Holy See’s apostolic visitor intervened on behalf of Croatian Jews in WWII
CWN - August 10, 2011
In the months following the April 1941 establishment of the fascist Ustashe regime in Croatia, the Holy See sent an apostolic visitor who subsequently intervened on behalf of Jews, L’Osservatore Romano reported on August 10.
The Holy See instructed Abbot Giuseppe Ramiro Marcone, who governed the Italian territorial abbey of Montevergine from 1918 until his death in 1952, to “endeavor to avoid official contact with the governing authorities, in such a way that his mission be, and appear to be, in accordance with the desires of the Holy See, of a strictly religious nature … Particularly, the Most Reverend Prelate will advise and support Monsignor Stepinac and the Episcopate in combating the evil influence of neo-pagan propaganda which could be exercised in the organization of the new state.” (Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac, later beatified by Blessed John Paul II, was Archbishop of Zagreb, Croatia’s capital.)
The following year, as Croatian Jews were detained in concentration camps and ordered to report to trains to Auschwitz, Abbot Marcone was able to secure the release of Jews who were married to Catholics. “Abbot Marcone then took it upon himself to organize the transport of a small group of Jewish children--among whom was the son of the Chief Rabbi of Zagreb--through Hungary and Romania to safety in neutral Turkey,” L’Osservatore Romano reported.
Chief Rabbi Miroslav Freiberger of Zagreb expressed his gratitude to Pope Pius XII:
Full of respect, I dare come before the throne of Your Holiness to express, as Grand Rabbi of Zagreb and spiritual head of the Jews in Croatia, my most profound gratitude, and that of my congregation for the goodness, without limits, that the representatives of the Holy See and the heads of the Church have shown to our poor brothers.
Despite Blessed Stepinac’s efforts to secure Freiberger’s release, the chief rabbi was murdered at Auschwitz in 1943.
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