The papal defenders of the Jewish people

SIR – Joseph Bottum, who co-edited The Pius War (2004), an exhaustive study of a mass of publications, wrote: “The defenders of Pius XII won every major battle. Along the way, they also lost the war.” It is quite astonishing how, in spite of the evidence amassed, critics persist in repeating the libels of the past.

So often, as now with Anthony Holland (Letter, March 24), critics have depended on a narrow selection of writing that feeds their prejudices: in this case, the questionably researched work of David Kertzer.

The 20th-century popes, like their predecessors, did their best to protect the Jews. Pius X supported Mendel Beilis in a famous trial in Russia in 1913: he was a Jew accused of a blood libel, sacrificing a Christian child. Benedict XV issued a strong statement in 1916.

He supported the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine when he

met Sokolow, the Zionist leader – and said, with regard to the Holy Places, “I believe we shall be good neighbours.” The meeting was arranged by Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pius XII.

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