Although many people have come to swallow the caricature of Pope Pius XII as "Hitler's Pope," after the malicious smear campaign by John Cornwell, the facts now seem overwhelmingly to reveal the opposite: Not only was Pius adamantly opposed to the Führer's policies; he actively sought to have him assassinated.
A fascinating new book by intelligence expert Mark Riebling, Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against Hitler, offers a compelling narrative of the actions taken by Pope Pius to stop Hitler from carrying out his campaign of world domination and ethnic cleansing.
Backed by a mass of carefully compiled documentation, Riebling shows that Pius cooperated in a variety of plots, initiated by patriotic, anti-Nazi Germans, to assassinate Hitler and replace the National Socialist regime with a government that would make peace with the West.
The Nazis, in fact, were deeply disturbed by the election of Pius XII in 1939, well aware of Pacelli's many anti-Nazi statements and actions. They commissioned an assessment of the situation from Albert Hartl, a former Catholic priest, who warned that the Catholic Church would prove a serious threat to the Third Reich.
"The Catholic Church fundamentally claims for itself the right to depose heads of state," Hartl wrote, "and down to the present time it has also achieved this claim several times." This statement seemed to embolden disaffected German officers who were seeking assistance to overthrow Hitler.
In 1938, several high-ranking German officers began turning against Hitler, for fear he would lead the country into a devastating war. One of these, General Ludwig Beck, was joined in this endeavor by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr (Germany's intelligence agency), and his deputy, Colonel Hans Oster.
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