Was The Pope To Blame?

Three Popes and the Jews, by Pinchas E. Lapide (Hawthorne, 1967, 384 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by Jakob Jocz, professor of systematic theology, Wycliffe College, Toronto, Ontario.

This work pursues a double purpose: it traces the origin of anti-Semitism to Christian teaching regarding the Jewish people, and it analyzes the attitude of three popes of our own century. But it differs from similar efforts by Jewish writers in that it tries to balance the good and the evil.

Of the three popes—Pius XI, Pius XII, and John XXIII—it is Pius XII who is the center of attention. This is understandable for two reasons: Pius XII was the pope during whose reign the Jewish people suffered its greatest tragedy; he is also the pope who is the central figure in Hochhuth’s play The Deputy.

Lapide’s presentation of the facts is not only scrupulously objective and carefully documented but also placed against the political stresses and strains at the time of the German occupation of Europe. The picture that emerges is quite different from that conveyed by Hochhuth’s play. Pius XII appears as a man of great humanity and dedication who exerted all his powers to alleviate human suffering. In view of the harsh criticism leveled against the pope as a result of Hochhuth’s play, it is of special significance that his actions should be vindicated by an Israeli writer of exceptional standing. P. E. Lapide is a Canadian-born journalist who has seen diplomatic service on behalf of the Israeli government, serves on the staff of the American Institute of Biblical Studies in Jerusalem, and is the founder of the first American kibbutz.

The author in no way minimizes the guilt of the church that has created an execrable image of the Jew in the ...

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