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From Barnes & NobleSins of the Holy Father
Like almost all other men who ascended to the position of pope, Eugenio Pacelli was a clever Vatican politician. As his predecessor, Pius XI, alienated non-Italian cardinals, Pacelli carried out the Vatican's wishes abroad as nuncio (the Vatican version of an ambassador). He became known to foreign cardinals, who are essential to elect a pope, and a favorite of Pius XI and his not-insignificant band of supporters. Pacelli easily became Pius XII.
That level of political maneuvering is nothing new in the upper levels of the Catholic Church. Pius XII, however, was also skilled at high-level politics outside the Vatican walls, working to strengthen and expand the influence of the Church in the countries to which he served as nuncio. Hitler's Pope takes a long, deep look at Pacelli's role in the rise of Hitler in Germany and the negotiations the ambitious cardinal undertook with the Nazis to ensure the survival of the German Catholic Church. In return for a guarantee of the Church's survival, Pius XII played a crucial role in Hitler's success by removing the influential German Catholics from the public debate. This, author John Cornwell argues, was a critical step in bringing Hitler to power. In Cornwell's words: "No other non-German did more to contribute to Hitler's rise to power."
Apart from the detailed documentation of Pius XII's conspiracy with the Nazis, what makes Hitler's Pope extraordinary is the way it came to be written. Cornwell has long been a defender of the Catholic Church. He is respected by the Vatican and Church historians. He began researching the full story of Pius XII's diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany with the goal of correcting what he always thought was an undeserved slander on the World War II pope that he had not done enough to help Jews in the Holocaust. As he writes in the preface: "I was convinced that if his full story were told, Pius XII's papacy, and the Catholic Church, would be vindicated of a perennial libel."
With that supportive goal and his friendly contacts at the Vatican, Cornwell gained access to previously unseen Church archives. By 1997, as he neared the end of his research, Cornwell realized that the materials he had gathered on Eugenio Pacelli's life did not exonerate the pope of the charge of indifference, but implicated him in a much more damning charge of collusion. Cornwell discovered that Pacelli was a career anti-Semite, documented as far back as 1919, and gives greater detail than ever before of the pope's complete refusal to help the Jews of Rome as they were rounded up just outside the Vatican's walls.
Pius XII is currently going through the process of canonization, the final step on the Church's path to sainthood. Hitler's Pope makes a strong argument that Pius XII was far from saintly -- a ruthless politician whose moral crimes are still unacknowledged by the Church.