Jewish orphans controversy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Jewish orphans controversy was a legal dispute that occurred after the Second World War when the Holy See under Pope Pius XII issued instructions that Catholic institutions and families should keep baptized Jewish children in their ranks, if orphaned, after they had been rescued from a likely deportation to death camps .

1946 document[edit]

In 2005, Corriere della Sera published a document dated 20 November 1946 on the subject of Jewish children baptized in war-time France. The document ordered that baptized children, if orphaned, should be kept in Catholic custody and stated that the decision "has been approved by the Holy Father".

Angelo Roncalli[edit]

Angelo Roncalli, who would become Pope John XXIII, was serving as Nuncio for France, and reportedly ignored this directive.[1] He would later be recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous among the Nations because of his assistance to the Jewish underground when he was Nuncio for Greece and Turkey.

Finaly Affair[edit]

A notable case in relation to this controversy is the Finaly Affair, which occurred in France between 1945 and 1953. Cardinal Pierre-Marie Gerlier and abbé Roger Etchegaray attempted to settle the dispute by transferring the Finaly children back to Spain and into Israel, where Jewish relatives were able to raise them.[2]

The Finaly Affair has been compared to the Mortara Affair in the 19th century because the Vatican had issued very similar instructions on the case of Edgardo Mortara, who had received an emergency baptism and was therefore taken from his Jewish family.

Pius XII's personal intervention[edit]

Pius XII personally intervened in one case. According to Peter Hellman's book, Avenue of the Righteous (1980), a Polish Catholic woman named Leokadia Jaromirska, who was later honored as a Righteous Gentile by the State of Israel,[3] wrote to the pope, seeking his permission to keep a Jewish child she sheltered during the war. Hellman writes that Jaromirska "was instructed by the pope to return the child to its father." In his letter to Jaromirska, the pope told her it was her duty as a Catholic to return the child and to do so in goodwill and friendship.

Anti-Defamation League[edit]

Abe Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who had himself been baptized as a child and had undergone a custody battle afterwards, called for an immediate freeze on Pius's beatification process until the relevant Vatican Secret Archives and baptismal records were opened.[4] Foxman, however, has not repeated the allegation in subsequent statements and ADL press releases concerning Pope Pius XII. [5]

Italian scholars[edit]

Two Italian scholars, Matteo Luigi Napolitano and Andrea Tornielli, confirmed that the memorandum was genuine although the reporting by the Corriere della Sera was misleading, as the document had originated in the French Catholic Church archives rather than the Vatican archives and strictly concerned itself with children without living blood relatives that were supposed to be handed over to Jewish organisations.[6]

Yad L'Achim inquiries[edit]

Yad L'Achim, an Israeli Jewish organization, has inquired into the orphans controversy and has demanded that Pope Benedict XVI act to reveal the “hidden Jewish children” of the Holocaust.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jerusalem Report, (February 7, 2005).
  2. ^ Joyce Block-Lazarus. In the Shadow of Vichy. The Finaly Affair. Peter Lang. 2008. ISBN 1-4331-0212-9, ISBN 978-1-4331-0212-7.
  3. ^ Leokadia Jaromirska – her activity to save Jews' lives during the Holocaust, at Yad Vashem website
  4. ^ Anti-Defamation League. ADL to Vatican: Open Baptismal Records and Put Pius Beatification on Hold. January 13, 2005.
  5. ^ ADL Position on Pope Pius XII (September 18, 2008) [1]
  6. ^ Dimitri Cavalli. Pius's Children. The American. April 1, 2006.
  7. ^ Call for Pope to Reveal Hidden Holocaust Children

External links[edit]