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“I have looked into your eyes with my eyes. I have put my heart near your heart.”  Blessed Pope John XXIII

With the recurring theme of  how much the Church hates Jews and whether Pope Pius XII was in Hitler’s back pocket, frequently overlooked is the naming of a Papal Nuncio as Righteous Among The Nations in the Yad Vashem museum in Israel.

The Nuncio was Bishop Angelo Roncalli but you may recognize him as Pope John XXIII.

Throughout World War II, regardless of where he was serving, Blessed Pope John did whatever he could to save Jewish citizens.

In Hungary he mobilized all the forces at his disposal to issue (temporary) baptismal certificates and transit visas to neutral countries for Jewish citizens in danger of deportation to concentration camps. Thousands were saved by these efforts.

Later there was a controversy regarding Jewish children, orphaned by the war, who had been given baptism and sheltered by Catholics. Again, Nuncio Roncalli did whatever he could to return these children to living relatives and to their Jewish heritage. Even when his actions were contrary to the declared policy of Pope Pius XII.

From Greece to Hungary, Italy, France and Romania, in Slovakia and Bulgaria, Angelo Roncalli was tireless in his efforts to protect people from the blind persecutions of the Nazi ideology.

As Pope, he instituted reforms in the official church attitude towards Jews, made ecumenicalism the focus of Vatican relations with other faiths and removed the negative  images of Jews to be found in literature educating children in their Catholic faith.

I’m not going to give a full history lesson here. It has been recorded elsewhere on the internet and in history books in better detail.  All I want here is to provide a wee bit of insight, a mote of what actually happened buried under the truckloads of conjecture, innuendo and misdirection that passes for historical commentary.

Here are a few links to get you started…

Pope John XXIII and the Jews – Raoul Wallenburg Foundation

Summary of the research work of the International Angelo Roncalli Committee – Raoul Wallenburg Foundation

Pope John XXIII Official Vatican Biography

Blessed Pope John XXIII: An Ordinary Holiness – Saint Anthony Messenger

John XXIII panel