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October 2011

As underlined by this extract from CARDINAL BIFFI'S recent book Memories and Digressions of an Italian Cardinal, the Church is the first and last line of defense for the most vulnerable; the Divine Bulwark against cruel and merciless powers. It is the defamatory propaganda of Abe Foxman and his JINO cohorts the Jewish people should take to task, not the Vicar of Christ and his flock. (Title ours.)

The Catholic Bulwark

On November 4, 1988, the Jews of Bologna rightly thought to commemorate publicly the 50th anniversary of the infamous and shameful anti-Semitic laws of 1938. With all my heart and with full conviction, I wanted to manifest my complete adherence on that occasion in the name of the entire Church of the city, pledging my personal attendance at the commemorative rite in the synagogue, where I was welcomed with warm hospitality and took part in the prayer.

Under the circumstances, I was reminded of the events of that long-ago 1938, which had struck me in a singular way at the time, although I was not even eleven years old.

In those days, anti-Jewish measures — preceded by various publications on "race" of a pseudo-scientific nature, approved if not directly commissioned by the regime — rained down repeatedly on the dumbfounded Italian nation. To cite only the ones about which I have some information, on September 1 a decree-law of the council of ministers began to prohibit foreigners of Jewish origin from permanent residence in our territory. On September 2, another decree-law removed from all the schools of the realm, of every order and degree, the teachers and students of Jewish race. On November 10, another decree-law excluded the Jews from all jobs in the public administration, in quasi-governmental agencies, and in state-run businesses. And that was only the beginning of the harassment, which became ever more pervasive and devastating.

Our people, caught by surprise, were disoriented and dismayed, when suddenly a voice was heard from Milan — it was the first, and remained the only one — of someone with the courage to distance himself openly from all of the madness.

On November 13, from the pulpit of the cathedral of Milan, Cardinal Schuster, for the beginning of the Ambrosian Advent, gave a homily that from its very first words, instead of referring to the liturgical context, immediately addressed the subject that most concerned him:

"A kind of heresy has emerged abroad and is infiltrating more or less everywhere, which not only attacks the supernatural foundations of the Catholic Church, but in materializing in human blood the spiritual concepts of individual, nation, and country, denies humanity any other spiritual value, and thus constitutes an international danger no less serious than that of Bolshevism itself. It is what is called racism."

It is difficult today to realize the impression made by these words of criticism against the thought and actions of a government that, for decades, had not tolerated the slightest expression of dissent. They did not remain confined within the solemn atmosphere of a crowded cathedral: they were printed in the Rivista Diocesana Milanese, and, two days after they had been pronounced, they were published in L'Italia, the Catholic daily that was brought into our homes. In Rome, the fascist circles began to call for a retraction, or at least for a clear change of direction by the newspaper, with the threat (in case of refusal) of suppression without appeal.

The cardinal, however, was not left alone. From the pope arrived a message signed by his secretary, Monsignor Carlo Confalonieri: "The Holy Father exhorts the cardinal of Milan to uphold Catholic doctrine courageously, because this point cannot be ceded, nor can the newspaper L'Italia change direction. 'Aut sit ut est, aut non sit' [Either this way, or not at all]. Which, if it should be forced to cease publication, should give the names of its subscribers to L'Osservatore Romano."

The last sentence reminds us that Pius XI never gave up his "Milanese concreteness," not even in the most decisive and dramatic moments of his pontifical action. I was only a boy; but from that event I understood what a "secular" and rational fortune is, when the hour of general timidity and submissive conformism comes, the presence in our country of the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15).

There has been recently, however, someone in Italy (from the perch of one of the highest state offices) who in a completely unmotivated public statement has spoken of a deplorable silence of the Church in that circumstance. Of course, being of the year 1952, he has the extenuating circumstance of not yet having been born at the time; but he has the aggravating circumstance of having wanted, in spite of this, to speak on the subject, revealing at the same time his gratuitous preconceptions and his singular lack of knowledge.

 

 

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