London, July 7 (ANI): Dr Michael Hesemann, an academic carrying out research in the Vatican Archives for a US-based interfaith group 'Pave the Way Foundation', has claimed that Pope Pius XII, the controversial wartime pontiff, may have saved thousands of Jews by secretly securing visas so they could escape from Nazis in Germany.
According to the Telegraph, Pope Pius XII, who was labeled "Hitler's Pope", because of his silence during the Holocaust, may have arranged the exodus of about 200,000 Jews from Germany just three weeks after Kristallnacht, when thousands of Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps.
Dr Hesemann has revealed that Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pius XII, wrote to Catholic archbishops around the world to urge them to apply for visas for "non-Aryan Catholics" and Jewish converts to Christianity who wanted to leave Germany.
" We believe that many Jews who were successful in leaving Europe may not have had any idea that their visas and travel documents were obtained through these Vatican efforts. Everything we have found thus far seems to indicate the known negative perception of Pope Pius XII is wrong," the paper quoted Elliot Hershberg, the chairman of the Pave the Way Foundation, as saying.
Pius XII was criticised for failing to explicitly denounce the Holocaust, the Nazi regime or to excommunicate Hitler.
The paper stated Dr Hesemann as saying that additional evidence has suggested that the visas would have been given to ordinary Jews desperate to escape persecution.
"The fact that this letter speaks of 'converted Jews' and 'non-Aryan' Catholics indeed seems to be a cover, you couldn't be sure that Nazi agents wouldn't learn about this initiative," he said.
According to him, Cardinal Pacelli was able to ask for the visas because the 1933 concordat he signed with the Nazis specifically provided protection for Jews who converted to Christianity.
"It is clear that Pius XII facilitated the saving of Roman Jews," Dr Ed Kessler, the director of the Cambridge-based Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths, said.
The report said that in December, Pope Benedict XVI placed Pius one step closer to sainthood when he declared him "Venerable", meaning that the Church believes he lived a life of "heroic virtue".
However, Some Jewish groups want the process frozen until the Vatican is ready to open its secret wartime archives in 2014. (ANI)