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You are here: Historical Events Fighters Against Hate Phillippe Bernardini, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, and Angelo Rotta: Three Papal Nuncios of the Catholic Church who saved Jews from the Nazis in WWII

Phillippe Bernardini, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, and Angelo Rotta: Three Papal Nuncios of the Catholic Church who saved Jews from the Nazis in WWII

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Three Papal Nuncios of the Catholic Church stand out for their continuous efforts to save Jews during WWII. Phillippe Bernardini in Switzerland was involved in most of the organized efforts to pull Jews out of the holocaust. Angelo Rotta managed to save Jewish lives in Sofia, Bulgaria and then Budapest Hungary. He was recognized in 1997 as Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem. Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli worked hard in Turkey to save Jews and would eventually become Pope John XXIII.

(Picture above is of the Apostolic Nunciature in Bern Switzerland of the Holy See – taken in 2009)

A Papal Nuncio (officially known as an Apostolic Nuncio) is a permanent diplomatic representative of the Holy See (Vatican) to a state or international organization, having the rank of an ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary. Many states, including Switzerland, give precedence to the Nuncio over other diplomatic representatives, according him the position of Dean of the Diplomatic Corps.

In addition, the Nuncio usually holds the ecclesiastical rank of titular archbishop and serves as the liaison between the Vatican (Holy See) and the Roman Catholic diocesan episcopate in the nation or region to which he is assigned.

Our first papal nuncio was Monseñor Philippe Bernardini

Monsignor Phillippe Bernardini was Papal Nuncio to Switzerland from 1935 to 1953. In 1939, he was approached by the Orthodox Jewish couple Yitzchak and Recha Sternbuch to help save refugee Jews entering Switzerland and facing the threat of being returned to Nazi occupied areas of Europe. A working relationship was established immediately that lasted throughout the war and even afterwards. Monsignor Bernardini repeatedly intervened on behalf of Jewish refugees who were stranded in Switzerland after fleeing Germany and Nazi occupied countries and prevented them from being returned during the war.

As head of the diplomatic corps in Switzerland and the Papal Emissary there, Bernardini could be active in many spheres. He brought about the treatment of Recha Sternbuch’s as PERSONA GRATA (a person acceptable to the government of the country to which he or she is sent) wherever she went and for her not to be identified as a smuggler and criminal.

In addition, he let the Sternbuch’s make use of his church connections throughout occupied Europe, and gave them access to couriers of the Vatican diplomatic service for sending signed visa forms, money, and messages to Jewish and resistance organizations in Nazi occupied Europe.

When a new secretary-general of the Salvadoran consulate in Berne, George Mandel-Mantello, took office in 1942, there was an opportunity to obtain visas and passports for Jews to Salvador. The consul was a Rumanian businessman who was a Revisionist Zionist and an Orthodox Jew and was ready to produce Salvadoran citizenship papers gratis by the thousands – some estimates of the Salvadoran Papers produced were as high as 10,000. They were issued to anyone who could provide an address of a Jew in occupied territory. The visas were passed to those who needed them by Bernardini’s personal church messengers.

After stories appeared in the press about these documents, the Germans became suspicious of Latin American visas, and through the Swiss embassy in Berlin, threatened to withdraw the protection these papers represented unless the Latin American countries confirmed the documents. Papal nuncio Monsignor Fllippo Bemardini convinced Latin American and Spanish diplomats to accept the bogus citizenship papers and he even managed to involve heads of state to confirm the authenticity of the documents.

Bemardini intervened, personally, on behalf of the Jews of Slovakia and perhaps even caused, indirectly, to the cessation of transports. The regime had agreed to deport its Jews with deportations of Jews started on 25 March 1942.

But Slovakia was a pro-Nazi government where the Catholic clergy played a dominant role in future Slovakian politics – 16 of the 63 Members of Parliament were priests, and the President, Jozef Tiso, was a Catholic priest

Bemardini wrote to Rome from Berne on March 11, 1942, and again on March 19, 1942, transmitting an appeal from Jewish leaders that the Pope intervene to mitigate or cancel the deportation of Slovak Jews. As a consequence, Pope Pius XII brought personal pressure to bear on Tiso himself to halt the expulsions.

The deportations were stopped on 20 October 1942 - despite heavy opposition from Germany, which demanded their resumption - when it became clear that Nazi Germany had not "only" abused the Slovakian Jews as forced labour workers but had also executed many of them in death camps, as well as pressure from the Holy See to stop the deportations of Jewish civilians.

Two years later, however, the Nazis took control of the Slovakian government and deportations were resumed.

Bemardini was the one who, in mid 1944, persuaded the Swiss to halt their policy of refoulement on the Italian-Swiss border: shipping refugees who had entered illegally back into Nazi hands. The Swiss policy had been enforced from 1938 until July 7, 1944 and at least 10,000 Jews were turned away to await their fates at German hands. After July 12, 1944, the top official goal Swiss policy became rescue instead of neutrality.

In September 1944 Recha Sternbuch received the help of Bernardini to establish a connection with the Catholic Mrs. Bolomi, wife of a senior Swiss officer. Mrs. Bolomi was a friend of Dr. Jean Marie Musy, a former Swiss president. Recha had discovered that Dr. Jean-Marie Musy had secured the freedom of a Jewish couple for 10,000SF from the Vittel Detention camp located in Northeastern France.

Musy was an avowed fascist who published a pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic newspaper called La Jeune. Besides this, he was also a long ¬time friend of Himmler. Musy was persuaded to help and convinced Himmler to release prisoners from concentration camps and indeed Himmler implemented the first step with a release on Feb. 7, 1945 of 1,210 inmates from Theresienstadt, a camp in Czechoslovakia.

Further releases, however, were stopped when Hitler found about the release and ordered a stop to them. Afterwards, while the release of all inmates was obstructed, at the end of the war one camp was evacuated and four others were handed over to the Allies virtually without incident, thanks to the Sternbuch-Musy efforts.

On the 9th of October 1944, Dr. Kohl and the Sternbuchs awarded him, with rabbinic consent, a Torah scroll as token of their appreciation of all his activity and the strength he had lent them to carry on working in that he demonstrated that humane spirit had not vanished from the earth.

Bernardini’s support for the Jewish people did not stop with the end of the war. After the war he provided Recha Sternbuch with a letter of recommendation addressed to the churches, in order that they would release Jewish children hidden in their care. Recha was introduced to the French foreign office and French government for this purpose. And she managed to visit refugee camps in Germany, and visit the Jewish communities in Poland and Belgium. As a consequence, many Jewish children were assisted in retaining their Jewish identity and were returned to the Jewish nation.

Our second Papal Nuncios was Monsignor Angelo Rotta, Vatican diplomat in Sofia, Bulgaria, and later Papal Nuncio (Ambassador) in Budapest from 1944-45

Monsignor Rotta was a major rescuer of Jews. As a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps in Sofia, Bulgaria, he took measures to save Bulgarian Jews by issuing false baptismal certificates and visas for Jews to travel to Palestine. Afterwards, he was transferred to Hungary and as the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, he continued to save the lives of Jews and vehemently protested several times to the Hungarian Governments against the Jewish Deportations. He retired from diplomacy in 1957 and was recognized as Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1997.

Angelo Rotta was born in Milan on the 9th of August 1872. In 1895 he was ordained a priest. In October 1922 he was appointed Titular Archibishop of Theben in Greece. In the same year he was appointed Bishop. In 1944 Angelo Rotta was assigned as „Papal Nuncio“ and became spokesman for the diplomatic corp in Budapest. In April 1945, following instructions from Russia, he left Hungary. He died on the 1st of February 1965 in Rome.

In 1944 – 1945, he issued more than 15,000 safe conduct certificates to Jews who were protected by the Vatican neutrality. Rotta also issued hundreds of safe conducts and baptismal certificates to Jews in labor camps, at deportation centers and on the death marches. He set up and personally protected numerous safe houses throughout Budapest: up to 3,000 Jews were accommodated in these houses. A lot of his efforts to help were successful because of collaboration with Wallenberg, other neutral diplomats, and the Swedish Red Cross.

In the spring of 1944, the papal nuncio, Msgr. Angelo Rotta, warned the people of Hungary on the first day of the deportation of Jews that the whole world knew what they really signified. In March 1944, he urgently requested the prime minister to make a statement. In the following months Rotta, under Vatican direction, protested against the merciless measures carried out on the Jews. On the 24th of April 1944, Rotta got in contact with the special ambassador Arnóthy Jungerth and notified him: … “The Holy Father deeply regrets the occurrences. He recognizes that also Hungary, a land in which he has always been proud of, which belongs to the ‘Christian’ countries, has taken another direction, thus creating conflict with Evangelist teachings.”

On the 15th of May the Hungarian government was presented with a very significant written protest. Rotta explained in his statement, the whole world knew what deportation really means. This was the first official protest from a representative of the Vatican against deportation.

On June 25, 1944, he delivered Hungarian regent Miklos Horthy a letter which was a strong protest from the Pope. This probably contributed to the decision by Horthy to cease deportations on July 8, 1944.

Our third papal nuncio was Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli – afterwards becoming Pope John XXIII – who played a pivotal role in saving the lives of thousands of Jews while serving as the papal representative to Turkey during World War II.

Roncalli helped Jews in three ways: 1) He assisted Jewish refugees who reached Turkey to move on to Palestine, 2) He tried to influence the Vatican, Catholic church officials and government leaders in Occupied Europe to help Jews; 3) He assisted in the saving of Jews through the transfer of documents (such as visas, conversion documents) and in the establishment of escape routes.

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was born in Sotto il Monte, a small country village in the Bergamo province of the Lombardy region of Italy. His family worked as sharecroppers. In 1904, Roncalli was ordained a priest in the Catholic Church of Santa Maria in Monte Santo in Rome. In 1935 he was made Apostolic Delegate to Turkey and Greece.

In the early years of World War II, Monsignor Roncalli worked with Jewish emissaries from Palestine to ascertain information regarding the fate of the Jews under German occupation. He was an ally when the Jews had few, and was one of the very few who would offer them assistance while asking nothing in return.

Roncalli first heard about the plight of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe when he met Jewish refugees fleeing Poland who arrived in Istanbul in September 1940 – and helped them reach Palestine, then under British administration, or to other destinations.

”We are dealing with one of the great mysteries in the history of humanity,” Roncalli wrote about the Holocaust. “Poor children of Israel. Daily I hear their groans around me. They are relatives and fellow countrymen of Jesus. May the Divine Savior come to their aid and enlighten them.”

Chaim Barlas, the chief Jewish delegate from Palestine, wrote that Roncalli cried when told about what was happening to Jews. He said: “I am going to fast and to pray for the people and our people.”

In the fall of 1941, the then chief rabbi of the Holy Land, Isaac Herzog, traveled throughout the Mediterranean to enlist help in saving Jews. Everywhere, he met with indifference or helplessness. The one exception was Istanbul, where he went to see the Archbishop Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. As I told him of the mass murders, he started to cry, rose from his chair, put his arms around me, and said, ‘Rabbi, what can I do to help?’”

Roncalli even communicated his outrage to the Germans. He rebuked German Ambassador Franz von Papen, a devout Catholic who suggested that the anti-Communist Pope Pius XII demonstrate public support for Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union.

”And what shall I tell the Holy Father,” Roncalli replied, “about the thousands of Jews who have died in Germany and Poland at the hands of your countrymen?”

Papal Nuncio Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was active in most of the countries occupied or collaborating with the Nazis. These activities are documented from the beginning to the end of the war. His known activities in each of the countries are given below.

Turkey

Roncalli maintained regular contact with German Ambassador Franz von Papen and asked von Papen to allow a trainful of Jews fleeing from Germany and the death camps to pass into safe territory.

Von Papen also stated that “many Jewish fugitives arrived in Turkey, mostly from the Eastern States on the coast of the Black Sea. Since they had no means, they represented a heavy burden for Turkey. Roncalli saw an opportunity for charitable activity and offered his help. I would frequently meet with Monsignor Roncalli, nearly every day, and we would discuss how we could help the refugees. As the ambassador, I had at my disposal a fund, which I could manage freely, with no requirement to account for the expenses. Drawing from this fund, I established a stock of food and clothes, which were distributed according to Roncalli’s wishes and intentions. I recall that often, following Roncalli’s requests, I ensured that refugees would not be sent back, but, if they were Jews, that they would be allowed to proceed to Israel [Palestine].”

In 1943, Meir Touval-Weltmann was in Istanbul as a member of the Rescue Committee for European Jews. He wrote in The Jerusalem Post on June 26, 1973 that: “When I visited Monsignor Roncalli from time to time, he always lent an attentive ear and expressed support and concern for the fate of the Jews under Nazi rule. One day I was pleasantly surprised when he turned with a request to me. Two young Jews from Anatolia appeared at my home with a letter of recommendation from Monsignor Roncalli asking me to assist them to immigrate to Palestine. Subsequently Roncalli asked me to assist in the immigration to Palestine of other young Jews, and he also took an interest in arranging for them to continue their education there. Naturally, I was more than happy to comply with these requests.”

Greece

Roncalli arranged with the Turkish government for food to be sent to starving Jews and Greeks in Greece during the winter of 1941-42 and made an effort to prevent the deportation of Jews from Greece.

France

In January 18, 1942, Nuncio Roncalli requested that the Nuncio in France Monsignor Valéri facilitate the transit to Palestine of a group of Jews residing in Perpignan, France.

He also asked Franz von Papen, German Ambassador to Turkey, to do something about the threatened deportation to camps in Poland of 10,000 Jews living in Southern France, mostly former Turkish citizens of Levantine origin. As a consequence, von Papen spoke with Foreign Minister of Turkey Numan Menemencioğlu. The Foreign Minister authorized von Papen to inform Hitler that the deportation of these former Turkish citizens would cause a sensation in Turkey and endanger friendly relations between the two countries.

This demarche succeeded in quashing the whole affair. On 19 September 1942, Berlin directed that Turkish Jews could be evacuated until 31 January 1943, a date later extended for two months and more.

Germany

In January of 1943, Roncalli sent a letter to the Vatican's State Secretary asking for Vatican intervention in favor of 5,000 German Jews for whom the Jewish Agency had immigration certificates to Palestine and asked Vatican Radio to broadcast that helping Jews was an act of mercy approved by the church..

Slovakia

Roncalli wrote directly to Joseph Tiso, the ruler of Slovakia under the Germans and a Roman Catholic priest, asking him to stop the deportation of Slovakian Jews to Auschwitz. He also asked that the Vatican beseech Tiso to let 5000 Jews go on the condition that transit visas could be found for them.

Another intervention – this time in favor of children form Slovakia – took place on March 13, 1943 in which Nuncio Roncalli sent a telegram to the Vatican's State Secretary asking for Vatican's intervention in favor of 1000 Jewish children so that they were allowed to emigrate to Palestine.

Roncalli wrote to the Vatican that more than 5,000 Jews were concentrated in the Sered camp in Slovakia and asked them to prevent approximately 2,000 from being deported since this meant a certain death. The intervention of the Holy See in favor of the 2,000 saved them from deportation and death.

In a May, 22nd, 1943, Roncalli informed Mr. Barlas from the Jewish Agency of the success of the action that he initiated in order to prevent the transfer of 20,000 Jews from Slovakia.

Rabbi Markus List

On May 22, 1943, Roncalli requested Vatican intervention to save those on a list of names of Jewish persons, received from Dr. Markus, the Ashkenazi rabbi in Istanbul, such as allowing them to leave countries under German occupation, and transit to other countries, via Italy. The list included rabbis and eminent scholars and their families, whom he termed -- “poor unfortunates, who are in such great danger.”

Italy

On Sept. 4, 1943, Nuncio Roncalli requested Vatican intervention in favor of Italian Jews, pointing out the convenience of allowing the emigration of Jewish refugees to Palestine.

Bulgaria

Roncalli was Apostolic Visitor to Bulgaria from 1925 to1935. During this time he became close to the royal family. He interceded on their behalf with the pope, persuading his holiness to permit the marriage of Boris III, an Orthodox Bulgarian Christian to Italian Princess Giovanna, a devout Roman Catholic. Boris made him the godfather of his son.

On May 26, 1943, Jewish Agency representative Barlas went to Roncalli and told him that the Bulgarian government has interned 25, 000 Sofia Jews with plans to ship them to the Germans to be sent to extermination camps in Poland.

Roncalli told him that “I know King Boris. He is no anti-Semite. When thousands of Slovakian Jews sent to Bulgaria faced deportation to Poland, I enlisted the king’s aid to intervene and we obtained visas for those Jews to go to Palestine. The king himself signed the visas. “

On June 30, 1943, Roncalli wrote to King Boris III of Bulgaria, asking for mercy for “the sons of the Jewish people.” He wrote that King Boris should on no account agree to that dishonorable action. On the copy of the letter Mgr. Roncalli noted, by hand, that the King replied verbally to his message. The note goes on: "Il Re ha fatto qualche cosa" ("The king has acted") and, noting the difficult situation of the monarch, Mgr. Roncalli stresses once again: "Pero, ripeto, ha fatto" (" But I repeat, he has acted").

Furthermore, Nuncio Roncalli is credited with the organization of a Vatican escape route for East Europe via Bulgaria.

Romania

In February 1944, Roncalli met twice with Rabbi Isaac Herzog, chief rabbi of Jerusalem. who asked him to intercede for 55,000 Jews interred in Romania, another Axis ally. Though Roncalli notified Rome, only 750 Jewish refugees – 250 of them orphans – were saved when their ship arrived in Palestine. ”The limits on Roncalli’s ability to help Jews were now cruelly apparent,” Peter Hebblethwaite wrote in his biography. ”There was very little room left for maneuver.”

Hungary

In the summer of 1944, Roncalli received Ira Hirschmann, a special envoy from the American War Refugee Board and a Hungarian immigrant. Germany invaded Hungary in March, and Hirschman brought statistics and eyewitness accounts of the resulting anti-Semitic purge.

”Roncalli listened intently as I outlined the desperate plight of Jews in Hungary,” Hirschmann later recalled. ”Then he pulled his chair up closer and quietly asked, ‘Do you have any contact with people in Hungary who will cooperate?’”

The monsignor had heard reports of Hungarian nuns distributing baptismal certificates to Jews, mostly children. Nazi officials recognized the certificates as legitimate and allowed the bearers to leave Hungary unmolested. Roncalli planned to reinforce and expand the operation – regardless of whether Jews were actually baptized. Hirschmann readily agreed.

”It was clear to me that Roncalli had considered the plan before my arrival,” Hirschmann remembered, ”and that he had created an atmosphere in which to test my credentials, my discretion and my ability to help put the operation into practical effect.”

Using Aliyah agents as well as papal representatives and official diplomatic couriers, Roncalli relied heavily on the communication networks and establishments of the Sisters of Zion, who had residences in both Tarabya on the Bosporus and in Budapest. The Sisters transported and issued "temporary” baptismal certificates, Palestinian immigration certificates and Turkish visas – many of them forged – to Hungarian Jews that enabled them to join those who were fleeing through Turkey to Palestine as a result of the efforts of the Aliyah agents themselves.

A dispatch dated Aug. 16, 1944 from Roncalli to the papal nuncio to Hungary illustrates the intensity of ”Operation Baptism.” ”Since the ‘Immigration Certificates’ we sent you in May contributed to the saving of the Jews they were intended for, I have accepted from the Jewish Agency in Palestine three more bundles, begging your excellency to pass them on to the person they were intended for, Mr. Miklos Krausz.” Miklos Krausz was Moshe Kraus, Budapest secretary of the Palestine Jewish Agency.

Largely as a result of Roncalli's leadership and encouragement, an estimated 80.000 "conversions of convenience" were arranged by nuns and priests in Hungary to enable its Jews to escape deportation and death.

Croatia

The Jewish Agency informed Roncalli on May 31, 1943 that among the group of 400 Jews recently deported from Croatia was the President of the Jewish Community Ugo Kon and the Great Rabbi of the Community.

On May 30, 1943, Roncalli requested the Vatican’s intervention in favor of two groups of Jewish refugees in Slovakia and Croatia, one which had been interned in the Jasenovac concentration camp. Jews held at Jasenovac concentration camp, near Stara Gradiška, Croatia were liberated as a result of his intervention. Towards the middle of June Roncalli received a letter of gratitude from Meir Touval- Weltmann, agent of the Jewish Agency in Istanbul for his actions in favor of the people deported from Croatia.

Transnistria

The Transnistria Governorate, including the city of Odessa, was Romanian-administered territory that had been conquered from the Soviet Union by axis forces in 1941.

Historian Peter Hebblethwaite, in his article "An exchange for blessings – Pope John XXIII and the Jews" refers to two interviews that the Great Rabbi of Palestine Isaac Herzog held with Nuncio Roncalli about the fate of 55,000 Jews from Transnistria in Rumania. That territory – some kind of penal colony for Jews – was threatened by the Soviet approach and the Jews were being moved to the West towards the extermination camps.

On March 23, 1944, Roncalli informed Chaim Barlas that Nuncio Cassulo, in Bucharest, will intervene in favor of Jews in Transnistria, as earlier requested by Rabbi Herzog and Barlas. “Always at your service and the good disposition toward all the Jewish brothers.”

Nuncio Roncalli sent a list of Jews from Transnistria to the Nuncio in Bucharest and asked for the intervention of the Nuncio in favor of those people. Three weeks after the interview, Nuncio Roncalli informs the Great Rabbi that the Vatican has taken actions in this regard.

Roncalli is credited in July of 1944 with helping 750 passengers, including orphaned children, from Romanian-administered Transnistria, on board a refugee ship that weighed anchor from Constanza to Istanbul, to reach Palestine.

By wars’end, working with Ira Hirschmann, the representative of the USA War Refugee Board and Jewish envoys, some 20.000 Jews were transported to Palestine via Turkey.”

Apostolic Nuncio to France

In 1944, Pope Pius XII named him Apostolic Nuncio to France. In this capacity he had to negotiate the retirement of bishops who had collaborated with the German occupying power.

After the War

In 1947, when Roncalli served as Nuncio in France, he acceded to the request of Father Alexandre Glasberg, following a plea to him by the Jewish Agency representative Moshe Sneh, to use his influence with the Vatican not to force the Latin American countries to vote against the UN partition plan, scheduled for 29 November 1947; in other words, for the creation of the Jewish State. For this purpose, Roncalli left for Rome to ask his superiors for the Pope's consent to instruct the nuncios in Latin American countries to inform the governments there that they have a free hand to vote on the UN resolution -- an effort crowned with success. As is historically known, the partition resolution passed by a two-third majority, as required.

Following the death of Pope Pius XII, on 28 October 1958 Roncalli was elected Pope, to his great surprise. Far from being a mere "stop gap" pope, to great excitement, Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) fewer than ninety years after the First Vatican Council (Vatican I's predecessor, the Council of Trent, had been held in the 16th century).

While he did not live to see it to completion, from the Second Vatican Council came changes that reshaped the face of Catholicism: a comprehensively revised liturgy, a stronger emphasis on ecumenism, and a new approach to the world.

The relations between Pope John XXIII and Judaism are generally thought to have been among the best in the bi-millennial history of Christianity. The pontiff began an ecclesiastical policy of Jewish-Christian reconciliation after his election to the papacy in 1959, which was mostly focused on organizing the Second Vatican Council. As Pope John XXIII, he would transform Roman Catholic teaching toward the Jews to insure that the foundations of Christian anti-Semitism were shattered.

Shortly after his election Pope John XXIII interrupted a Good Friday liturgy when one of the celebrants used the word "perfidious" to describe the Jews. John had the prayer repeated with the offending word omitted.

During the 1960s, Pope John XXIII met with a delegation of Jews and said, "I am Joseph Your Brother" marking the beginning of a new relationship between Jews and Catholics.

In 1965 the Catholic Herald quoted Pope John as saying: We are conscious today that many, many centuries of blindness have cloaked our eyes so that we can no longer see the beauty of Thy chosen people nor recognise in their faces the features of our privileged brethren. We realize that the mark of Cain stands upon our foreheads. Across the centuries our brother Abel has lain in blood which we drew, or shed tears we caused by forgetting Thy love. Forgive us for the curse we falsely attached to their name as Jews. Forgive us for crucifying Thee a second time in their flesh. For we know what we did."

The 1965 Vatican document “Nostra Aetate” (“In Our Age”) is the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council. Passed by a vote of 2,221 to 88 of the assembled bishops, this declaration was promulgated on October 28, 1965, by Pope Paul VI.

Part four of “Nostra Aetate” speaks of the bond that ties the people of the 'New Covenant' (Christians) to Abraham's stock (Jews). It states that even though some Jewish authorities and those who followed them called for Jesus' death, the blame for this cannot be laid at the door of all those Jews present at that time, nor can the Jews in our time be held as guilty, thus repudiating an indiscriminate charge of deicide; 'the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God'. The Declaration also decries all displays of anti-Semitism made at any time by anyone.

Pope John XXIII died in 1963, only four-and-a-half years after his election, and two months after the completion of his final encyclical, Pacem in Terris. He was beatified on 3 September 2000, the penultimate step on the road to sainthood. Although he had already died when the statement on Jews was passed, it is generally thought to be strongly influenced by the Pope's teachings.

Further Reading:

The remarkable Recha and Yitzchak Sternbuch: they fought from Switzerland to save Jews in WWII

Why the Pope’s new book is important

Pope says Jews not guilty for death of Christ

Hungary Marks 66th Anniversary of Budapest Ghetto Liberation

UK Church leaders instigate hatred against Jews and Israel

Fr. Edward Flannery fought hatred against Jews until his death in 1998