Even though currently four rabbis are disturbed by the presence of a church in Birkenau, Poland, an article published by Vatican News on January 29, 2020 takes stock of the prominent role that Pius XII and many religious played in the rescue of thousands of Jews during the 1943 roundup in Rome. A further refutation of the black legend of the Church as an alleged accomplice of the National Socialist regime.
On Saturday October 16, 1943, Sabbath day for the Jews, Gestapo men surrounded the Jewish ghetto in Rome at about 5:30 a.m. Within eight hours, 689 women, 363 men and 207 children had been taken prisoner. Only 16 of the 1,259 Jews arrested would survive the two years of deportation.
A figure that would have been dramatically higher if the Church, under the leadership of Pope Pius XII, had not opened its doors to the fugitives. This is what Paolo Ondarza explains in Vatican News: “an open door, a safe refuge to escape death: this is what more than 220 convents, churches and houses belonging to different religious orders represented, which, at the heart of the Nazi persecution, offered shelter to about 4,500 Jews in Rome, almost half of the entire Jewish community in the capital, which then counted between 10,000 and 12,000 people.”
If, because of its secrecy, it is difficult to precisely quantify the total number of Jews saved by the Church, historical research can nevertheless be based on numerous reliable oral testimonies, in particular those “of the Jews hidden in religious houses, who freely participated, others housed in cloistered monasteries under the direction and with the dispensation of the Holy See; Christian sites such as the Catacombs of Priscilla, which became bases for the network of false documents, religious houses which received food from the Vatican to feed the refugees they welcomed. Structures which freely opened their doors and those which requested payment of a boarding fee.”
A surge of generosity was desired by Pius XII himself, as attested in 1961 by the former private secretary of Pope Pacelli: the latter had informed the Roman convents that they “could and should” accommodate the wanted Jews.
Note that the Lateran's major seminary - the Pontifical Major Roman Seminary - itself gave refuge to all kinds of refugees, in particular opponents of the regime, including communists. The Church is not vindictive when it come to saving souls.