Margherita Marchione

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Sister Dr. Margherita Marchione, PhD (born February 19, 1922, Little Ferry, New Jersey[1]) is a Roman Catholic American nun, writer, teacher and apologeticist, who dedicated herself in her later years to the defense of Pope Pius XII. A member of the Religious Teachers Filippini for most of her life, she had access to the sisters of her order in Italy, who reportedly sheltered some Jews during the Second World War.

Life[edit]

Marchione was born February 19, 1922 in Little Ferry, New Jersey, one of eight children of Crescenzo and Felicia Marchione, immigrants from Campania, Italy. She attended St. Mary's School in nearby Hackensack, and in 1935 she joined the Religious Teachers Filippini.[2]

Marchione received her B.A. from Georgian Court College, and her M.A. and PhD from Columbia University, and eventually became a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, after earning a doctorate on philosophy at Columbia. She occupied the post of emeritus professor of Italian language and literature at Fairleigh Dickinson.[citation needed]

On Philip Mazzei[edit]

Marchione's interest in Philip Mazzei began in 1974 bicentennial. Philip Mazzei, was an 18th-century Florentine who moved to Virginia, fought in the American Revolution, and became a lifelong personal friend of Thomas Jefferson.

The author of seven volumes on Mazzei, Marchione donated approximately 2,500 printed and published artifacts, works of art and decorative objects of Philip Mazzei to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. Foundation librarian Jack Robertson stated, "The collection compiled by Sister Margherita includes not only facsimiles of all of Mazzei’s correspondence, but also relatively obscure publications on the role of Italians in American history."[3] She launched an ultimately successful campaign to get the United States Postal Service (USPS) to designate a stamp to commemorate Mazzei in the form of a 40 cent airmail stamp in 1980 to commemorate Mazzei's 250th birthday.[4]

Pius XII[edit]

Sister Marchione claims pressure from the international Jewish community is a major contributing factor to the Vatican's failure to beatify Pius XII. She has launched numerous appeals to Yad Vashem to change its present unflattering characterization of Pius XII and declare the wartime pope a “Righteous Gentile”. She objects to a statement concerning Pius XII that is printed below a photo of him at Yad Vashem, which reads, in part:

"Pius XII's reaction toward the killing of Jews during the period of the Holocaust is controversial. Although reports about the assassination of Jews reached the Vatican, the pope did not protest either by speaking out or in writing. In December of 1942, he did not participate in the condemnation by members of the Allies regarding the killing of Jews. Even when the Jews were being deported from Rome to Auschwitz, the pope did not intervene. He maintained a neutral position except toward the end of the war when he appealed on behalf of the government of Hungary and of Slovakia. His silence and absence of directives obliged the clergy in Europe to decide independently how they should behave toward the persecuted Jews.".[4]

Yad Vashem's Righteous Gentiles Department informed Marchione that the museum would consider changing the negative presentation of Pius' role during the Holocaust if at least two Jews (or their descendants) were to come forward with proof they were saved from the Nazis due to Pius' personal intervention. Marchione claims she has interviewed scores of elderly Italian Jews who expressed gratitude to the pope for the fact that they were hidden in Vatican institutions during that period. After Pope Benedict XVI's first major meeting with Jewish leaders in 2005, Rabbi David Rosen, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, told the Catholic News Service that “there would be very many [people] within the Jewish world who would see the beatification of Pius XII as an act of intentional insensitivity”.[4]

Marchione has stated:

"If Jewish leaders say today that Pius XII did nothing to save Jews, they are disputing the testimony of other Jews who said he did quite a lot ... It is terribly unfair to put so much blame on Pius, who had no army besides a few Swiss Guards with which to resist Hitler, while leaders like Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, who had the means to bomb the concentration camps, failed to do so", said Marchione.

She was an honoree at a National Italian American Foundation dinner attended by President Ronald Reagan. Her work has been criticized by the Rev. John Morley, a professor of Jewish studies at Seton Hall University, and Father John Pawlikowski of the Catholic Theological Seminary of Chicago. Rev. Morley wrote a doctoral dissertation on Vatican diplomacy during the Holocaust, which was highly critical of Pius XII.[4]

Fr. Pawlikowski has urged Catholics and others to confront the long history of Christian anti-Semitism. Pawlikowski said he gives Marchione "very little credibility. She never gets invited to scholarly conferences on the Holocaust". Another critic of Marchione is Susan Zuccotti, author of Under His Very Windows (2002), a study of the Holocaust in Italy. The book is highly critical of what Zuccotti portrays as Pius' failure to take effective action to save the Jews. “There is absolutely no written or oral record of a papal order or instruction of any kind to help the Jews, Zuccotti told New Jersey Jewish News.[4]

“Of course, I believe deeply in the righteousness of Pope Pius, but if you were to prove to me that Pius XII did something wrong, I would be the first to acknowledge it. Yet I haven't found anything so far to indicate that ... I know I won't be around forever, but I very much hope to live long enough to witness the beatification of Pius XII. Until then, I will do what I can to bring that day closer by exposing the falsity of the attacks on this great and good man.”[4]

Activism[edit]

In the mid-1990s, she learned that her own order, the Religious Teachers Filippini, had sheltered 114 Jews from 1943-44 at their convent in Rome. She then wrote her first book, Yours Is a Precious Witness, which was published in 1997 by the Paulist Press. The book included extensive interviews with Italian Jews who expressed gratitude for having been hidden by convents and monasteries during the Nazi occupation of Rome. She continued to write more books on the same theme, including Pope Pius XII, Architect for Peace (2000) and Consensus and Controversy, Defending Pope Pius XII (2002).[4]

Marchione contends it is inconceivable that the heads of so many convents and monasteries would have sheltered Jews unless they were acting at the pope's direction, citing a comment by Father David Jaeger, an Israeli-born convert to Roman Catholicism and expert on Vatican canonical law, who argued: “Anyone who has any acquaintance with the law and culture of the Catholic Church at that time would understand those things could not have taken place without specific orders of the pope, and those orders could not have been in written form.”[4]

Defenders[edit]

Marchione's defenders include:

  • Dr. Eugene Fisher, associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  • Gary Krupp, president of the New York-based Pave the Way Foundation, said he believes Jewish groups should drop their opposition to the beatification of Pius to buttress a Jewish-Vatican alliance in the face of the rise of radical Islam. According to Krupp, “Margherita Marchione has done important research on Pius' efforts on behalf of the Jews during the Holocaust and is highly respected within the church for her accomplishments. More people should listen to what she is saying.”[4]

Health[edit]

On August 19, 2012, it was revealed that the 90-year-old Marchione was treated surgically for intestinal cancer.[5]

Honors[edit]

  • In 1984 Marchione was honored by the National Italian American Foundation for Achievement in Literature.[6]
  • In September 29, 2004, Fairleigh Dickinson University conferred an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on Sr. Margherita Marchione.[7]
  • Fulbright Scholar[when?]
  • Columbia University Garibaldi Scholar[when?]
  • Star of Solidality of the Republic of Italy[when?]
  • Induction into the New Jersey Literary Hall of Fame[when?]
  • Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice cross[when?]

Works[edit]

  • Twentieth Century Italian Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology (edited, 1974)
  • Philip Mazzei: Jefferson's "Zealous Whig" (1975)
  • Clemente Rebora: A Man's Quest for the Absolute (1979)
  • Philip Mazzei: My Life and Wanderings (edited, 1980)
  • Philip Mazzei: Selected Writings and Correspondence (edited in 3 Volumes, 1983)
  • From the Land of the Etruscans: The Life of Lucy Filippini (1986)
  • A Pictorial History of the Saint Lucy Filippini Chapel (1992)
  • Philip Mazzei: World Citizen (1994)
  • Americans of Italian Heritage (1995)
  • Yours Is a Precious Witness: Memoirs of Jews and Catholics in Wartime Italy (1997)
  • Pope Pius XII: Architect for Peace (2000)
  • The Fighting Nun: My Story (2000)
  • Consensus & Controversy: Defending Pope Pius XII (2002)
  • Shepherd of Souls: A Pictorial Life of Pope Pius XII (2003)
  • Crusade of Charity: Pius XII and POWs 1939-1945 (2006)
  • Did Pope Pius XII Help the Jews? (2007),
  • The Truth Will Set You Free: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Death of Pope Pius XII (2009)
  • The Religious Teachers Filippini in America: Centennial, 1910-2010 (2010)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Margherita Marchione". shelfari.com. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Marchione, Margherita. The Fighting Nun: My Story, Cornwall Books, Cranbury, New Jersey, (2000)
  3. ^ "Mazzei documents illuminate Jefferson", Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Virginia, May 13, 2013
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Walter Ruby (February 15, 2007). "The Pope's Defender". New Jersey Jewish News. Retrieved September 13, 2012. 
  5. ^ Source re Sister Marchione's cancer battle
  6. ^ "NIAF Achievement Award Recipients since 1976", National Italian American Foundation
  7. ^ "Sister Margherita Marchione Honored by Fairleigh Dickinson University", Fairleigh Dickinson University, September 30, 2004