Archaeology

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LOL, love it. :D

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I'm currently in the second year of my archaeology degree. I wish I could use the phrase "They said a lot of things that would take too long to explain". Instead, most books and essays that I've been reading end up saying the same thing in 14 different ways just to bloat their length. It's terribly frustrating.
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Didn't know you were doing archaeology. A shame Kins doesn't hang out here these days.
All lies and jest
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest
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Yeah, I miss him too.

Fascinating field I've always thought.

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A History of Black Catholics in the United States
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Daniel Rudd, Mary Elizabeth Lange and Augustus Tolton (CNS photo/courtesy National Black Catholic Congress/courtesy of the Archdiocese of Chicago Archives and Records Center/courtesy of the Catholic Review)


=========================================================================================================================================================================================================================================================================================================

Editor’s note: The following essay was authored by Cyprian Davis, O.S.B. in the May 3, 1980 issue of America. Father Davis was an expert in Black Catholic history and died in 2015. You can read his obituary here. This article maintains the magazine style in use at the time of its publication.

=========================================================================================================================================================================================================================================================================================================


A little over 50 years ago, writing in AMER­ICA (July 21, 1928) on “The Unknown Field of Negro History,� John LaFarge, S.J., noted: “No words need be wasted to show the importance of the history of the Negro for our national history: His life is a background for a great part of it. On the Negro, as on a pivot, turned the decisive struggle for the nation’s existence ….�

The history of the black Catholic com­munity is just as important for the history of the Catholic Church in the United States. More than we realize, the history of the black Catholic community is co­extensive with the history of the American Catholic community. What is needed to­day are historical studies that no longer simply probe the ministry and apostolate to blacks but rather focus the spotlight on the black Catholic community itself to deter­mine its role in the Catholic drama of the last two centuries.

True, the history of the black Catholic community is very small compared to the history of black America at large which formed the black church, Protestant in its affiliation and its creed, uniquely African in its ethos and its celebration. The heroes of black people in this country are the black pastors and the black prophets. Alongside of this now glorious tradition, the story of the small group of black Catholics, that clung proudly and even at times desperately to its Roman and universalist traditions, to its saints, its pastors and its religious sisters, seems perhaps insignificant. They were the minority that was ministered to but seem­ingly did not minister, that was preached to but did not preach, that was provided for but did not provide. And yet without that black Catholic community American Catholicism would not have the character­istics it has today.

[…]

There is nothing elusive, however, about the solid black Catholic community in Maryland that numbered about 3,000 slaves, which the future Archbishop John Carroll described in his report to Cardinal Antonelli, the Secretary of State of Pius IX, in 1785. This black Catholic communi­ty with its long tradition of Catholic faith would be the nucleus of black Catholicism not only in southern Maryland where it began but also in Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and the Catholic centers of Nelson County and Hardin County in Kentucky. It was in this tradition of black Catholicism in southern Maryland, one might add, that the young Father LaFarge first exercised his priestly ministry. Nor is there anything elusive about the black Catholic community that existed in Archbishop Carroll’s day in southern Louisiana, rich in tradition, distinctive in language and culture, and self-confident in its particular identity. As Randall M. Miller has pointed out, this rich source of black Catholic history has not yet been fully exploited. It is time that the modern methods of historical research were used to reveal how and why the faith managed to survive.

“Survival� is a key word in black history, and it is a pivotal question in the history of black Catholicism. If the slaves were catechized, there had to be a community that not only received the catechesis but internalized and passed it on. What prompted slave parents to transmit their faith to their children? What prompted slave families to go to extraordinary lengths to practice their religion and receive the sacraments? How did these people make the Catholic tradition their own? What were the forms of worship they used to nourish their spiritual life not only in the sanctuary but in their homes? It was not only the work of their white priests.

Part of the answer lies in one of the most remarkable phenomena of black Catholicism, the emergence of black Catholic sisterhoods. In 1829 four black women under the leadership of Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange formed the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore under a rule of lite drawn up by the French Sulpician priest Jacques Joubert. When the majority of blacks were slaves and when schooling for black children was practically nonexistent, these courageous women against terrific odds began the instruction of black children in Baltimore. The story of their survival with little support from either clergy or faithful, the last-minute assistance given them by the saintly John Neumann, the spread of their congregation to other areas despite the incredible poverty of the sisters — all of this is a little-known aspect of Catholic history in this country.

The work of the Oblate Sisters and the work also of the second group of black sisters in Louisiana, the Sisters of the Holy Family, founded in 1842, are a reminder that even in the period of slavery the black Catholic community took a leading role in its own evangelization and education. Here too the modern historian has a rich source for future research. A study of the individ­uals in these two religious orders, a study of their family backgrounds, of their students and their milieu will reveal much about the makeup of the black Catholic community, the personality and the attitudes of this community, and the role it envisaged for it­self both before the Civil War and after­wards. It is significant that at a time when there were no black priests, black families had a sense of faith that enabled them to send their daughters to a convent and their children to be educated.

In less than a generation after the Civil War, black Catholics attempted the forma­tion of a national organization to coordi­nate their efforts for more Catholic schools and even for an end to racial discrimination on the parish level. This effort was spear­headed by a remarkable black layman, Daniel Rudd, who was born in Bardstown, Kentucky in 1854. In 1889 he began the first black Catholic newspaper, the Amer­ican Catholic Tribune, a weekly which he edited from 1889 to 1899, first in Cincinnati and then in Detroit. Mr. Rudd was both a militant Catholic and a militant supporter of civil rights for blacks. His major thesis, which was the underlying philosophy ex­pressed in each issue of his weekly news­paper and which he made the subject of lectures in various parts of the country, was simply this: The one great hope for blacks in the United States was the Catholic Church. “The Holy Roman Catholic Church,� he wrote, “offers to the op­pressed Negro a material as well as spiritual refuge; superior to all the inducements of other organizations combined.� Not only did he publish almost singlehandedly his newspaper — which at one point was claimed to have a circulation of 10,000 — he also began the series of Catholic Afro­-American congresses, which met for the first time in Washington, D.C., in 1889. They were to have four more meetings dur­ing the 1890’s, which is significant when it is recalled that there were only two national Catholic congresses of the laity during this same period.

[…]

In 1924 Dr. Thomas Wyatt Turner, who died in 1978 at the age of 101, established the Federated Colored Catholics in the United States, an organization of black Catholics working for an end to discrim­ination within the American Catholic Church. Composed of lay leaders from the black Catholic community, it was both a continuation of the work of Daniel Rudd and a forerunner of the black civil rights organizations of the 1960’s. Dr. Turner respectfully but deliberately parted com­pany from the efforts of Rev. John LaFarge, S.J., and Rev. William Markoe, S.J., who with other leading white and black Catholics organized the Catholic In­terracial Councils in 1934. Dr. Turner saw the need for black Catholics to be the leaders in their own development. His con­ception of the role of black Catholics with­in the church would become the position of black Catholics at the end of the 1960’s. The black Catholics who formed the Black Catholic Clergy Caucus and the Black Sis­ters Conference in 1968 and the National Office for Black Catholics in 1970 are the lineal descendents of the black conscious­ness of Dr. Turner and of Mr. Rudd.

On the other hand, the black Catholic community in the last 204 years has been a microcosm of the Catholic Church in America. There are no black American saints, but there are saintly black Catholics like Pierre Toussaint, who walked the streets of old New York in the first part of the 19th century dispensing charity and practicing the works of mercy despite his own poverty. There is the saintly foundress of a religious order, Mary Elizabeth Lange. There is the saintly parish priest, Augustine Tolton of Chicago, the first recognized black priest in this country, who knew suf­fering and lived in total dedication to his ministry, dying at the early age of 43 in 1897. There is a family with a secret trag­edy, the Healy brothers: James Augustine Healy, the first black bishop in this country (bishop of Portland, Maine in 1875); Sher­wood, pastor and chancellor in Boston; Patrick, a Jesuit and president of George­town University. Aloof from the black Catholic community, half white and half black, their racial identity a source of am­bivalence — they are a symbol of many black priests and religious who found racial identification a source of pain.

The black Catholic community also has its many converts: famous ones like the great poet of the Harlem Renaissance, Claude McKay, who left Communism to find his spiritual home in the Catholic Church in the last years of his life; or the Air Force General Daniel James, who died in 1978. It has had its share of artists, politi­cians, educators, physicians and jurists. In relation to the black community as such during the last two centuries, it probably has varied little in achievement and success and it has shared completely in the oppres­sion that all American blacks have experi­enced. In what lay the difference?

No doubt it lay in the religious con­sciousness that was their gift of faith. It was the sense of “catholic� in the root meaning of the word that seemed to permeate the black Catholic consciousness. In 1889 when black Americans were beginning one of the most tragic decades in the history of the United States in terms of lynchings and the passage of legislation insuring segre­gation, the first Catholic Afro-American Congress was held in January in the parish hall of St. Augustine’s church in Washington, D.C. At the last session the congress members drew up an address to their Catholic fellow citizens in which they expressed the following:
Knowing too that our divinely estab­lished and divinely guided church … will be the innate force of her truth, gradually prevailing … and … anxious not to forestall in any way the time marked by God for bringing about this great work, we feel confident that this … expression of our convictions, of our hopes and of our resolutions, will have … the advantage of proving that we — the Catholic repre­sentatives of our people — have earnestly contributed our humble share to the … work for whose final accomplish­ment all our brothers are ardently yearn­ing.
This has been the unique role of the black Catholic community in American history: to speak to the church in this coun­try, about justice and brotherhood in terms of the church’s own tradition, to speak to their fellow black men and women in terms of the church’s universal call to all people and to speak to the nation in terms of the church’s real identity as “catholic� in a racist society. It is because of the existence of the black community within the Cath­olic Church from the very beginning of its existence in this country that the history of the Catholic Church in this country is unique.


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Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu wrote:When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.
(Gotta love the Arch, RIP.)

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Avatar wrote:
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu wrote:When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.
(Gotta love the Arch, RIP.)

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A very inspiring person, indeed.
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One of my favourite religious people. :D (Along with my late great aunt Dame Felicitas, and honestly, the current Pope who I personally am in general quite impressed with.)

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I never heard of him before. My favorite religious person would be Furls Fire.
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Historic Anatok plantation, birthplace of Daniel Rudd, demolished by archdiocese
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The Anatok property, demolished. (Image: BCM)


The Archdiocese of Louisville has quietly demolished Bardstown, Kentucky's historic Anatok plantation, the birthplace of legendary Black Catholic journalist and activist Daniel Rudd.

The news was announced this week by Preserve Anatok, LLC, a preservationist group that had long sought to save the 175-year-old property.

“Unfortunately, the Anatok Committee was unable to raise necessary funds to save Anatok,� the organization said on Monday via social media.

“We are deeply saddened by this historic loss.�


Preserve Anatok LLC on Wednesday | Facebook
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The group had been directly involved in the efforts since joining with the Kentucky Trust for Historic Preservation to sign a lease agreement with the archdiocese in April 2020 — forming the committee and ramping up fundraising efforts to turn the property into a historic monument focused on Rudd.

Given 18 months to raise $750,000, their efforts proved futile amidst a reported “lack of cooperation� from the archdiocese’s attorney, as well as insufficient donations by the deadline. Their efforts were said to have been progressing as of last summer.

The property had sat vacant for close to 17 years, last serving as a hospital administration building from 1988 to 2005. It was built in 1847 by Charles and Matilda Haydon as a home for their family and the enslaved African Americans they held in bondage.


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The Anatok property, prior to the addition of asphalt surrounding the mansion in the 2010s. (Eerie Indiana)


Rudd was born in 1854 to a mother owned by the Haydons and was raised Catholic there in Bardstown, then the seat of one of the earliest dioceses in America. He was a parishioner at St Joseph Cathedral (located across the street from the plantation), and was emancipated during the Civil War before moving to Ohio.

There, he founded America’s first Black Catholic newspaper in 1885, taking it national the next year as the American Catholic Tribune — one of the first newspapers owned, published, and printed by an African-American.

He also founded the short-lived Colored Catholic Congress in 1889, a national, social justice-minded gathering of Black Catholic men and precursor to the National Black Catholic Congress of today.

The Diocese of Bardstown had become the Archdiocese of Louisville in 1841, less than a decade before Anatok was constructed, and with the transfer came a shift in historical focus away from the small farming community.

Anatok successively became a convent for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth — who have their own history of slaveholding — from 1929 to 1971, and a private residence once again until 1988.

Rudd’s childhood parish of St Joseph’s was named a basilica in 2002, affirming the importance of the region’s history as a Catholic stronghold in the Upper South and the former frontier.

Even so, various threats of demolition have faced Anatok since it was acquired by the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Bethlehem High School located nextdoor, including a protracted legal battle beginning in 2012 — shortly after the release of the first Rudd biography — in which the school sought to expand onto the property.

A court order halted the move by the nearly all-White school, and grassroots preservationists raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to retain the property (deemed then as now an insufficient sum by the archdiocese).

Still, no moves were made and the site remained largely untouched for the better part of the next decade.

In November 2020, during Black Catholic History Month, the archdiocese unveiled a memorial marker for Rudd at his grave in the city’s St Joseph Catholic Cemetery, also adding tombstones nearby for the previously unmarked graves of his parents.

Now, a little more than a year later, the most historic site connected to the monumental Catholic figure is no more.


Preserve Anatok LLC on Thursday | Facebook
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The archdiocese does not appear to have made any announcement concerning the demolition, occurring during Black History Month as well as Catholic Press Month, meant to honor journalists connected to the Church.

[…]


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Fist and Faith wrote:I never heard of him before. My favorite religious person would be Furls Fire.
You never heard of the (late) Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu before? :hairs: Guy won a Nobel Peace Prize. I'm shocked Fist, shocked I tell you. :D

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Christian monastery possibly pre-dating Islam found in UAE
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This March 14, 2022, handout photo from the Department of Archaeology and Tourism of Umm al-Quwain shows an ancient Christian monastery uncovered on Siniyah Island in Umm al-Quwain, United Arab Emirates. An ancient Christian monastery possibly dating as far back as the years before Islam rose across the Arabian Peninsula has been discovered on an island off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, officials announced Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. (Credit: Nasser Muhsen Bin Tooq/Department of Archaeology and Tourism of Umm al-Quwain via AP)

SINIYAH ISLAND, United Arab Emirates — An ancient Christian monastery possibly dating as far back as the years before Islam spread across the Arabian Peninsula has been discovered on an island off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, officials announced Thursday.

The monastery on Siniyah Island, part of the sand-dune sheikhdom of Umm al-Quwain, sheds new light on the history of early Christianity along the shores of the Persian Gulf. It marks the second such monastery found in the Emirates, dating back as many as 1,400 years — long before its desert expanses gave birth to a thriving oil industry that led to a unified nation home to the high-rise towers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The two monasteries became lost to history in the sands of time as scholars believe Christians slowly converted to Islam as that faith grew more prevalent in the region.

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[…]

For Timothy Power, an associate professor of archaeology at the United Arab Emirates University who helped investigate the newly discovered monastery, the UAE today is a “melting pot of nations.”

“The fact that something similar was happening here a 1,000 years ago is really remarkable and this is a story that deserves to be told,” he said.

The monastery sits on Siniyah Island, which shields the Khor al-Beida marshlands in Umm al-Quwain, an emirate some 30 miles northeast of Dubai along the coast of the Persian Gulf. The island has a series of sandbars coming off of it like crooked fingers. On one, to the island’s northeast, archaeologists discovered the monastery.

Carbon dating of samples found in the monastery’s foundation date between 534 and 656. Islam’s Prophet Muhammad was born around 570 and died in 632 after conquering Mecca in present-day Saudi Arabia.

Viewed from above, the monastery on Siniyah Island’s floor plan suggests early Christian worshippers prayed within a single-aisle church at the monastery. Rooms within appear to hold a baptismal font, as well as an oven for baking bread for communion. A nave also likely held an altar and an installation for communion wine.

Next to the monastery sits a second building with four rooms, likely around a courtyard — possibly the home of an abbot or even a bishop in the early church.

Historians say early churches and monasteries spread along the Persian Gulf to the coasts of present-day Oman and all the way to India. Archaeologist have found other similar churches and monasteries in Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

In the early 1990s, archaeologists discovered the first Christian monastery in the UAE, on Sir Bani Yas Island, today a nature preserve and site of luxury hotels off the coast of Abu Dhabi, near the Saudi border. It similarly dates back to the same period as the new find in Umm al-Quwain.

However, evidence of early life along the Khor al-Beida marshlands in Umm al-Quwain dates as far back as the Neolithic period — suggesting continuous human inhabitance in the area for at least 10,000 years, Power said.

Today, the area near the marshland is more known for the low-cost liquor store at the emirate’s Barracuda Beach Resort. In recent months, authorities have demolished a hulking, Soviet-era cargo plane linked to a Russian gunrunner known as the “Merchant of Death” as it builds a bridge to Siniyah Island for a $675 million real estate development.

Power said that development spurred the archaeological work that discovered the monastery. That site and others will be fenced off and protected, he said.

“It’s a really fascinating discovery because in some ways it’s hidden history — it’s not something that’s widely known,” Power said.


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List documents Jews saved by church during Nazi occupation of Rome
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The Pontifical Biblical Institute. (Credit: Crux photo)

ROME — Though the role of church-run institutions in sheltering Jews during the Nazi occupation of Rome was already well know, the discovery of a list of all those who took refuge previously believed to be lost has added new historical detail.

The list, found in the archives of the Jesuit-run Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, indicates that some 4,300 persons were sheltered between September 1943 and June 1944, when Rome was liberated by Allied forces.

Of that number, 3,600 persons are identified by name on the list, and of those, at least 3,200 were Jews, researchers say, a finding confirmed by comparing the list with archives maintained by the Jewish community of Rome.

In all, at least 100 women’s religious orders and 55 men’s communities, as well as parishes and other Catholic institutions, provided places of refuge during the German occupation.

During the period of Nazi occupation of Rome, at least 2,000 Jews, including hundreds of children and adolescents, were killed out of a total community estimated at the time between 10,000 and 15,000 people. Most died in the Auschwitz–Birkenau camp after a roundup of Roman Jews in mid-October 1943.

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News of the discovery of the list of those rescued was presented Thursday during a conference at the Holocaust Museum of Rome titled, “Saved: The Jews Hidden in Religious Institutes of Rome (1943–44.)” Organizers said the list has not yet been made public “for reasons of privacy,” presumably to provide an opportunity to inform family members and descendants of the people identified.

“We know where they were hidden and, in some circumstances, their places of residence before the persecution,” said a joint statement from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, the Jewish Community of Rome and Yad Vashem.

[…]

According to the researchers involved in the project, the list was complied by an Italian Jesuit named Father Gozzolino Birolo between June 1944 and the spring of 1945. Birolo, who died of cancer in June 1945, had been in charge of finances for the Pontifical Biblical Institute under its rector at the time, German Father Augustin Bea, who would go on to become a cardinal and a pioneer in Jewish–Catholic relations after the war.

Among the church facilities in Rome where jews found refuge, according to the documentation, were the Parish of the Transfiguration, the Parish of Divine Providence, the Major Roman Seminary, the Church of San Carlo al Corso, the Parish of Santa Maria in Trastevere, the Church of Santa Maria delle Fornaci.

Researchers said that a list of religious institutes in Rome that harbored Jews, along with the numbers in each case, had already been published by an Italian historian named Renzo De Felice in 1961. However, the source material upon which his list was based had been considered lost until the recent discovery.

While there long has been a debate over the alleged “silence” of Pope Pius XII regarding the Holocaust, including the deportation of Roman Jews, most observers believe that the shelter afforded Jews by religious institutes in Rome would not have occurred without his explicit encouragement.

While the list of persons saved is overwhelmingly composed of Jews, researchers say there are also a number of individuals who were sought by the Nazis for other reasons, including Italian partisans engaged in resistance to the occupation.


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Anti-fascist graffiti discovered in Vatican’s Apostolic Palace
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(Credit: Vatican News)

ROME — On the anniversary of events that triggered the German occupation of Rome in 1943, the Vatican has announced the discovery of a previously undetected piece of anti-fascist graffiti in the Apostolic Palace, in the offices of the Secretariat of State.

The small handwritten graffiti, hidden among a set of decorative leaves on a window frieze in a waiting room of the Secretariat of State, reads Morte Mussolini, or “death to Mussolini,” a reference to Italy’s fascist leader during the Second World War.

The graffiti had gone unnoticed until recently, when it was discovered during routine maintenance. It was scrawled onto the window jamb in a room that was originally the apartment of Cardinal Bernardo Dovizi da Bibbiena, a close advisor to Pope Leo X during the 16th century.

Later, it was converted into one of the waiting rooms used by visitors to the Secretariat of State, the Vatican’s most important department for both external diplomacy and also internal governance. The decorations on the floor upon which the offices are located, known in Italian as the Terza Loggia, are conventionally attributed to the Renaissance artist Raphael.

The discovery of the graffiti was announced on Sept. 8, which is the anniversary of an armistice declared after Mussolini had been deposed in the summer of 1943, which led directly to a German invasion and occupation of much of Italy, including the city of Rome.

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[…]

Although it’s unknown who etched the graffiti onto the wall of the waiting room, the Vatican News coverage highlighted that in the period 1943–46, restoration work was carried out on the Terza Loggi to remove coatings of lime that had built up over the centuries.

One of the firms involved in the project was a company called “A.Valci Decorations and Paintings,” which, in January 1944, filed a letter with the office of technical services at the Vatican attesting that one of its employees was an Italian named Mario Bianchi, accompanied by a photo ID.

According to archives at Yad Vashem, the international center for Holocaust research, “Mario Bianchi” was a pseudonym for Ulisse Finzi, an Italian Jew from the city of Milan, and the husband of Matilde Bassani, a leader in the Italian resistance movement. Prior to the adoption of the Italian racial laws in 1938, Finzi and his father had owned a fur shop in Milan with a branch in Rome.

During the period of the occupation Finzi adopted a false name and took a job working with the Valci company, suggesting it’s possible he may have been involved in the project in the Apostolic Palace and thus could have been the author of the anonymous graffiti.


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Letter, Nazi dagger rekindle debates over wartime role of Pope Pius XII
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Pope Pius XII. (Credit: Vatican News)

ROME —Two new discoveries regarding Pope Pius XII are rekindling debate over the role of the wartime pontiff, including a letter suggesting he had earlier knowledge of the Holocaust than previously believed and a Nazi dagger presented to the pontiff by a repentant SS officer.

Both items were published in a Sunday insert of Corriere della Sera, Italy’s paper of record, after have been discovered by a researcher in the Vatican archives and made public with the encouragement of Vatican officials.

The yellowed letter, dated Dec. 14, 1942, was written by an anti-Nazi German Jesuit named Father Lothar König and addressed to the personal secretary of Pope Pius XII, another German cleric named Father Robert Leiber.

In the letter, König reports that an estimated 6,000 Jews and Poles were being killed every day at the Belzec concentration camp in what was then German-occupied Poland, today western Ukraine. König refers to the operation of “blast furnaces” at the camp, and also makes a passing mention of the Auschwitz and Dachau camps, referring to another report which, for the moment, has not been found.

The letter makes its more difficult to sustain, as some apologists for Pius XII have in the past, that the wartime pontiff did not explicitly and publicly condemn the Holocaust because he had only scattered and conflicting reports about the extent of the Nazi genocide.

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The letter is part of a new trove of documents now available to researchers after Pope Francis decided in March 2000 to open all the archives from Pius XII’s reign, which ran from 1939 to 1958. Researcher Giovanni Coco, an official of the Vatican archives who discovered the letter, emphasized the importance of these materials.

[…]

In the same interview, Coco also revealed the existence of a dagger with the Nazi swastika which had been discovered in Pius XII’s private apartment after his death by his successor, Pope John XXIII. According to Coco, the new pope asked for an explanation of the dagger from then-Archbishop Angelo Dell’Acqua, who at the time was the substitute in the Secretariat of State, effectively the pope’s chief of staff.

Dell’Acqua in turn asked Sister Pascalina Lehnert, a German member of the Sisters of the Holy Cross who acted as Pius XII’s housekeeper and advisor from the period when the future pope was the Vatican’s ambassador in Bavaria in 1917 until his death. During the war years, Lehnert coordinated efforts to shelter Jews in church facilities on behalf of Pius XII.

Coco said that Lehnert explained that the dagger had been brought to a papal audience by an SS officer, who had planned to use it to attack the pontiff. Instead, Lehnert said, the SS officer had a change of heart and presented the dagger to the pope as a sign of repentance.

An image of the dagger was reproduced in the Corriere della Sera insert.

[…]

The 1942 letter is part of a broader set of papers from Pius XII’s papacy set to be published by the Vatican archives today. It will also likely be discussed at an Oct. 9–11 international conference at Rome’s Jesuit-run Gregorian University titled, “The new documents from the pontificate of Pous XII and their significance for Jewish-Christian relations.”


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Rome summit hears both defense, nuance on Pius XII’s legacy on the Holocaust
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Rome’s Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, left, talks to Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin during the international conference, “New documents from the Pontificate of Pope Pius XII and their Meaning for Jewish–Christian Relations: A Dialogue Between Historians and Theologians,” at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, on Monday Oct. 9, 2023. (Credit: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

ROME — At a historic conference on newly opened Vatican archives related to Pope Pius XII, the Holy See’s top diplomat defended the late pontiff’s record on helping Jews while historians offered a more nuanced view, and Rome’s Chief Rabbi cautioned against morally defending anti-Jewish prejudice.

Speaking to conference attendees Oct. 9, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin condemned what he said are “cases of scientific dishonesty which become ‘historical manipulation’ when documents are negligently or deliberately concealed.”

To this end, he pointed to an official response of Pius XI’s Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, to the New York American Jewish Committee in 1916 and to Ashkenazi Jews in Jerusalem in 1919.

These documents, Parolin said, stated that “the Jews are our brethren” and “the Jewish people should be considered brethren as any other people of the world,” and were written with the aid of then-Monsignor Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII.

The texts, Parolin said, “portray a very different picture of the future Pope Pacelli from what is ‘generally known,’” suggesting the documents marked “a significant milestone in Catholic-Jewish relations” and assured Jews that he was someone they could turn to during the Nazi persecution of the Second World War.

“Thanks to the recent opening of the archives, it has become more evident that Pope Pius XII followed both the path of diplomacy and that of undercover resistance. This strategic decision wasn’t an apathetic inaction, but one that was extremely risky for everyone involved,” he said.

Parolin spoke at an Oct. 9–11 conference held at Rome’s Jesuit-run Gregorian University devoted to the papacy of Pius XII, whose actions regarding the Jewish community during the Holocaust have long been a source of debate among historians and research scholars.

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[…]

This week’s conference, titled, “New Documents from the Pontificate of Pope Pius XII and their Meaning for Jewish–Christian Relations: A Dialogue between Historians and Theologians,” features presentations from historians offering the findings of their initial research over the past three years.

The conference has drawn widespread interest due to the unprecedented high-level Catholic and Jewish organizers and sponsors, including the Holy See itself, Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust research institute, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the US and Israeli embassies to the Holy See and Italy’s Jewish community.

In addition to Parolin, Monday’s opening session was attended by Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See Raphael Schutz and the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni.

Despite Parolin’s firm defense of Pius XII, historians in attendance, including Vatican archivists, painted a slightly more nuanced picture, referencing newly found documents they said helped explain Pius XII’s fears in regards to speaking out coupled with the Vatican’s tradition of diplomatic neutrality, but which also revealed anti-Jewish prejudices within the Holy See which, the scholars said, helped inform Pius XII’s decisions.

Giovanni Coco, an official of the Vatican Apostolic Archives who recently uncovered evidence that Pius XII knew that Jews were being sent to death camps in 1942, said there’s “divided memory” on the legacy of Pius XII. To this end, he quoted a speech of the pontiff during a consistory of June 2, 1945, in which he said, “no one could accuse the church of not having denounced the true face of National Socialism in a timely way.”

However, he also noted that Cardinal Raffaello Carlo Rossi in 1944 had written in a letter, “If we had condemned Nazism in time, maybe we would not find ourselves in the situation we are in today.”

Coco also described internal division over the way in which Jews were viewed within the church during the Pius XII era, noting that even after the war, “in the Roman Curia anti-Jewish prejudice was diffuse.”

Most of the documents containing anti-Jewish sentiments quoted by researchers Monday involved Italian Cardinal Angelo Dell’Acqua, who served as an official within the Vatican’s Secretariat of State during the reign of Pius XII, and who in 1968 was named Vicar General of Rome.

David Kertzer, a Brown University anthropologist, cited several occasions in which Dall’Acqua advised Pius XII against a public condemnation of the killing of Jews in Europe or issuing a formal complaint with German authorities over the roundup of Italian Jews during the German occupation in 1943.

Kertzer said that even in the Vatican, a distinction was made between “Aryan Jews,” who were of mixed heritage, and “non-Aryan” Jews.

To this end, he cited a letter from Dall’Acqua on Nazi roundup of Jews in Trieste in which Dall’Acqua said, “an official intervention of the Holy See might confirm the Nazi leaders in the false idea” that the Vatican supported “the destruction of the German people.”

Pius XII’s reaction to the deportation of Italian Jews, Kertzer said, “can only be understood through his desire, in the months of occupation, to maintain amicable relations with the occupying forces,” not because he was in favor of killing Jews, which Pius XII “personally deplored,” but to avoid a further complication of the situation.

[…]

Di Segni noted that while decades have passed since the Holocaust, the memory is still alive and elicits strong emotions, and he called this legacy “an open wound in the survivors and passed on to their descendants, in particular to those who live in this city.”

He noted that this month marks exactly 80 years since October 1943, when a train deporting Italian Jews arrived in Auschwitz and 800 people were sent to the gas chamber.

While much has changed in Jewish–Catholic relations, especially since the Second Vatican Council, Di Segni cautioned that “the Church was full of anti-Judaism rooted over the centuries,” and that Jewish suffering was “theologically justified” on grounds that “Jews had to pay for their primordial crime.”

“If we keep this context in mind, many things that would be inexplicable today find their place,” he said, saying, “an explanation of the dynamics is one thing, the moral justification is another.”

As historical research unfolds, Di Segni said, it’s important for Jews that “our painful feelings and memories are respected, and not offended by the sentences of other courts, acquittal and apologetic at all costs.”


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