad enough. But the truth is that the Catholic Church was far from neutral where the attempted extermination of the entire Jewish population of the world was concerned.
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