John XXII lobbied to save Jews, Israeli scholar finds

An Israeli Holocaust scholar has turned up evidence that Vatican diplomat Angelo Roncalli - the future John XXIII - lobbied to save Jews, passing on Auschwitz death camps information to the Vatican and "gently" criticising Pius XII's policies.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Dina Porat, a professor of Jewish history from Tel Aviv University, researched the diaries and correspondences of Haim Barlas, an emissary dispatched by the Jewish Agency in the 1940s to save Jews in Europe.

His papers are held in a private archive in Israel, the owners of which have refused to be publicly identified but who granted access to Porat, Professor Porat said.

According to Professor Porat, Barlas's papers have significant historical value but have been unknown so far because the documents are not in an official archive and are mostly in Hebrew.

In the 1940s, Barlas and Roncalli were both posted to Istanbul - Barlas as a Jewish Agency emissary and Roncalli as a Vatican nuncio, or ambassador. The two men became friends, Porat said, and their letters - mostly in French, a language both men spoke fluently - indicate that Roncalli "gently" expressed criticism of the Vatican's silence in the face of what was increasingly emerging as the Nazi genocide in Europe.

In 1943, Porat found, following a request from Barlas, Roncalli wrote to the president of Slovakia asking him to stop the Nazi deportations of Jews to death camps.

On 23 June 1944, Barlas received a copy of a chilling 30-page report that became known as the "Auschwitz protocols," compiled by two Jews who escaped from the camp that April. The report made it clear that the camp's purpose was the mass killing of Jews and others who the Nazis considered undesirable. At the time, the Nazis were in the midst of killing 400,000 Jews from Hungary.

In his papers, Barlas wrote that he rushed a copy of the protocols to his friend Roncalli on 24 June, and that Roncalli sent a synopsis to the Vatican by telegram that day. This contradicts the Vatican's official version, Porat said, which is that it received the report only in October 1944.

But Emma Fattorini, contemporary history professor at Rome's La Sapienza University, told the Post that the matter of "this month versus that month" was not critical.

"The question is not, 'they knew or didn't know.' By now it's a well-grounded (fact) that the Vatican knew, just like everyone else," she said.

All of Roncalli's correspondence with his church superiors has been preserved in the Vatican archives, Porat said - but the part that could clarify when he sent the protocols has not been made available to scholars.

Pius XII, who was Pope during the war, has come under criticism for decades for his silence and that of his church in the face of the Holocaust, when six million Jews were killed by the Nazis in an official effort to wipe out the Jews of Europe.

Pope John XXIII lobbied to save Jews (Jerusalem Post, 4/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Pope John XXII (Wikipedia)
Ioannes PP. XXIII, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (Vatican)

John XXIII's peace message maintains relevance after 40 years (CathNews, 11/4/03)

7 Dec 2006