Catholic News - Catholic Telecommunications, a devision of Catholic Resources





Letter reveals Edith Stein asked Pope Pius XI to condemn Nazism

Just a few weeks after Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, St. Edith Stein - a Catholic convert from Judaism who was soon to enter a Carmelite convent - wrote to Pope Pius XI asking him to condemn the Nazi ideology.

The saint, who died at the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz in 1942 and was canonised in 1998, wrote to the pope April 12, 1933, saying the whole world was "waiting and hoping that the church of Christ would make its voice heard."

The letter, which Stein referred to in other writings, was published for the first time in German and Italian newspapers on Wednesday after scholars were given copies of the original from the Vatican Secret Archives.

An official of the archives confirmed that the letter was one of the hundreds of documents involving Vatican-German relations before World War II opened to scholars last week.

The idea of writing an encyclical against Nazi ideas contrary to the faith had been discussed at the Vatican and at least one draft was written, but Pope Pius died in 1939 without completing and publishing it.

Jesuit Fr Pierre Blet, the Vatican's leading expert on World War II, said in 1999 it would have been a mistake to publish the draft because while it condemned anti- Semitism it also recognised the rights of a state to take certain measures against Jews.

St. Edith Stein wrote to the pope, "As a daughter of the Jewish people, who through the grace of God has been a daughter of the Catholic Church for 11 years, I dare to express to the father of Christianity that which is worrying millions of Germans."

She said the behavior of Hitler and his supporters betrayed "total contempt for justice and for humanity, not to mention love of one's neighbour."

Catholic News Service

Edith Stein Asked Pius XI to Intervene Against Persecution of Jews (Zenit)
Convert's futile war plea to Pope (The Age)
Vatican's Nazi secrets (Daily Telegraph)
Stein letter emerges from Vatican archives (CNN)
Vatican Secret Archives
Vatican archive opening gets more attention from media than scholars (18/2/03)
Vatican prepares release of confidential pre-World War II documents (11/2/03)
Edith Stein (EWTN)
The Life and Texts of Edith Stein

21 Feb 2003