The Washington Times reports that Monsignor Angelo Roncalli, who later became Pope John XXIII, rescued thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II.
His ally in the effort was Chaim Barlas, who had been sent to Istanbul as an emissary of the Jewish Agency Rescue Committee, established by the Jewish community in what was then Palestine to try to save European Jews from the Nazis.
The men intensified their efforts after the receipt in June 1944 of a report by two Slovakian Jews who had escaped a month earlier from the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.
That and a subsequent account describing the grisly massacre under way there came to be known as the Auschwitz Protocols.
Mr. Barlas “translated it into German, drafted a precise summary dated June 23, 1944, and was granted an audience with Roncalli a day later,” Mrs. Porat said. “Roncalli wept upon reading its contents and relayed it immediately to the Vatican.”
Pope Pius wrote a letter to a Nazi ally, Adm. Miklos Horthy, urging him to halt the deportation of Jews. The deportations were ended by July 7 1944.
Future Pope John XXIII also provided thousands of Hungarian Jews with false baptismal certificates. With those certificates 12,000 Jews were able to escape from Hungary.
Pope John XXIII seems to have been a great hero before he became (a very popular) Pope. It is a pity that this was not very well known until now, at least not by me.
If this gets a lot of attention, it might improve the Catholic Church’s image (even though the criticism regarding Pope Pius might have been deserved).
Lastly, The Washington Times quotes Baruch Tenenbaum, head of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation: “He should be cited by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, as the foremost name on its list of righteous gentiles.”
Indeed. A hero he was.
You can read more on Pope John XXIII here.