The Vatican has confirmed the existence of a directive from Pope Pius XII, asking Catholic clergy and religious to shelter Jews from the Holocaust.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, acknowledged in short April 19 announcement that Pope Pius XII issued instructions for all religious institutions to open their doors to Jewish people. The catacombs of Rome were also made available for shelter.
The Pope's directive was issued on October 25, 1943. Just over a week earlier, on October 16 of that year, more than 1,000 Jews in Rome's ghetto had been arrested and deported to Germany.
The Vatican memo-- the latest evidence that the wartime Pontiff took action to save Jewish lives-- was acknowledged at a time when the debate about the actions of Pope Pius XII has been revived, particularly in Israel. Archbishop Antonio Franco, the papal nuncio in the Holy Land, last week threatened to boycott a remembrance ceremony at Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem memorial to Holocaust victims, because the Yad Vashem museum contains an exhibit claiming that Pius XII was indifferent to the suffering of the Jews.
The Italian Catholic monthly, 30 Giorni, recently published pages from the anonymous diary of an Augustinian nun from the Santi Quattro Coronati convent in Rome, referring to the October 1943 order from the Pope. The nun wrote, "In these sad days, the Holy Father wishes to save his children, also the Jews, and orders that monasteries give shelter to those persecuted. Convents must adhere to the desire of the Supreme Pontiff."