Pius XII Considered Resigning to Thwart Nazis

Apr. 13, 2006 (CWNews.com) - Pope Pius XII was aware of Hitler's plan to kidnap him, and prepared a letter of resignation to take effect if he was captured by the Nazis, according to the author of a new German book on the wartime Pontiff.

The authors of the new book, Werner Kaltefleiter and Hans Peter Oschwald, say that Pope Pius had signed the resignation letter, stipulating that he would revert to the status of a cardinal if he was taken hostage, the Italian ANSA news agency reports. Excerpts from their forthcoming book have appeared in the German daily Bild.

Father Peter Gumpel, a Jesuit historian who is working on the cause for beatification of Pope Pius XII, confirms that the Pontiff had tentative plans to resign in case he was captured. While skeptical about the existence of a signed resignation letter, Father Gumpel believes that a "verbal agreement" had been reached to allow for a change in leadership at the Vatican in his absence.

In their book, Spione im Vatikan, Kaltefleiter and Oschwald explore espionage efforts against the Vatican from the beginning of World War II to the present day. The book gives special attention to the efforts by Hitler's Nazis and by later Communist regimes to undermine the power of the Church. The authors say that Hitler enthusiastically authorized a raid on the Vatican, to take place in 1943, with the objective of kidnapping the Pope.

Hitler's implacable hostility toward the wartime Pontiff, and the determination of Pope Pius to thwart the kidnapping plans, contrast sharply with the charges made by critics who say that the Pope was too willing to tolerate the Nazi regime.