Category Archives: News

RADIO INTERVIEW ( fixed link)

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August 13, 2013

On March 19th, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergolio was elected Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, taking the name Pope Francis. He is the first Jesuit to ascend to the papacy, and his election has refocused world attention on the Vatican and its role in world.

Peter Eisner is a journalist and author who lives in Bethesda, and in his new book, he examines the role of another, much lesser known Jesuit, during the transition between Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII at the start of the second World War. The book is calledThe Pope’s Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI’s Campaign to Stop Hitler, published by William Morrow.

Tom Hall talks to Peter Eisner about popes Pius XI and XII, and the Jesuit who went from serving the poor southern Maryland to helping the Vatican (almost) condemn the Nazis in an official encyclical.

http://www.wypr.org/podcast/peter-eisner-popes-last-crusade

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Radio Interview

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RADIO INTERVIEW

August 13, 2013

On March 19th, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergolio was elected Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, taking the name Pope Francis. He is the first Jesuit to ascend to the papacy, and his election has refocused world attention on the Vatican and its role in world.

Peter Eisner is a journalist and author who lives in Bethesda, and in his new book, he examines the role of another, much lesser known Jesuit, during the transition between Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII at the start of the second World War. The book is called The Pope’s Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI’s Campaign to Stop Hitler, published by William Morrow.

Tom Hall talks to Peter Eisner about popes Pius XI and XII, and the Jesuit who went from serving the poor southern Maryland to helping the Vatican (almost) condemn the Nazis in an official encyclical. LISTEN

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A review: The Walrus Said….

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“Having witnessed a pope give up the burdens of the office, we might do well to recall one who resolutely bore those burdens to his deathbed. Except among students of the modern papacy, Pius XI (Achille Ratti) remains an obscure figure. His pontificate (1922-1939) has been overshadowed by that of his controversial successor, Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli), whose silence in the face of Nazi genocidal policies during World War II has generated a veritable library of popular and academic studies . . . . It is an irony of history that the pope who was vocal in attacking Nazism and fascism is less well-known than the pope who was not,” The Washington Post says. Peter Eisner “believes that Pius XI deserves better from history. He reminds us that during the 1930s this pontiff became an increasingly powerful — and often lonely — voice against the pretensions of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and the claims of their Nazi and fascist regimes.” Pius XI “attacked racialism, militarism and the cults of the leader and the state as incompatible with Christian principles and dangerous to religion, human justice and world peace.”[READ MORE]

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Review and Commentary: Pope’s Last Crusade


FROM RON HOWELL’s BROOKLYNRON BLOG

‘The Pope’s Last Crusade’ and Its Meaning – to Catholics, to Jews, to Moralists, to a Brooklyn Boy Educated by the Jesuits

The-Popes-Last-Crusade-How-an-American-Jesuit-Helped-Pope-Pius-XIs-Campaign-to-Stop-Hitler-by-Peter-Eisner-300×450
This is off the cuff, but I just tonight finished The Pope’s Last Crusade and would like to do it better justice someday; but my first thought was to at least throw something up on the blog.

I do recommend the book to anyone who went to a Jesuit school, or to any Catholic, or any Jew, or anyone concerned about the breadth of racism and about inner moral conflicts.

I’m from a West Indian Episcopal/Catholic family, but I went to a Jesuit High School in the early-mid 1960s during the very time that John LaFarge was coming to grips with his lost opportunity in the run-up to World War II, when he failed to deliver to Pope Pius XI the encyclical that would have criticized Nazi racism and maybe changed the course of world history, had the criticism effectively stolen Hitler’s thunder. [read more]

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A Hidden Papal Message Aimed at Fighting Hitler: The Jewish Week:

‘Hidden Encyclical’ No Longer Hidden
The unpublished Vatican document that lambasted Nazis’ anti-Semitism, and the U.S. priest who played a key role in writing it.
06/11/2013

Steve Lipman
Staff Writer

PopeCrusade_desk (2)

Peter Eisner describes the attempt of Pius XI to issue a document condemning racism and anti-Semitism.

— Did Pope Pius XII, the leader of the Catholic Church during World War II and the subsequent decade, suppress a landmark Vatican document that his predecessor, Pius XI, had commissioned, a document that would have unambiguously criticized racism and anti-Semitism? And did that document — an encyclical, in Vatican parlance — actually exist?

Historians and theologians have been asking these questions for decades.

The so-called hidden encyclical has played a role — contrasting the attitudes and personalities of the two popes —since the end of the war. The document and mystery surrounding it has helped shape the legacy of Pius XII, an austere, cautious man who was praised during the Holocaust for saving many Jews from the Nazis but later came under attack for supposed indifference to the fate of the continent’s endangered Jews.

Peter Eisner, a New Jersey-born author and journalist who lives in this Washington suburb, had not been familiar with the controversy surrounding the hidden encyclical when, a few years ago, a friend told him about it, and about John LaFarge, the American priest who had written most if it.

Eisner, who had earlier written a book with a WWII theme, was hooked.

“This is a natural,” thought Eisner, who proceeded to spend two years working on “The Pope’s Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI’s Campaign to Stop Hitler” (William Morrow). “I realized there was an American character in it,” he said. In other words, an entry point for U.S. readers into the labyrinth of the Vatican hierarchy. READ ENTIRE REVIEW

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Command Post: The Pope’s Last Crusade

commandpost.com

Focus On: WWIIThe Pope’s Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI’s Campaign to Stop HitlerBy: Peter Eisner | March 25, 2013
Tags: WWII

As the Nazis increased their threats against the Jews, the pope realized that today it was the Jews, but then it would be the Catho­lics and finally the world. He could see in the day’s news that the Nazis would stop at nothing less than world domination.

Pius envisioned a gesture that would go beyond daily condem­nations of each atrocity uttered by the Nazis. He sought a verbal offensive with a major statement that would attack the underpin­nings of the Nazi machine. Pius appeared to have found the vehi­cle; he had received a copy of a book, Interracial Justice, written by an American Jesuit named John LaFarge. The book portrayed the lives of American blacks who lived in the poorest strata of society. It said the church had to establish itself as a moral force in combat­ing racism in the United States. The pope did not know LaFarge was in Europe and en route to Rome.
MORE

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New and Noteworthy: From USA TODAY

Books: New and noteworthy
Jocelyn McClurg, USA TODAY6a.m. EDT March 17, 2013

New history examines Pope Pius XI’s crusade against Nazis

3. The Pope’s Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI’s Campaign to Stop Hitler by Peter Eisner (William Morrow, non-fiction, on sale March 19)

What it’s about: Tells the story of American Jesuit John LaFarge, enlisted by Pius XI (who died in 1939) to draft a declaration condemning Nazism and anti-Semitism.

The buzz: Popes – and Jesuits, for that matter – are very much in the news these days.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2013/03/17/new-and-noteworthy/1988135/

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Will An American Be The Pope?

By Peter Eisner
Published March 12, 2013 | FoxNews.com

As 115 Roman Catholic cardinals from 48 countries begin their conclave Tuesday to choose a new pope, don’t place your bets on the final choice being one of eleven potential candidates from the United States or three from Canada. Logic and the odds are against it.

Give favorable consideration, instead, to an Italian.

Much attention has been given to three possible American candidates: Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. Each, however, has individual points against him.

Dolan, Catholic clergy say, doesn’t speak the requisite Italian as well as any pope must and also may irritate some European cardinals because of his high-profile media presence.

O’Malley, who does speak Italian, is considered aloof by some and may be a bit too progressive to attract the church’s conservative core leadership.

Wuerl, the third possible North American candidate, was an early proponent of full disclosure on child abuse scandals in the church but, at 73, is older than O’Malley, who is 68, and Dolan, who’s 63.

That may be a problem for a church that is seeking a vibrant new leader.

But the main stumbling block is that these and the other eight Americans have a basic problem: They are Americans.

European bishops, especially those at the Vatican, are still influenced by a centuries-old suspicion of all things American, expecting their American brethren to be too modern, too liberal and too willing to do away with tradition.

Even conservative priests, bishops and cardinals in the United States have been painted by the same brush of liberalism even as they protested they were not liberal at all.

One hundred years ago, Pope Pius X even threatened Catholic clergy with excommunication on charges of “Americanism.” That pope, who served from 1903 to 1914, issued charges of heresy against priests who were suspected of not following church teachings. Americanism also was seen to have spread to Western Europe, where it became known as “modernism,” a term that brought along negative connotations at the Vatican.

Under Pius X, the Vatican actually organized a spy operation within the church to track down wayward priests who might be too secular, who questioned whether the Bible was the literal word of God, who might be willing to change religious rituals to adapt to modern times, and, in some cases, whether priests rode bicycles or accepted modern technology and science.

Until 35 years ago, there had not been a non-Italian pope since Pope Adrian VI, who was Dutch, died in 1523. In 1978, 455 years later, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul I, both Italians, died within months of one another. Then Cardinal Karol Wojtyła took the name John Paul II, the first Polish pope. When he died in 2005, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, a German, became Benedict XVI. With his resignation, there is every reason to think that after 35 years, Italians, the largest bloc in the conclave with 28 voting cardinals, will insist on one of their own.

Even if the Italian cardinals cannot attain the needed 77 of 115 votes for their potential choice, the odds would still be against a cardinal from the United States.

The cardinals voting for a new pontiff are by and large a conservative group with an average age of 72. All have been appointed either by John Paul II or Benedict XVI. Many of the U.S. cardinals – who are the second largest voting bloc after the Italians — also would oppose modernism or “Americanism” and would consider themselves as traditionalists in the mold of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. But an American cardinal will not likely have the chance to show just how conservative he is by being elevated to the papacy.

Cardinal O’Malley as much acknowledged that on Sunday at his assigned church in Rome, Santa Maria della Vittoria. When the church pastor, Rev. Stefano Guernelli, told parishioners that O’Malley was a papal contender, O’Malley said he disagreed.

I promise you I’ll return to this church after the conclave,” he said, adding he would not be returning as the pope, but as a cardinal, one of many.

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News from Harper Collins

Publicity Contact: Camille Collins
Phone: 212-207-7501/camille.collins@harpercollins.com

PopeCrusade_desk (2)THE POPE’S LAST CRUSADE
How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI’s Campaign to Stop Hitler
PETER EISNER
“An exciting reminder of how Vatican machinations continue
to haunt history.” -Kirkus Reviews

As the Catholic Church finds itself in the wake of unexpected transition with the historically unprecedented resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, author PETER EISNER brings the timely story of THE POPE’S LAST CRUSADE, How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI’s Campaign to stop Hitler.
Interestingly, current politics within the Catholic Church mirrors the kind of machinations that took place when Pope Pius XI died in 1939. In THE POPE’S LAST CRUSADE, (William Morrow; ISBN 9780062049148; On Sale March 19st 2013) PETER EISNER tells the fascinating, untold story of Pope Pius XI’s personal campaign to stop Hitler.
On June 25nd 1938, Pope Pius XI enlisted American Jesuit John LaFarge to draft a declaration condemning Nazism and anti-Semitism in the form of a papal encyclical−one of the highest public statements employed by the Holy See−in an attempt to rally world leaders to stop Hitler, Mussolini, and the Nazi onslaught before the start of an impending European war. LaFarge’s recent book, Interracial Justice, which argued that “racialism and nationalism” were fundamentally the same, had come to the Pope’s attention, and Pius XI was confident LaFarge was perfect for the task.
Pope Pius XI’s campaign to stop Hitler was halted by his own death in 1939, at which time Cardinal Pacelli was ordained Pope Pius XII. For seventy years, only parts of this story have been known. With exclusive interviews and materials heretofore unpublished in English, PETER EISNER reveals Pius XI’s courageous stance, and his intention to declare the Vatican’s rejection of Nazism. With great intrigue and suspense, Eisner deftly recounts how, after the death of Pius XI, Cardinal Pacelli, in league with other conservative churchmen, purposely put a stop to LaFarge’s encyclical, and how, willing to appease Hitler, they plotted in the background to block one of the most significant and progressive pronouncements ever commissioned by the Vatican.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: In his role as an editor and reporter for the Washington Post, Newsday and the Associated Press, PETER EISNER has amassed thirty years of experience reporting on the Vatican. His 2004 book, The Freedom Line, won the Christopher Award. Eisner won the Inter-American Press Association Award in 1991 and was nominated for an Emmy in 2010 for his role as producer on the PBS news program, World Focus. Eisner’s other books include The Italian Letter, written with Knut Royce, which traces fraudulent U.S. intelligence prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

THE POPE’S LAST CRUSADE
How An American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI’s Campaign to Stop Hitler
PETER EISNER
HISTORY/Military / World War II
Morrow Avon | Non-Fiction | Hardcover | William Morrow
On Sale March 19st 2013
ISBN 9780062049148
Price: $27.99

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Pope’s Last Crusade Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews — December 15, 2012 issue

The story of the race to compose a last top-secret encyclical against Nazi racism before the death of Pope Pius XI.

Notwithstanding the spate of current works on the tragic shortcomings of Pius XII during World War II, journalist and producer Eisner (The Freedom Line: The Brave Men and Women Who Rescued Allied Airmen from the Nazis During World War II, 2004, etc.) refocuses the spotlight in this relevant study on his predecessor, who did speak out against anti-Semitism and the threat of Nazism—though he was silenced by an untimely death in 1939.

Pius XI, an activist pope since 1922 under whom the Vatican ultimately became an independent city-state achieving political and financial stability, had been deeply moved by an American Jesuit priest’s 1937 book Interracial Justice, about his work among poor Maryland blacks, and summoned the author, Rev. John LaFarge, to the Vatican in 1938.

In his 80s, Pius XI had a serious heart condition, yet the growing Nazi menace demanded action: The year before, Pius had issued an important encyclical, With Deep Anxiety, slamming the Nazis for racist policies and oppression of Catholics; now, aware he was on death’s door, Pius was determined to go further in a new message he urged LaFarge to write swiftly and in secret. Eisner traces LaFarge’s work in Paris over the summer of 1938 and his missteps in confiding in the pope’s Superior General Ledochowski as a go-between, a shadowy figure who allowed the document to languish while the pope grew more ill.

Ledochowski, like the pope’s secretary of state Cardinal Pacelli (the future Pius XII), believed that the pope was imbalanced and that communism (and Jews) was the menace, not Nazism. Eisner closes with excerpts from LaFarge’s powerful encyclical and the chilling suggestion of what might have been the outcome had it been published.

An exciting reminder of how Vatican machinations continue to haunt history.

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