Italy: Shades of Truth, a film that rehabilitates Pius XII

Source: FSSPX News

On March 2—the birthday of Eugenio Pacelli in 1876 and of his elevation to the papal throne under the name of Pius XII in 1939—there was a special, pre-premiere showing of a historical drama at the Vatican, at the Institute of Santa Maria Bambina. Entitled Sfumature di verità (Shades of Truth), the feature-length film was directed by Liana Marabini based on testimonies and thousands of unpublished documents of Jews who were saved by Pope Pacelli, thus rehabilitating the role of the Pastor angelicus during World War II.

The main character is fictional: an Italian-American journalist of Jewish extraction, David Milano, who decides to undertake a serious, in-depth investigation of Pope Pacelli, assisted by a priest friend Roberto Savinelli, played by the German actor Gedeon Burkhard. By studying documents from that era and meeting with survivors, he discovers the diplomatic interventions and decisions of Pius XII throughout the war, which helped save 800,000 Jews from deportation to the Nazi camps. Among them was Israel Zolli, the chief rabbi of Rome who, after the war, converted to Catholicism, taking the baptismal name Eugenio as an act of homage to Pope Pius XII.

Liana Marabini, interviewed by the Italian press service AGI, confided that “The work was extensive. For more than five years, I studied all that I could on the subject. The research was enormous. It was difficult to fit into a 90-minute film the contents of almost 100,000 pages of reading and to narrate it all in a simple, accessible way. But it was worth the trouble. It is an independent film, financed entirely by me, and I am happy with it. Pius XII is one of the most misunderstood figures of the twentieth century. This film is, for my part, an act of devotion to a great pope and a priest whom I admire and who is a great moral example for me.”

Shades of Truth sparked controversies before its release, and it met with a very mixed reception even in certain Catholic circles. Some in the Italian Jewish community have spoken up to refute the film’s thesis and to accuse “Catholic cinema of producing a new fiction in order to rewrite history”.

Alberto Bobbio said in an article published by Famiglia Cristiana on March 2: “Liana Marabini’s work of art correctly tells the story of how Pius XII saved many Jews, but it does not serve the truth well because it is polemical with the Jewish world and contains an attack against Francis.” In response, Riccardo Cascioli explained in La nuova Bussola on March 3: “The headline in Famiglia Cristiana says it all: ‘A film that does harm to the Church’. In reading Alberto Bobbio’s article, it is clear that his judgment refers not to the quality of the film or the talents of the director and the actors, but to the content itself, to the idea that led to the production of this film. In contrast, L’Osservatore Romano wrote about the quality of the film and criticized its artistic limitations, rejecting it as not being up to the history it meant to portray and speaking about ‘a production that overall is naive and therefore not very believable’”.

Italian journalist and author Luciano Garibaldi, in an article posted on March 4 on the website Riscossa Cristiana, recalls that “the World Jewish Congress in fact asked the Church to halt the cause for the beatification of Pius XII, and in Yad Vashem the inscription defaming him has still not been removed. And yet it has been proved (just read the books by Margherita Marcione) that a million Jews were saved, in all the nations occupied by the Germans, thanks to his initiatives: starting with the five thousand who were hidden in the convents and religious houses of the capital and in Castel Gandolfo, during the Nazi raid on the Jewish districts in Rome. Sister Margherita has demonstrated, with documentary proof, that Pope Pacelli helped to save around a million Jews by authorizing false baptismal certificates, by ordering the convents and monasteries to give refuge to the persecuted, by responding (with the help chiefly of the Sisters of St. Lucy Filippini, a teaching order in Rome) to no fewer than 20 million letters that had been sent to him by persons asking him for help during the war years. Many Jews, including well-known figures, made public statements in his defense: Albert Einstein, Golda Meir, Martin Gilbert, Michael Tagliacozzo, Gary Krupp, Elio Toaff, William Zuckermann. All that is missing is L’Osservatore Romano.”

The film will hit the movie theaters starting in April in a dozen countries, including Italy, France and Belgium. In the month of May it will be shown, not as part of the competition, at the Cannes Film Festival, and in September a showing in Philadelphia is anticipated during the World Meeting of Families, in which Pope Francis will participate.

(Sources: apic/corrispondenzaromana/benoitetmoiDICI no. 312 dated March 13, 2015)

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