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We have reached that time of the year when the Church invites us over the next few weeks to associate ourselves in a special way with Our Lord, as we recall how the opposition to his teaching mounted and he was put to death, and then three days later rose from the dead.
This period, which we know in English as Lent, deriving from the Middle English term meaning ‘day-lengthening’ or springtime, is known in German as Fastenzeit, a time of fasting; in French as carême; Italian as quaresima;and Spanishas cuaresma, these all deriving from the Latin quadragesima, meaning ‘fortieth’.
Put these together and we end up with a definition of Lent as the Church’s traditional period given over to fasting and penance for forty days in the springtime, in preparation for Easter.
Fighting the Un-Holy Trinity: The World, the Flesh and the Devil
Monday, February 15, 2010
During Lent we identify with Jesus´ temptation in the wilderness. We battle against the World, the Flesh and the Devil.
Have you noticed the significance of the number three in the story of Jesus´ temptation in the wilderness? He endures three temptations: to tempt God by throwing himself from the temple, to turn the rocks into bread, and to bow down to Satan. These temptations are the same three we renounce at baptism: the World, the Flesh and the Devil.
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI Saint Peter's Square Easter Sunday, 12 April 2009
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI
Saint Peter's Square Easter Sunday, 12 April 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Christ, our Paschal lamb, has been sacrificed!” (1 Cor 5:7). On this day, Saint Paul’s triumphant words ring forth, words that we have just heard in the second reading, taken from his First Letter to the Corinthians. It is a text which originated barely twenty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and yet – like many Pauline passages – it already contains, in an impressive synthesis, a full awareness of the newness of life in Christ. The central symbol of salvation history – the Paschal lamb – is here identified with Jesus, who is called “our Paschal lamb”. The Hebrew Passover, commemorating the liberation from slavery in Egypt, provided for the ritual sacrifice of a lamb every year, one for each family, as prescribed by the Mosaic Law. In his passion and death, Jesus reveals himself as the Lamb of God, “sacrificed” on the Cross, to take away the sins of the world. He was killed at the very hour when it was customary to sacrifice the lambs in the Temple of Jerusalem. The meaning of his sacrifice he himself had anticipated during the Last Supper, substituting himself – under the signs of bread and wine – for the ritual food of the Hebrew Passover meal. Thus we can truly say that Jesus brought to fulfilment the tradition of the ancient Passover, and transformed it into his Passover.
On the basis of this new meaning of the Paschal feast, we can also understand Saint Paul’s interpretation of the “leaven”. The Apostle is referring to an ancient Hebrew usage: according to which, on the occasion of the Passover, it was necessary to remove from the household every tiny scrap of leavened bread. On the one hand, this served to recall what had happened to their forefathers at the time of the flight from Egypt: leaving the country in haste, they had brought with them only unleavened bread. At the same time, though, the “unleavened bread” was a symbol of purification: removing the old to make space for the new. Now, Saint Paul explains, this ancient tradition likewise acquires a new meaning, once more derived from the new “Exodus”, which is Jesus’ passage from death to eternal life. And since Christ, as the true Lamb, sacrificed himself for us, we too, his disciples – thanks to him and through him – can and must be the “new dough”, the “unleavened bread”, liberated from every residual element of the old yeast of sin: no more evil and wickedness in our heart.
“Let us celebrate the feast … with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”. This exhortation from Saint Paul, which concludes the short reading that was proclaimed a few moments ago, resounds even more powerfully in the context of the Pauline Year. Dear brothers and sisters, let us accept the Apostle’s invitation; let us open our spirit to Christ, who has died and is risen in order to renew us, in order to remove from our hearts the poison of sin and death, and to pour in the life-blood of the Holy Spirit: divine and eternal life. In the Easter Sequence, in what seems almost like a response to the Apostle’s words, we sang: “Scimus Christum surrexisse a mortuis vere” – we know that Christ has truly risen from the dead. Yes, indeed! This is the fundamental core of our profession of faith; this is the cry of victory that unites us all today. And if Jesus is risen, and is therefore alive, who will ever be able to separate us from him? Who will ever be able to deprive us of the love of him who has conquered hatred and overcome death?
The Easter proclamation spreads throughout the world with the joyful song of the Alleluia. Let us sing it with our lips, and let us sing it above all with our hearts and our lives, with a manner of life that is “unleavened”, that is to say, simple, humble, and fruitful in good works. “Surrexit Christus spes mea: precedet suos in Galileam” – Christ my hope is risen, and he goes before you into Galilee. The Risen One goes before us and he accompanies us along the paths of the world. He is our hope, He is the true peace of the world. Amen!
MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER FOR THE 46th WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR VOCATIONS
MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER FOR THE 46th WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR VOCATIONS
3 MAY 2009, FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Theme: Faith in the divine initiative - the human response
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, Brothers and Sisters,
On the occasion of the next World Day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life, which will be celebrated on 3 May 2009, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, I want to invite all the People of God to reflect on the theme: Faith in the divine initiative - the human response. The exhortation of Jesus to his disciples: “Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38) has a constant resonance in the Church. Pray! The urgent call of the Lord stresses that prayer for vocations should be continuous and trusting. The Christian community can only really “have ever greater faith and hope in God's providence” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 26) if it is enlivened by prayer.
The vocation to the priesthood and to the consecrated life constitutes a special gift of God which becomes part of the great plan of love and salvation that God has for every man and woman and for the whole of humanity. The Apostle Paul, whom we remember in a special way during this Pauline Year dedicated to the Two-thousandth anniversary of his birth, writing to the Ephesians says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ef 1:3-4). In the universal call to holiness, of particular relevance is God’s initiative of choosing some to follow his Son Jesus Christ more closely, and to be his privileged ministers and witnesses. The divine Master personally called the Apostles “to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons” (Mk 3:14-15); they, in turn, gathered other disciples around them as faithful collaborators in this mission. In this way, responding to the Lord’s call and docile to the movement of the Holy Spirit, over the centuries, countless ranks of priests and consecrated persons placed themselves totally at the service of the Gospel in the Church. Let us give thanks to God, because even today he continues to call together workers into his vineyard. While it is undoubtedly true that a worrisome shortage of priests is evident in some regions of the world, and that the Church encounters difficulties and obstacles along the way, we are sustained by the unshakable certitude that the one who firmly guides her in the pathways of time towards the definitive fulfilment of the Kingdom is he, the Lord, who freely chooses persons of every culture and of every age and invites them to follow him according to the mysterious plans of his merciful love.
Our first duty, therefore, is to keep alive in families and in parishes, in movements and in apostolic associations, in religious communities and in all the sectors of diocesan life this appeal to the divine initiative with unceasing prayer. We must pray that the whole Christian people grows in its trust in God, convinced that the “Lord of the harvest” does not cease to ask some to place their entire existence freely at his service so as to work with him more closely in the mission of salvation. What is asked of those who are called, for their part, is careful listening and prudent discernment, a generous and willing adherence to the divine plan, and a serious study of the reality that is proper to the priestly and religious vocations, so as to be able to respond responsibly and with conviction.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church rightly reminds us that God’s free initiative requires a free response on the part of men and women; a positive response which always presupposes acceptance of and identification with the plan that God has for everyone; a response which welcomes the Lord’s loving initiative and becomes, for the one who is called, a binding moral imperative, an offering of thanksgiving to God and a total cooperation with the plan which God carries out in history (cf. n. 2062).
Contemplating the mystery of the Eucharist, which expresses in a sublime way the free gift of the Father in the Person of his Only Begotten Son for the salvation of mankind, and the full and docile readiness of Christ to drink to the dregs the “cup” of the will of God (cf. Mt 26:39), we can more readily understand how “faith in the divine initiative” models and gives value to the “human response”. In the Eucharist, that perfect gift which brings to fulfilment the plan of love for the redemption of the world, Jesus offers himself freely for the salvation of mankind. “The Church”, my beloved predecessor John Paul II wrote, “has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as a gift – however precious – among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself, of his person in his sacred humanity, as well as the gift of his saving work” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 11).
It is priests who are called to perpetuate this salvific mystery from century to century until the Lord’s glorious return, for they can contemplate, precisely in the Eucharistic Christ, the eminent model of a “vocational dialogue” between the free initiative of the Father and the faithful response of Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist it is Christ himself who acts in those whom he chooses as his ministers; he supports them so that their response develops in a dimension of trust and gratitude that removes all fear, even when they experience more acutely their own weakness (cf. Rm 8:26-28), or indeed when the experience of misunderstanding or even of persecution is most bitter (cf. Rm 8:35-39).
The awareness of being saved by the love of Christ, which every Mass nourishes in the faithful and especially in priests, cannot but arouse within them a trusting self-abandonment to Christ who gave his life for us. To believe in the Lord and to accept his gift, therefore, leads us to entrust ourselves to Him with thankful hearts, adhering to his plan of salvation. When this does happen, the one who is “called” voluntarily leaves everything and submits himself to the teaching of the divine Master; hence a fruitful dialogue between God and man begins, a mysterious encounter between the love of the Lord who calls and the freedom of man who responds in love, hearing the words of Jesus echoing in his soul, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15:16).
This intertwining of love between the divine initiative and the human response is present also, in a wonderful way, in the vocation to the consecrated life. The Second Vatican Council recalls, “The evangelical counsels of chastity dedicated to God, poverty and obedience are based upon the words and examples of the Lord. They were further commanded by the apostles and Fathers of the Church, as well as by the doctors and pastors of souls. The counsels are a divine gift, which the Church received from its Lord and which it always safeguards with the help of His grace” (Lumen Gentium, 43).
Once more, Jesus is the model of complete and trusting adherence to the will of the Father, to whom every consecrated person must look. Attracted by him, from the very first centuries of Christianity, many men and women have left families, possessions, material riches and all that is humanly desirable in order to follow Christ generously and live the Gospel without compromise, which had become for them a school of deeply rooted holiness. Today too, many undertake this same demanding journey of evangelical perfection and realise their vocation in the profession of the evangelical counsels. The witness of these our brothers and sisters, in contemplative monasteries, religious institutes and congregations of apostolic life, reminds the people of God of “that mystery of the Kingdom of God is already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven” (Vita Consecrata, 1).
Who can consider himself worthy to approach the priestly ministry? Who can embrace the consecrated life relying only on his or her own human powers? Once again, it is useful to reiterate that the response of men and women to the divine call, whenever they are aware that it is God who takes the initiative and brings His plan of salvation to fulfilment, is never patterned after the timid self-interest of the worthless servant who, out of fear, hid the talent entrusted to him in the ground (cf. Mt 25:14-30), but rather expresses itself in a ready adherence to the Lord’s invitation, as in the case of Peter who, trusting in the Lord’ word, did not hesitate to let down the net once more even after having toiled all night and catching nothing (cf. Lk 5:5). Without in any sense renouncing personal responsibility, the free human response to God thus becomes “co-responsibility”, responsibility in and with Christ, through the action of his Holy Spirit; it becomes communion with the One who makes it possible for us to bear much fruit (cf. Jn 15:5).
An emblematic human response, full of trust in God’s initiative, is the generous and unmitigated “Amen” of the Virgin of Nazareth, uttered with humble and decisive adherence to the plan of the Most High announced to her by God’s messenger (cf. Lk 1:38). Her prompt “Yes” allowed Her to become the Mother of God, the Mother of our Saviour. Mary, after this first “fiat”, had to repeat it many times, even up to the culminating moment of the crucifixion of Jesus, when “standing by the cross of Jesus” as the Evangelist John notes, she participated in the dreadful suffering of her innocent Son. And it was from the cross, that Jesus, while dying, gave her to us as Mother and entrusted us to her as sons and daughters (cf. Jn 19:26-27); she is especially the Mother of priests and consecrated persons. I want to entrust to her all those who are aware of God’s call to set out on the road of the ministerial priesthood or consecrated life.
Dear friends, do not become discouraged in the face of difficulties and doubts; trust in God and follow Jesus faithfully and you will be witnesses of the joy that flows from intimate union with him. Imitating the Virgin Mary whom all generations proclaim as blessed because she believed (cf. Lk 1:48), commit yourselves with every spiritual energy, to realise the heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, cultivating in your heart, like her, the ability to be astonished and to adore him who is mighty and does “great things”, for Holy is his name (cf. Lk 1:49).
The abortion issue is a non-ending spiral of contention not only in the Philippines but all over the world, especially when one speaks of the marvelous and elusive power of "freedom of choice". It is a power one can muster to ravel a tapestry of available options in life. It has become the snippy, crafty and stirring battlecry of pro-choicers to justify the Abortion Bill.
A close look at the phrase reveals a seamy, quiet, seething rage. It is about a raw outrage for the injustice done to rape and incest victims that is transformed into an abhorrence of pregnancy. This phrase is cunningly twisted by the pro-choice camp to mean: save the mother by eliminating the child. By this definition, freedom has simply become a choice, and choice is c categorically reduced to mean, convenience. Anything that interferes with one's freedom is seen as an inconvenience. Crisis pregnancy is an inconvenience. Thus, terminate the pregnancy, and be free! "Freedom of choice" therefore has become a false dilemma, an imposed obligation to make a blurred choice where there appears to be no choice at all.
What Would You Decide?
The father has syphilis, and the mother has tuberculosis. They had four children. The first one was blind, the second one died, the third one was deaf and mute and the fourth one had tuberculosis. The mother is now pregnant with her fifth child but is willing to have an abortion if you determine that she should. What would you decide for her? If you choose abortion, congratulations! You've just murdered Beethoven!
Medical history from: R.C. Agnew USC Medical School
It is crucial for us to see the link between life and freedom. Pope John Paul II puts it succinctly: "It is of the greatest importance to reestablish the essential connection between life and freedom. These are inseparable goods: where one is violated, the other also end up being violated. There is no true freedom where life is not welcomed and loved; and there is no fullness of life except in freedom." (Evangelium Vitae,96.)
We need to redeem the true meaning of the freedom of choice. We need to proclaim that "choice" is adverse especially when the fundamental right to life is at stake . We need to reaffirm our commitment that the most viable choice is to love both the mother and the baby in her womb.
Sister Pilar Verzosa, RGS, National Coordinator of Pro-life Philippines replied to the invitation of Congressman Roy Padilla to send comments regarding the House Bill. Pro-life advocates believe that the legalization of abortion is not necessary to accomplish the government's concern for the mothers in crisis pregnancies.
According to Sister Pilar Verzosa, indirect abortion has always been allowed in cases when the mother's life is in danger. Everything must be done to save the life of the mother, because if she dies, the baby will also die. Whatever medication or procedure to cure or save the mother should be given. If the baby dies along the way, this is considered a most unfortunate death, something that was never intended or induced. However, direct abortion has never been a way of curing the mother. In fact, it often entails more risks to the mother. Catholic Church teachings and Bioethics support this stand therefore, no law is necessary to implement it.
What most pro-lifers are also afraid of is that once people know that "abortion is now legal", this will now be applied to various cases, not only to the special cases mentioned. This will be the start of the "abortion is the answer mentality". In the countries that have legalized abortion, the original intent was only for "special cases" due to the compassion for women. But today, their abortion statistics show less than 1% of the cases are due to rape, defective babies, or health of the mother. The 99% are for family planning or women's choice" reasons. Those countries are also wrought with women suffering from pos
Pro-life organizations further asserts that if the government would want to reach out to women with unwanted pregnancies, help should come in providing counselling services, education programs, maternal and child care services, economic and social development programs that would put a stop to rape, incest, sex outside of marriage and other causes of unwanted pregnancies. Abortion or the "quick fix" is therefore not the solution.
"I don’t believe in purgatory, because it is not mentioned in the Bible! There exists only heaven and hell!"
Tertullian, The Soul (Inter 208-212 A.D.):
"In short, if we understand that prison of which the Gospel speaks to be Hades, and if we interpret the last farthing to be the light offense which is to be expiated there before the resurrection, no one will doubt that the soul undergoes some punishments in Hades, without prejudice to the fullness of the resurrection, after which recompense will be made through the flesh also."
Tertullian, Monogamy (Post 213 A.D.):
"A woman, after the death of her husband, is bound not less firmly but even more so, not to marry another husband...Indeed, she prays for his soul and asks that he may, while waiting, find rest; and that he may share in the first resurrection. And each year, on the anniversary of his death, she offers the sacrifice."
St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter to His Clergy and to All His People (250 A.D.):
"Lawrence and Ignatius, though they fought betimes in worldly camps, were true and spiritual soldiers of God; and while they laid the Devil on his back with their confession of Christ, they merited the palms and crowns of the Lord by their illustrious passion. We always offer sacrifices for them, as you will recall, as often as we celebrate the passions of the martyrs by commemorating their anniversary day."
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures (C. 350 A.D.):
"Then we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, Apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition; next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep; for we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn Sacrifice is laid out."
St. Gregory of Nyssa, Sermon on the Dead (383 A.D.):
"After his departure out of the body, he gains knowledge of the difference between virtue and vice, and finds that he is not able to partake of divinity until he has been purged of the filthy contagion in his soul by the purifying fire."
St.Augustine of Hippo, The City of God Against the Pagans (Inter 413 - 426 A.D.):
"Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment."
St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions Bk. IX Ch. II (400 A.D.):
St. Augustine’s mother, St. Monica, on her death-bed said to him: "This one request I make of you, that, wherever you be, you remember me at the Lord’s altar."
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):
Prayers for the dead, that they may be liberated from the fire of purgatory, are derived from Apostolic teaching...
(The Eucharist)..its benefits extend not only to the celebrant and communicant, but to all the faithful, whether living with us on earth, or already numbered with those who are dead in the Lord, but whose sins have not yet been fully expiated. For, according to the most authentic Apostolic tradition, it is not less available when offered for them, than when offered for the sins of the living, their punishments, satisfactions, calamities and difficulties of every sort.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):
No. 1030: All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
No. 1031: The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:
As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come (St. Gregory the Great,Dial. 4, 39: PL 77, 396)
No. 1032: This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin" (2 Maccabees 12, 46). From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:
Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why should we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them (St. John Chrysostom,Hom. in 1 Cor. 41, 5: PG 61, 361).
History of the Holocaust - 1938-1945-6,000,000 Deaths
It began with a simple boycott of Jewish shops and ended in the gas chambers at Auschwitz as Adolf Hitler and his Nazi followers attempted to exterminate the entire Jewish population of Europe.
In January 1933, after a bitter ten-year political struggle, Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. During his rise to power, Hitler had repeatedly blamed the Jews for Germany's defeat in World War I and subsequent economic hardships. Hitler also put forward racial theories asserting that Germans with fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes were the supreme form of human, or master race. The Jews, according to Hitler, were the racial opposite, and were actively engaged in an international conspiracy to keep this master race from assuming its rightful position as rulers of the world.
Jews at this time composed only about one percent of Germany's population of 55 million persons. German Jews were mostly cosmopolitan in nature and proudly considered themselves to be Germans by nationality and Jews only by religion. They had lived in Germany for centuries, fought bravely for the Fatherland in its wars and prospered in numerous professions.
But they were gradually shut out of German society by the Nazis through a never-ending series of laws and decrees, culminating in the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, which deprived them of their German citizenship and forbade intermarriage with non-Jews. They were removed from schools, banned from the professions, excluded from military service, and were even forbidden to share a park bench with a non-Jew.
At the same time, a carefully orchestrated smear campaign under the direction of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels portrayed Jews as enemies of the German people. Daily anti-Semitic slurs appeared in Nazi newspapers, on posters, the movies, radio, in speeches by Hitler and top Nazis, and in the classroom. As a result, State-sanctioned anti-Semitism became the norm throughout Germany. The Jews lost everything, including their homes and businesses, with no protest or public outcry from non-Jewish Germans. The devastating Nazi propaganda film The Eternal Jew went so far as to compared Jews to plague carrying rats, a foreshadow of things to come.
In March 1938, Hitler expanded the borders of the Nazi Reich by forcibly annexing Austria. A brutal crackdown immediately began on Austria's Jews. They also lost everything and were even forced to perform public acts of humiliation such as scrubbing sidewalks clean amid jeering pro-Nazi crowds.
Back in Germany, years of pent-up hatred toward the Jews was finally let loose on the night that marks the actual beginning of the Holocaust. The Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht) occurred on November 9/10 after 17-year-old Herschel Grynszpan shot and killed Ernst vom Rath, a German embassy official in Paris, in retaliation for the harsh treatment his Jewish parents had received from Nazis.
Spurred on by Joseph Goebbels, Nazis used the death of vom Rath as an excuse to conduct the first State-run pogrom against Jews. Ninety Jews were killed, 500 synagogues were burned and most Jewish shops had their windows smashed. The first mass arrest of Jews also occurred as over 25,000 men were hauled off to concentration camps. As a kind of cynical joke, the Nazis then fined the Jews 1 Billion Reichsmarks for the destruction, which the Nazis themselves had caused during Kristallnacht.
Many German and Austrian Jews now attempted to flee Hitler's Reich. However, most Western countries maintained strict immigration quotas and showed little interest in receiving large numbers of Jewish refugees. This was exemplified by the plight of the St. Louis, a ship crowded with 930 Jews that was turned away by Cuba, the United States and other countries and returned back to Europe, soon to be under Hitler's control.
On the eve of World War II, the Führer (supreme leader) publicly threatened the Jews of Europe during a speech in Berlin: "In the course of my life I have very often been a prophet, and have usually been ridiculed for it. During the time of my struggle for power it was in the first instance only the Jewish race that received my prophecies with laughter when I said that I would one day take over the leadership of the State, and with it that of the whole nation, and that I would then among other things settle the Jewish problem. Their laughter was uproarious, but I think that for some time now they have been laughing on the other side of their face. Today I will once more be a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevizing of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"
Hitler intended to blame the Jews for the new world war he was soon to provoke. That war began in September 1939 as German troops stormed into Poland, a country that was home to over three million Jews. After Poland's quick defeat, Polish Jews were rounded up and forced into newly established ghettos at Lodz, Krakow, and Warsaw, to await future plans. Inside these overcrowded walled-in ghettos, tens of thousands died a slow death from hunger and disease amid squalid living conditions. The ghettos soon came under the jurisdiction of Heinrich Himmler, leader of the Nazi SS, Hitler's most trusted and loyal organization, composed of fanatical young men considered racially pure according to Nazi standards.
In the spring of 1940, Himmler ordered the building of a concentration camp near the Polish city of Oswiecim, renamed Auschwitz by the Germans, to hold Polish prisoners and to provide slave labor for new German-run factories to be built nearby.
Meanwhile, Hitler continued his conquest of Europe, invading Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and France, placing ever-increasing numbers of Jews under Nazi control. The Nazis then began carefully tallying up the actual figures and also required Jews to register all of their assets. But the overall question remained as to what to do with the millions of Jews now under Nazi control - referred to by the Nazis themselves as the Judenfrage (Jewish question).
The following year, 1941, would be the turning point. In June, Hitler took a tremendous military gamble by invading the Soviet Union. Before the invasion he had summoned his top generals and told them the attack on Russia would be a ruthless "war of annihilation" targeting Communists and Jews and that normal rules of military conflict were to be utterly ignored.
Inside the Soviet Union were an estimated three million Jews, many of who still lived in tiny isolated villages known as Shtetls. Following behind the invading German armies, four SS special action units known as Einsatzgruppen systematically rounded-up and shot all of the inhabitants of these Shtetls. Einsatz execution squads were aided by German police units, local ethnic Germans, and local anti-Semitic volunteers. Leaders of the Einsatzgruppen also engaged in an informal competition as to which group had the highest tally of murdered Jews.
During the summer of 1941, SS leader Heinrich Himmler summoned Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Höss to Berlin and told him: "The Führer has ordered the Final Solution of the Jewish question. We, the SS, have to carry out this order...I have therefore chosen Auschwitz for this purpose."
At Auschwitz, a large new camp was already under construction to be known as Auschwitz II (Birkenau). This would become the future site of four large gas chambers to be used for mass extermination. The idea of using gas chambers originated during the Euthanasia Program, the so-called "mercy killing" of sick and disabled persons in Germany and Austria by Nazi doctors.
By now, experimental mobile gas vans were being used by the Einsatzgruppen to kill Jews in Russia. Special trucks had been converted by the SS into portable gas chambers. Jews were locked up in the airtight rear container while exhaust fumes from the truck's engine were fed in to suffocate them. However, this method was found to be somewhat impractical since the average capacity was less than 50 persons. For the time being, the quickest killing method continued to be mass shootings. And as Hitler's troops advanced deep into the Soviet Union, the pace of Einsatz killings accelerated. Over 33,000 Jews in the Ukraine were shot in the Babi Yar ravine near Kiev during two days in September 1941.
The next year, 1942, marked the beginning of mass murder on a scale unprecedented in all of human history. In January, fifteen top Nazis led by Reinhard Heydrich, second in command of the SS, convened the Wannsee Conference in Berlin to coordinate plans for the Final Solution. The Jews of Europe would now be rounded up and deported into occupied Poland where new extermination centers were being constructed at Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Code-named "Aktion Reinhard" in honor of Heydrich, the Final Solution began in the spring as over two million Jews already in Poland were sent to be gassed as soon as the new camps became operational. Hans Frank, the Nazi Governor of Poland had by now declared: "I ask nothing of the Jews except that they should disappear."
Every detail of the actual extermination process was meticulously planned. Jews arriving in trains at Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka were falsely informed by the SS that they had come to a transit stop and would be moving on to their true destination after delousing. They were told their clothes were going to be disinfected and that they would all be taken to shower rooms for a good washing. Men were then split up from the women and children. Everyone was taken to undressing barracks and told to remove all of their clothing. Women and girls next had their hair cut off. First the men, and then the women and children, were hustled in the nude along a narrow fenced-in pathway nicknamed by the SS as the Himmelstrasse (road to Heaven). At the end of the path was a bathhouse with tiled shower rooms. As soon as the people were all crammed inside, the main door was slammed shut, creating an airtight seal. Deadly carbon monoxide fumes were then fed in from a stationary diesel engine located outside the chamber.
At Auschwitz-Birkenau, new arrivals were told to carefully hang their clothing on numbered hooks in the undressing room and were instructed to remember the numbers for later. They were given a piece of soap and taken into the adjacent gas chamber disguised as a large shower room. In place of carbon monoxide, pellets of the commercial pesticide Zyklon-B (prussic acid) were poured into openings located above the chamber upon the cynical SS command - Na, gib ihnen shon zu fressen (All right, give 'em something to chew on). The gas pellets fell into hollow shafts made of perforated sheet metal and vaporized upon contact with air, giving off lethal cyanide fumes inside the chamber which oozed out at floor level then rose up toward the ceiling. Children died first since they were closer to the floor. Pandemonium usually erupted as the bitter almond-like odor of the gas spread upwards with adults climbing on top of each other forming a tangled heap of dead bodies all the way up to the ceiling.
At each of the death camps, special squads of Jewish slave laborers called Sonderkommandos were utilized to untangle the victims and remove them from the gas chamber. Next they extracted any gold fillings from teeth and searched body orifices for hidden valuables. The corpses were disposed of by various methods including mass burials; cremation in open fire pits or in specially designed crematory ovens such as those used at Auschwitz. All clothing, money, gold, jewelry, watches, eyeglasses and other valuables were sorted out then shipped back to Germany for re-use. Women's hair was sent to a firm in Bavaria for the manufacture of felt.
One extraordinary aspect of the journey to the death camps was that the Nazis often charged Jews deported from Western Europe train fare as third class passengers under the guise that they were being "resettled in the East." The SS also made new arrivals in the death camps sign picture postcards showing the fictional location "Waldsee" which were sent to relatives back home with the printed greeting: "We are doing very well here. We have work and we are well treated. We await your arrival."
In the ghettos of Poland, Jews were simply told they were being "transferred" to work camps. Many went willingly, hoping to escape the brutal ghetto conditions. They were then stuffed into unheated, poorly ventilated boxcars with no water or sanitation. Young children and the elderly often died long before reaching their destination.
Trainloads of human cargo arriving at Auschwitz went through a selection process conducted by SS doctors such as Josef Mengele. Young adults considered fit for slave labor were allowed to live and had an ID number tattooed on their left forearm. Everyone else went to the gas chambers. A few inmates, including twin children, were occasionally set aside for participation in human medical experiments.
The death camp at Majdanek operated on the Auschwitz model and served both as a slave labor camp and extermination center. Chelmno, the sixth death camp in occupied Poland, operated somewhat differently from the others in that large mobile gas vans were continually used.
Although the Nazis attempted to keep the entire death camps secret, rumors and some eyewitness reports gradually filtered out. Harder to conceal were the mass shootings occurring throughout occupied Russia. On June 30 and July 2, 1942, the New York Times reported via the London Daily Telegraph that over 1,000,000 Jews had already been shot.
That summer, Swiss representatives of the World Jewish Congress received information from a German industrialist regarding the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews. They passed the information on to London and Washington.
In December 1942, British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden stood before the House of Commons and declared the Nazis were "now carrying into effect Hitler's oft-repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people of Europe."
Jews in America responded to the various reports by holding a rally at New York's Madison Square Garden in March 1943 to pressure the U.S. government into action. As a result, the Bermuda Conference was held from April 19-30, with representatives from the U.S. and Britain meeting to discuss the problem of refugees from Nazi-occupied countries. But the meeting resulted in complete inaction concerning the ongoing exterminations.
Seven months later, November 1943, the U.S. Congress held hearings concerning the U.S. State Department's total inaction regarding the plight of European Jews. President Franklin Roosevelt responded to the mounting political pressure by creating the War Refugee Board (WRB) in January 1944 to aid neutral countries in the rescue of Jews. The WRB helped save about 200,000 Jews from death camps through the heroic efforts of persons such as Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg working tirelessly in occupied countries.
The WRB also advocated the aerial bombing of Auschwitz, although it never occurred since it was not considered a vital military target. The U.S. and its military Allies maintained that the best way to stop Nazi atrocities was to defeat Germany as quickly as possible.
In April 1944, two Jewish inmates escaped from Auschwitz and made it safely into Czechoslovakia. One of them, Rudolf Vrba, submitted a detailed report to the Papal Nuncio in Slovakia, which was then forwarded to the Vatican, received there in mid-June. Thus far, Pope Pius XII had not issued a public condemnation of Nazi maltreatment and subsequent mass murder of Jews, and he chose to continue his silence.
The Nazis attempted to quell increasing reports of the Final Solution by inviting the International Red Cross to visit Theresienstadt, a ghetto in Czechoslovakia containing prominent Jews. A Red Cross delegation toured Theresienstadt in July 1944 observing stores, banks, cafes, and classrooms, which had been hastily spruced-up for their benefit. They also witnessed a delightful musical program put on by Jewish children. After the Red Cross departed, most of the ghetto inhabitants, including all of the children, were sent to be gassed and the model village was left to deteriorate.
In several instances, Jews took matters into their own hands and violently resisted the Nazis. The most notable was the 28-day battle waged inside the Warsaw Ghetto. There, a group of 750 Jews armed with smuggled-in weapons battled over 2000 SS soldiers armed with small tanks, artillery and flamethrowers. Upon encountering stiff resistance from the Jews, the Nazis decided to burn down the entire ghetto.
An SS report described the scene: "The Jews stayed in the burning buildings until because of the fear of being burned alive they jumped down from the upper stories…With their bones broken, they still tried to crawl across the street into buildings which had not yet been set on fire…Despite the danger of being burned alive the Jews and bandits often preferred to return into the flames rather than risk being caught by us."
Resistance also occurred inside the death camps. At Treblinka, Jewish inmates staged a revolt in August 1943, after which Himmler ordered the camp dismantled. At Sobibor, a big escape occurred in October 1943, as Jews and Soviet POWs killed 11 SS men and broke out, with 300 making it safely into nearby woods. Of those 300, most were hunted down and only fifty survived. Himmler then closed Sobibor. At Auschwitz-Birkenau, Jewish Sonderkommandos managed to destroy crematory number four in October 1944.
But throughout Nazi-occupied Europe, relatively few non-Jewish persons were willing to risk their own lives to help the Jews. Notable exceptions included Oskar Schindler, a German who saved 1200 Jews by moving them from Plaszow labor camp to his hometown of Brunnlitz. The country of Denmark rescued nearly its entire population of Jews, over 7000, by transporting them to safety by sea. Italy and Bulgaria both refused to cooperate with German demands for deportations. Elsewhere in Europe, people generally stood by passively and watched as Jewish families were marched through the streets toward waiting trains, or in some cases, actively participated in Nazi persecutions.
By 1944, the tide of war had turned against Hitler and his armies were being defeated on all fronts by the Allies. However, the killing of Jews continued uninterrupted. Railroad locomotives and freight cars badly needed by the German Army were instead used by the SS to transport Jews to Auschwitz.
In May, Nazis under the direction of SS Lt. Colonel Adolf Eichmann boldly began a mass deportation of the last major surviving population of European Jews. From May 15 to July 9, over 430,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz. During this time, Auschwitz recorded its highest-ever daily number of persons killed and cremated at just over 9000. Six huge open pits were used to burn the bodies, as the number of dead exceeded the capacity of the crematories.
The unstoppable Allied military advance continued and on July 24, 1944, Soviet troops liberated the first camp, Majdanek in eastern Poland, where over 360,000 had died. As the Soviet Army neared Auschwitz, Himmler ordered the complete destruction of the gas chambers. Throughout Hitler's crumbling Reich, the SS now began conducting death marches of surviving concentration camp inmates away from outlying areas, including some 66,000 from Auschwitz. Most of the inmates on these marches either dropped dead from exertion or were shot by the SS when they failed to keep up with the column.
The Soviet Army reached Auschwitz on January 27, 1945. By that time, an estimated 1,500,000 Jews, along with 500,000 Polish prisoners, Soviet POWs and Gypsies, had perished there. As the Western Allies pushed into Germany in the spring of 1945, they liberated Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, and Dachau. Now the full horror of the twelve-year Nazi regime became apparent as British and American soldiers, including Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower, viewed piles of emaciated corpses and listened to vivid accounts given by survivors.
On April 30, 1945, surrounded by the Soviet Army in Berlin, Adolf Hitler committed suicide and his Reich soon collapsed. By now, most of Europe's Jews had been killed. Four million had been gassed in the death camps while another two million had been shot dead or died in the ghettos. The victorious Allies; Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union, then began the daunting task of sorting through the carnage to determine exactly who was responsible. Seven months later, the Nuremberg War Crime Trials began, with 22 surviving top Nazis charged with crimes against humanity.
During the trial, a now-repentant Hans Frank, the former Nazi Governor of Poland declared: "A thousand years will pass and the guilt of the Germany will not be erased."
The Truth About Pope Pius XII by Sister Margherita Marchione. Ph.D.
Pope Pius XII and Hitler
Pope Pius XII was not a German collaborator nor was he pro-Nazi. Neither was he inactive nor silent. As a member of the Catholic Church, I resent the blatant accusations against the diplomacy of the Pope and the Church during World War II. This is not only indecent journalism but it also an injustice toward a man who saved more Jews than any other person, including Oscar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg. Unfortunately even in the new Holocaust Museum at Battery Park in New York City the Pope is unjustly criticized. It is historically inaccurate to charge him with "silence."
Should the media be allowed to perpetuate such falsehoods? Documents prove that these misrepresentations are untrue. Pius XII spoke out as much as he could, and was able to do more with actions than with words. To the very end, he was convinced that, should he denounce Hitler publicly, there would be retaliation. And there was. Whenever protests were made, treatment of prisoners worsened immediately. Robert Kempner, the American who served as deputy chief of the Nuremburg war-crimes tribunal, wrote: "All the arguments and writings eventually used by the Catholic Church against Hitler only provoked suicide; the execution of Jews was followed by that of Catholic priests."
Pius XII—through his public discourses, his appeals to governments, and his secret diplomacy—was engaged more than any other individual in the effort to curb the war and rebuild the peace. Documents show that Pius XII was in contact with the German generals who sought to overthrow Hitler. Documents also show that the Jewish community received enormous help: Pius XII’s personal funds ransomed Jews from Nazis. Papal representatives in Croatia, Hungary, and Romania intervened to stop deportations. The Pope called for a peace conference involving Italy, France, England, Germany, and Poland in 1939, in a last-minute bid to avert bloodshed.
An interesting document is the testimony of Albert Einstein who, disenchanted by the silence of universities and editors of newspapers, stated in Time magazine (December 23, 1940): "Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. …The Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom." Indeed, executing the directives of Pope Pius XII, religious men and women opened their doors to save the Jews.
Never were the Jews and the Vatican so close as during World War II. The Vatican was the only place on the continent where they had any friends. Pope Pius XII’s response to the plight of the Jews was to save as many as possible. Yet little has been done to stop the criticism of Pius XII that began in 1963, when Rolf Hochhuth portrayed him as a Nazi collaborator in the play "The Deputy." In contrast to the image suggested by this play, Vatican records indicate that the Church operated an underground railroad that rescued 800,000 European Jews from the Holocaust. After a careful study of available documents, whoever is interested in the truth will no longer condemn the actions of Pope Pius XII’s words and the Catholic Church during this tragic period.
An honest evaluation of Pope Pius XII’s words and actions will exonerate him from false accusations and show that he has been unjustly maligned. The Pope neither favored nor was favored by the Nazis. The day after his election (March 3, 1939), the Nazi newspaper, Berliner Morganpost stated its position clearly: "the election of Cardinal Pacelli is not accepted with favor in Germany because he was always opposed to Nazism."
The New York Times editorial (December 25, 1942) was specific: "The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas...He is about the only ruler left on the Continent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all." The Pope’s Christmas message was also interpreted in the Gestapo report: "in a manner never known before...the Pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order [Nazism]. It is true, the Pope does not refer to the National Socialists in Germany by name, but his speech is one long attack on everything we stand for. …Here he is clearly speaking on behalf of the Jews." Perhaps the rest of the world should interpret the Pope’s words as they were meant and, undoubtedly, correctly understood by the Nazis, i.e.: POPE PIUS XII WAS ALWAYS OPPOSED TO NAZISM.
The Jewish Community publicly acknowledged the wisdom of Pope Pius XII’s diplomacy. In September 1945, Dr. Joseph Nathan—who represented the Hebrew Commission—stated "Above all, we acknowledge the Supreme Pontiff and the religious men and women who, executing the directives of the Holy Father, recognized the persecuted as their brothers and, with great abnegation, hastened to help them, disregarding the terrible dangers to which they were exposed." In 1958, at the death of Pope Pius XII, Golda Meir sent an eloquent message: "We share in the grief of humanity. …When fearful martyrdom came to our people, the voice of the Pope was raised for its victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out about great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace."