By Matt VanScoik
I recently had the opportunity to go to Rome. Gary Krupp, an author I work with through the author publicity division at my company, Bohlsen Group, used to build medical facilities in New York, but his life has taken a more esoteric turn. For the last few years, Gary and his wife, Meredith, have been running a non-profit called Pave the Way Foundation, whose main goal is to build relationships between religions. They helped the Vatican digitize its archives, are helping to re-open the Orthodox Halki Seminary in Turkey and regularly help arrange interfaith tours to Israel, among numerous other things.
One of the projects they are working on now, be it by providence or happenstance, ended up being assigned to me. “Pope Pius XII and World War II: The Documented Truth” is a compilation of primary-source international evidence that reveals the wartime acts of the Vatican.
“The most noteworthy part of my trip was of course meeting Pope Francis himself.”
The Vatican has had more than its share of public relations problems, and I had always heard, as many have, that Pope Pius XII was either silent during the Holocaust or even complicit. As I began to review the evidence for myself, cracks began to form in what I thought I knew to be true. Although it still seems to me that the Vatican supported Fascist governments to an extent, it is abundantly clear to me that the papal household and the Nazis had a deep gut-wrenching hatred for each other.
Among the interesting things that you can read on Pave the Way Foundation’s well-organized library of 76,000 pages of documentation are: Nazi intelligence documents that name Pope Pius XII as a collaborator in the famous Valkyrie plot to assassinate Hitler, Nazi plans for the invasion of the Vatican and the assassination of Pius XII, and documents that show how Pius XII used his own life as leverage to halt the arrest of the Roman Jews.
Every day of this trip to Rome got more and more exciting to me as someone who is interested in military affairs, history and religion. At one point I told Gary that I needed to find a basement, because these jaw dropping experiences required me to find something deeper than floor level to facilitate the further extension of my dentition.
The most noteworthy part of my trip was of course meeting Pope Francis himself during a public audience where we presented him with a coin to commemorate a trip he had made to Israel. I spoke some broken Spanish to him and he shook my hand with the tired but bright eyes of a man carrying the burdens of being both a political and spiritual leader who is trying his best to make a difference in a chaotic world.
“Noblesse oblige,” is a phrase I kept hearing during my trip. It means with nobility and station, comes great obligation.