Monday, August 06, 2012

A priest who saved hundreds of Jews during WWII by disguising them as seminarians

( In 1943, in the midst of the Second World War,  Pius XII urged Catholic institutions to help Jews who were being persecuted by Hitler's Nazi regime.
Here in Rome, one of the many people who risked their lives was Francesco Bertoglio, who back then served as the rector of the Pontifical Lombard Seminary. The current president says that hundreds of Jews were sneaked in. They were dressed as seminarians to make them blend in. But even so, there were people, who were spying from the outside the seminary.

Rector, Pontifical Lombard Seminary
“One night, just before Christmas in 1943, Hitler supporters came in and took away several of the Jews. Not many really, because they were well hidden.”

The former rector tried to stop it. He said the seminary was a neutral zone and German troops were forbidden to enter. However, his resistance only led to his arrest.

Rector, Pontifical Lombard Seminary
“That night, they also took the rector. He was later set free because Monsignor Montini, from the Vatican's Secretariat of State, sent someone on his behalf,  so that German troops, would release him.”

Others managed to escape by taking a tram in this plaza and then hiding in Rome's St. Mary Major Basilica.

Still, more than 70 years later, the courage of this priest, in risking his life to save the life of persecuted Jews, is still recognized. When he was ordained a bishop, he wore this cross, which is actually a gift that was given to him, by the Jews he saved.

Francesco Bertoglio, died in 1970. Thirty one years later, the State of Israel issued the “Righteous Among the Nations” honor  for risking his life for the Jewish people.

1 comment:

bill7tx said...

Monsignor Montini was later Pope Paul VI. A lot of people don't know just how much Popes Pius XII, Paul VI, John XXIII, John Paul I and John Paul II did during the war to save Jews, and what a key role the Church played throughout Europe in that effort.