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The cardinal takes pains to discuss the Holocaust and its impact on the Catholic church in great detail. Bergoglio says that the great question we must all ask about the Holocaust is not “Where was God? But where was man?”
“The great powers just washed their hands — they knew much more than they said they did,” Francis says.
Universalizing the tragic period, the Cardinal declares: “The shoah is a genocide like the other genocides of the 20th century.” But at the same time he acknowledges that “There is something special about an idolatrous construction against the Jewish people.”
The cardinal says Nazism hold a special place in the annals of totalitarianism because of its emphasis on racial purity and its placement of race on a higher plane than the divinity.
“The ideals of a pure race are the idols upon which the Nazis formed themselves … Every Jew that was killed is a strike against the living God in the name of the idols,” he says. “The devil was present in the idols which eased the human conscience.”
When Skorka asks the cardinal about the church during the Holocaust years, the cardinal praises the activities of Pius XI who wrote an encyclical on the eve of the war against racism and anti-Semitism.
Francis is more circumspect about Pius XII, the Nazi-era pope whom some have criticized for failing to take a strong enough stand against the Holocaust. The cardinal reminds readers that Pope Pius XII was praised by Golda Meir and notes the mixed feelings many Jews and Catholics alike have to this day.
“The Church did not say everything that they could have said,” Francis acknowledges. But he then backtracks by offering a defense of the pontiff: “Others say, ‘They could not say more.”