“A Virtual Encyclical Against Anti-Jewish Prejudices”

Bill Doino, Jr. sends along this interesting bit of info from over a century ago. He writes:

If you get a moment and are interested, please check out this link, concerning the Vatican’s 1916 condemnation against anti-Semitism—it emanated from the office Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pius XII) helped lead, and it is now affirmed, by top Vatican archivist/historian Dr. Johan Ickx and German historian Michael Feldkamp—drawing from the Vatican archives — that Pacelli was indeed directly involved in helping prepare the 1916 papal-approved text—which the American Jewish Committee praised to the skies, as you can see:



Ever since the beginning of the Polish boycott against the Jews, your Committee has sought an opportunity to secure for it the attention of Roman Catholic prelates, in order that they might bring their influence to bear upon the Poles, with a view to the cessation of the boycott and of the atrocities which often accompanied it.

The study of the condition of the Jews in Russia since the outbreak of the war convinced your Committee that a great many of the sufferings of the Jews were the result of this boycott and of the general unfriendly attitude of the Poles.

In December last, your Committee, having an opportunity to bring the facts directly to the attention of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XV, submitted to him a copy of the Committee’s book, ” The Jews in the Eastern War Zone,” with a petition praying him to exert his powerful influence to ameliorate conditions. This petition called forth a reply from the Holy See which is a virtual encyclical against anti-Jewish prejudices, and has been followed by directions to the Catholic clergy of Poland admonishing them to use their best endeavors to put an end to the persecution which has prevailed. The petition and the reply of the Vatican have been made public in both Europe and America, and are given here.



New York,

December 30,1915.

Your Holiness:

The petitioners, who are citizens of the United States of America and adherents of the Jewish faith, have learned with increasing horror of the unspeakable cruelties and hardships visited upon their co-religionists in various belligerent lands since the outbreak of the present world conflict. Far beyond the sufferings which this calamity has inflicted upon those of other faiths, and in addition to the ravages and destruction occasioned by the clash of the contending armies to all who come within the sphere of their hostilities, the Jews have been marked for especial persecution, and have been subjected to oppressive measures not borne by their compatriots of other creeds. Passion and prejudice have been fomented against our unhappy brethren, frequently by those who bear the same political allegiance, until their lot has ceased to be endurable. In some of the lands where they have long resided their very neighbors are bent upon their annihilation, practising against them the most refined cruelty, and in many instances by means of an economic boycott condemning them to literal starvation. We submit herewith ascertained facts which tell but in small part the hideous truth.

Fully persuaded that had Your Holiness been acquainted with these facts the Holy See would at once have exercised the profound moral, ethical, and religious influence with which the Roman Catholic Church is endowed, upon those who regard Your Holiness as their Shepherd, but who have unfortunately participated in this persecution, with all due veneration we now approach the Supreme Pontiff for succor in this the bitter hour of our need, knowing the exemplary humanity for which Your Holiness is justly distinguished. It is our sincere prayer that the occasion may be deemed a fitting one for resort to the authority vested in the Sovereign of the great Roman Catholic Hierarchy, to urge His Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, and Priests to admonish their flocks to hold in abhorrence these acts of persecution, of prejudice and of cruelty, which have overwhelmed our unfortunate brethren.

We recall with admiration and gratitude that on many occasions in the past some of the revered predecessors of Your Holiness have under like conditions extended protection to those of the Jewish faith, in the interest of right and justice. Appreciating the transcendent importance which the entire civilized world attaches to any utterance from so exalted a source of morality and wisdom as that which Your Holiness represents, we confidently express the hope that timely action be taken by the Vatican, to the end that the sufferings under which millions of our brethren in faith are now weighed down may be terminated by an act of that humanity to which Your Holiness is so passionately devoted, and that the cruel intolerance and the unjust prejudice which have been aroused against them may forever vanish before this glorious exercise of Your Supreme Moral and Spiritual Power.

We beg Your Holiness to believe us to be, Your most respectful petitioners,


Louis MARSHALL, President.




No. 13,726 February 9, 1916.


The Supreme Pontiff has with interest taken notice of the letter bearing date December 30, 1915, which you have been pleased to address to him in the name of the three million Jewish citizens of the United States of America, in order to communicate to him generally the treatment to which your coreligionists complain that they have been exposed in various regions, and at the same time you have requested him to interpose the weight of his supreme moral and spiritual power, in order that these sufferings may be terminated by an act of that humanity to which the Holy Father is so passionately devoted.

The Supreme Pontiff is unable to express himself concerning the special facts referred to in the memorandum submitted with your letter, but in principle, as the head of the Catholic Church, which, faithful to its divine doctrine and to its most glorious traditions, considers all men as brethren and teaches them to love one another, he will not cease to inculcate the observance among individuals as among nations of the principles of natural right, and to reprove every violation of them. This right should be observed and respected in relation to the Children of Israel as it should be as to all men, for it would not conform to justice and to religion itself to derogate therefrom solely because of a difference of religious faith.

Moreover, in his paternal heart, pained by the spectacle of the existing horrible war, the Supreme Pontiff feels in this moment more deeply than ever the necessity that all men shall recollect that they are brothers and that their salvation lies in the return of the law of love, which is the law of the Gospels. He also desires to interest to this noble end all who, especially by reason of the sacred attributes of their pastoral ministrations, are able to bring efficient aid to this important result.

In the meantime His Holiness rejoices in the unity which in civil matters exists in the United States of America among the members of different faiths and which contributes so powerfully to the peaceful prosperity of your great country. He prays to God that peace may at length appear for the happiness of that humanity of which you truly say the Holy Father is the guardian.

Accept, gentlemen, the assurances of my most distinguished and devoted sentiments.

(Signed) P. Cardinal GASPABRI.

To Mr. Louis Marshall, President, and to the Members of the Executive Committee of The American Jewish Committee.


In addition we understand that our publication ” The Jews in the Eastern War Zone ” has been translated into Italian and French, and that 10,000 copies of each of these translations have been circulated in Europe.

The publication of this correspondence called forth universal comment of a favorable nature, and even the notorious French anti-Semite, Edouard Drumont, editor of La Libre Parole, published the following significant statement:

In the midst of the frightful plague which has visited the populations of Europe, Israel has raised a cry of distress, and this cry has reached even to the steps of the Pontifical throne.

The Jews of the United States have addressed a fervent appeal to St. Peter in order to heg him to pronounce, in his paternal goodness, the words of peace and humanity which would put an end to the sufferings of their persecuted brethren.

The response of Rome has been what it should have been—cordial, charitable, and consoling.

One cannot help feeling a sentiment of pity for those who suffer, no matter who they are, and we are not permitted to doubt the sincerity of the declarations expressed by the American Jewish Committee. We are rather inclined to recognize the wisdom of its initiative in rendering such respectful homage to the wisdom and the sense of justice of the head of the Christian Church.

These citizens of the United States, who have given proof of such splendid solidarity on behalf of all the scattered members of their race, appear to me to be more inspired than all those monarchs, all those leaders of peoples, who are tainted with the general skepticism and who have denied the moral force of the Church. Those who govern have refused to listen to the representative of Christ on earth, the man who, without a kingdom and without an army and, from the temporal point of view, despoiled of everything, as he is, still remains a sovereign.

No appeal has ever been made to this sovereign in all the peace congresses which have ended in the present catastrophe. Never have the heads of kingdoms, of empires, or republics among the civilized nations, whose institutions are based upon the doctrine of Christianity—never have they understood that the Pope alone was qualified to preside at a universal peace congress.

By a strange phenomenon, those who, in their belief and in their religion are furthest removed from Christian doctrine, now ask the help of this beneficent and world-wide influence.

The Jews of New York did not fail in their address to St. Peter to say that they recalled “with admiration and gratitude” that on numerous occasions in the past, the Papacy has shown a benevolent attitude toward the members of the Jewish faith.

They can, indeed, recall long persecutions, innumerable years full of intense anxiety, always threatened by perils just as agonizing. They cannot forget that during more than 1200 years one man alone has constantly spoken on their behalf, has declared without cessation that their liberty of conscience must be respected, has intervened with kings in order to protect the persecuted, has given the example of tolerance by according to the Jews in his domains, better treatment than was accorded to them everywhere else. This man, always equal in his goodness, this man who never dies, is the Vicar of Jesus Christ.

On every page of history will be found traces of the protection extended to the Jews by the Papacy. In the seventh century, St. Gregory defended them, and protected them throughout the entire extent of the Christian world. Alexander II warmly congratulated the bishops of Spain who had promulgated measures of clemency toward the persecuted Jews. Gregory IX interceded for them in France, in England, in Spain; he forbade, under penalty of excommunication, the prohibition of their festivals. Clement VI accorded them an asylum at Avignon. Nicholas II wrote to the Inquisition ordering it not to force them to embrace Christianity.

Bill adds:

PS In 1916, Pacelli was one of the chief assistants (and often co or ghost writer) to Cardinal Gasparri-who wrote to the American Jewish Committee, on behalf of and with the full approval of Pope Benedict XV. At the time, Gasparri was the Vatican’s Cardinal Secretary of State, who would be succeeded by Pacelli, who was Cardinal Secretary of State under Pius XI, from 1930-1939, before becoming Pope (Pius XII), himself, from ’39-‘58

I was unaware of both this document and of the American Jewish response. Interesting!


3 Responses

  1. I read that the canard of Pope Prius XII being “Hitler’s Pope” originated as a Soviet disinformation campaign.

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