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CATHOLIC CHURCH

Film claims Italian Pope saved 800,000 Jews

A new film about Pope Pius XII has sparked controversy over claims the pontiff saved 800,000 Jews from the Nazis during the Second World War.

Film claims Italian Pope saved 800,000 Jews
The Italian pontiff, born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Pacelli, led the Catholic Church from 1939 to 1958. Photo: Vatican/Wikimedia Commons

Shades of Truth premieres in Rome on Monday and recounts a Jewish man’s journey to the Vatican to uncover Pius’ efforts to save people from the Holocaust.

Filmmakers credit the wartime pontiff with saving 800,000 Jews and describe Pius as “the most misunderstood figure of the 20th century”.

The figure is based on research by the late historian Pinchas Lapide, director Liana Marabini told Corriere della Sera: “Pinchas Lapide is absolutely credible, because he was Jewish, he lived during war and knew Pius XII well.”

The Italian pontiff, born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Pacelli, led the Catholic Church from 1939 to 1958. His detractors accuse him of not doing enough to save people from the Nazis.

Marcello Pezzetti, director of the Museum of the Shoah Foundation in Rome, said the film presented a “false interpretation of history”.

“How can one support that Pius XII saved 800,000 Jews? It’s not even an interpretation, it’s simply a theory of the ideological sort, it’s another thing completely. In other words, it’s not even scandalous. It’s out of place,” he told Corriere.

In a biography of Pope Pius XII, the Vatican said the pontiff used “all means at his disposal to alleviate the misery” of people including Jews during the Second World War, both within Italy and abroad.

After its premiere in Rome, Shades of Truth will open in cinemas across Italy and internationally next month.
 

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HEALTH

Pope calls for a quicker vaccine rollout in Italy’s Easter Sunday message

Pope Francis proclaimed vaccines an "essential tool" in ending the pandemic in his Easter Sunday address and urged their swift rollout to the world's poorest countries.

Pope calls for a quicker vaccine rollout in Italy's Easter Sunday message
Pope Francis delivers his Urbi et Orbi Blessing, after celebrating Easter Mass on April 04, 2021 at St. Peter's Basilica in The Vatican during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / POOL / AFP)

On the holiest holiday for the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics and the second under the shadow of the coronavirus crisis, the Pope focused his message on the world’s most vulnerable – the sick, migrants, people facing economic hardship, and those living in war zones like Syria, Yemen and Libya.

“The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor,” the 84-year-old Argentine said, speaking to a congregation of only around 100 people inside the vast St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Vaccines are an essential tool in this fight,” he said, calling on the international community to overcome delays in distributing vaccines, “especially in the poorest countries”.

READ ALSO: Children lead the way in Italy’s reduced Good Friday service

Francis, who has focused on the plight of vulnerable groups since becoming pope in 2013, had already warned rich nations against vaccine hoarding in an address to the UN General Assembly in September.

The pope said it was “scandalous” that armed conflicts around the world had not ceased. He called for an end to the war in Syria, “where millions of people are presently living in inhumane conditions”, and in Yemen “whose situation has met with a deafening and scandalous silence”.

A deserted St. Peter’s Square in The Vatican, after the Pope’s Easter Mass and Urbi et Orbi blessing during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

He also expressed his closeness to Myanmar’s youth – “committed to supporting democracy” – called for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, and urged an end to violence in Africa, citing Nigeria, the Sahel, Northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region and Cabo Delgado in Mozambique.

“There are still too many wars and too much violence in the world,” Francis said, adding that April 4th marked an awareness day against landmines, “insidious and horrible devices”.

An Easter message in Lockdown before a key month in Italy

The Pope’s Easter “Urbi et Orbi” (To the city and the world) message in the Vatican came as 60 million Italians spent the Easter holiday under lockdown.

The whole of Italy, the first country in Europe to have been hit by the coronavirus, has been declared a high-risk “red zone” from Saturday through Monday, with restrictions on movement and restaurants closed along with non-essential retail.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: What can you do this Easter in lockdown Italy?

Despite the gloom, there have been hopeful signs that vaccinations are gaining pace in Italy, while infection rates dipped in late March – although emergency rooms remain under enormous strain.

April is set to be a crucial month for Italy’s vaccine rollout, with authorities hoping to administer 300,000 doses per day within two weeks, according to the country’s coronavirus commissioner, General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo.

Three regions, including that of Veneto, which includes Venice, are also preparing to slightly loosen their anti-coronavirus rules from Tuesday onwards, passing from the most restrictive “red” zone to “orange”.

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