MY COUSIN THE SAINT
A Search for Faith, Family, and Miracles
by Justin Calanoso

Posts Tagged ‘Pope Pius XII’

Vatican Defends Move to Sainthood for Wartime Pope

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

The NY Times reports today:

“ROME — In an effort to calm growing tensions with Jewish groups, the Vatican said Wednesday that Pope Benedict XVI had not moved the wartime Pope Pius XII closer to sainthood as an “act of hostility” against those who believe Pius did not do enough to stop the Holocaust.”

…This pope seems to have a difficult time avoiding controversy, from provoking Muslims to giving Holocaust-deniers a free pass to advancing the canonization cause of one of the most controversial popes of modern times. One has a right to ask: Why?

Research for my book revealed that Pius XII was not nearly the monster his critics accused him of being, nor was he the Nazi sympathizer he was charged with being either. The historical record seems to argue that Pius took great risks to hide and protect Jews in Italy during WWII in Vatican-owned property. That’s all good. But what, we must ask, is the purpose of canonization? Is it to simply honor the church’s best-known figures? Or is it to honor those who truly lived lives of heroic virtue, and whose lives can be an  inspiration to the faithful — role models for emulation? If Pius can truly pass the test of the latter, he deserves his shot at Catholic recognition. If, on the weight of the evidence, he cannot, than this cause should die and be done with.

But for a German pope to push this cause forward, it seems another case of the Vatican’s blindness to perceptions.

In defense of Pope Pius XII

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Writing in Forbes.com, columnist Melik Kaylan evaluates the long-held criticism of Pope Pius XII as doing too little to speak out against Nazi atrocities and (as I concluded through my own research) found it lacking. The WWII pope’s journey to canonization continues at the Vatican. Kaylan’s compelling commentary is here.

Excerpt: “In truth, Hitler hated Pius and Pius deplored both National Socialism and Communism, as countless extant documents show. He struggled against both incessantly, but the Soviets outlasted him, and their revenge has endured even in the West, giving rise to a dubious branch of Holocaust studies devoted entirely to blackening Pius’ reputation. It’s worth citing a few incontestable instances of Pius’ interventions on behalf of Jewish lives:

1. The issuing of 1,600 visas per year from 1939 to 1945 for Jews to escape from Europe to the Dominican Republic. 2. Out of some 8,000 Roman Jews, some 7,000 survived by taking refuge in Vatican buildings. 3. In Hungary, the Church gave an estimated 80,000 certificates to Jews showing they were baptized Catholics to exempt them from harm. 4. The church helped countless thousands to escape to Romania; some 360,000 Jews would leave for Israel from Romania up to the year 1965.”

Book review: The Tablet

Monday, June 30th, 2008

The Tablet, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn, reviews “My Cousin the Saint.”

An excerpt, from reviewer Nancy Hartnagel, wire editor of the Catholic News Service:

“The wonderful Padre Catanoso evoked in these pages was born on St. Valentine’s Day in 1879. Ordained a priest for the Diocese of Reggio Calabria in 1902, he served as a parish priest in a mountain village and as a pastor, chaplain and seminary spiritual director in a coastal town. His compassionate ministry, including shelters and orphanages, was prompted by the grinding poverty of the region and a devastating 1908 earthquake…

“Padre Catanoso did not see himself as a saint, but as “one of the Lord’s little donkeys.” In a telling anecdote, the author recalls that, when the priest had the chance during a private audience to ask Pope Pius XII to approve the new religious congregation, he forgot to do it and could only laugh at himself afterward.

“Catanoso also does a nice job with the saga of his grandfather, Carmelo, born in 1887 in the same village as Padre Catanoso. Carmelo and his wife, a Sicilian immigrant, settled in Wildwood, N.J., where they ran a grocery store and raised nine children. This part of the story, like many immigrant tales, is full of hard work and success, reunions at the family’s campground in Avalon, and the dreams and sorrows of succeeding generations.

“An especially touching chapter of the American Catanosos’ story is the death of the author’s brother, Alan, from brain cancer, not long before Padre Catanoso’s canonization. The author says his mother, Connie, ‘would pray to Gaetano with all the hope and conviction her long and unquestioned Catholic faith could sustain.’ “

Pope Pius XII

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Vatican officials said today that the beatificaton of Pope Pius XII, the controversial pope of World War II, is not imminent. There is debate still about whether Pius should have taken a stronger stand against Hitler’s known atrocities, but there is also ample evidence that he did what he could to shelter thousands of Roman Jews during the war.Pope Pius XII

This much about the Italian pope is not controversial. On September 11, 1941, he met briefly and privately with a future saint, Padre Gaetano Catanoso. I detail this meeting in Chapter 4 of my book — a regal and humbling moment. The old priest had a big favor to ask because he had a huge problem to solve. But he couldn’t do it, simply saying: “I ask only your blessing, Holy Father, for me, my nuns, the children of my institutes, and those who are dear to me.”

More on Pope Pius XII here.