From the Daily Telegraph:
Pope Pius XII told senior bishops that should he be arrested by the Nazis, his resignation would become effective immediately, paving the way for a successor, according to documents in the Vatican's Secret Archives.
The bishops would then be expected to flee to a safe country – probably neutral Portugal – where they would re-establish the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church and appoint a new Pontiff.
That Hitler considered kidnapping the Pope has been documented before, but this is the first time that details have emerged of the Vatican's strategy should the Nazis carry out the plan.
"Pius said 'if they want to arrest me they will have to drag me from the Vatican'," said Peter Gumpel, the German Jesuit priest who is in charge of researching whether Pius should be made a saint, and therefore has access to secret Vatican archives.
Pius, who was Pope throughout the war, told his advisers "the person who would leave the under these conditions would not be Pius XII but Eugenio Pacelli" – his name before he was elected Pontiff – thus giving permission for a new Pope to be elected.
"It would have been disastrous if the Church had been left without an authoritative leader," said Father Gumpel.
"Pius wouldn't leave voluntarily. He had been invited repeatedly to go to Portugal or Spain or the United States but he felt he could not leave his diocese under these severe and tragic circumstances." Vatican documents, which still remain secret, are believed to show that Pius was aware of a plan formulated by Hitler in July 1943 to occupy the Vatican and arrest him and his senior cardinals.
On 6 September 1943 – days after Italy signed the September 3 armistice with the Allies and German troops occupied Rome – Pius told key aides that he believed his arrest was imminent.
General Karl Otto Wolff, an SS general, was told to "occupy as soon as possible the Vatican, secure the archives and art treasures and transfer the Pope, together with the Curia so that they cannot fall into the hands of the Allies and exert a political influence."
Hitler ordered the kidnapping, according to historians, because he feared that Pius would further criticise the Nazis' treatment of the Jews.
He was also afraid that the Pontiff's opposition could inspire resistance to the Germans in Italy and other Catholic countries.
Some historians have claimed that General Wolff tipped off the Vatican about the kidnap plans and that he also managed to talk the Fuhrer out of the plot because he believed it would alienate Catholics worldwide.
The latest revelations will be seen by some observers as a further attempt by the Vatican to bolster the case for Pius XII being declared a saint.
Pius has been accused of being anti-Semitic and of harbouring sympathies for the Nazi regime, most notably in the 1999 book Hitler's Pope, by British author John Cornwell.
But other Catholic and Jewish historians contend that in fact Pius was loathed by the Nazis for speaking out about the Holocaust and for behind-the-scenes efforts to save Italian Jews who otherwise would have been sent to death camps.
Has it really been 10 years? As someone once said, "Tell a lie big enough..." In fact, Pius XII was first ever called "Hitler's Pope" by none other than John Cornwell, in his 1999 book of that name, a thinly disguised liberal rant against John Paul II with the 'thesis' that the future Pius XII, while a diplomat in Germany, could have rallied Catholic opposition and toppled Hitler. Pure fantasy, like the origin of the whole "Pope supported Hitler" craze: the 1963 play The Deputy by Rolf Hochhuth, who was later successfully prosecuted for suggesting that Churchill had arranged the 1944 air crash that killed General Sikorsky.
Pius XII directly or indirectly saved between 8500 and 9600 Jews in Rome; 40,000 throughout Italy; 15,000 in the Netherlands; 65,000 in Belgium; 200,000 in France; 200,000 in Hungary; and 250,000 in Romania. This list is not exhaustive, and the Dutch figure would have been much higher had not the Dutch Bishops antagonised the Nazis by issuing the sort of public denunciation that Pius is castigated for failing to have issued.
After the War, Pius was godfather when the Chief Rabbi of Rome became a Catholic, and was declared a Righteous Gentile by the State of Israel, whose future Prime Minister (Moshe Sharrett) told him that it was his "duty to thank you, and through you the Catholic Church, for all they had done for the Jews." When Pius died in 1958, tributes to him from Jewish organisations had to be printed over three days by the New York Times, and even then limited to the names of individuals and their organisations.
All of this is contained in works of serious scholarship by Margherita Marchione, Ralph McInerny, Ronald J Rychlak, and others, most recently the superlative Rabbi Professor David G Dalin.
Colonel Claus Schenk, Count von Stauffenberg, recently given the full Tom Cruise treatment, was a devout Catholic, with close dynastic connections to the Bavarian Royal House of Wittelsbach (whom the Jacobites would have on the Thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland), to the family of Saint Philip Howard (martyred Earl of Arundel), and do on.
In Austria, Hitler had murdered the Chancellor, Englebert Dolfuss, who in fact defended, on the borders of Italy and Germany, Catholic Social Teaching and what remained of the thoroughly multiethnic Hapsburg imperial ethos (to this day, numerous German, Magyar and Slavic names are found throughout the former Austria-Hungary) against both the Communists and the Nazis.
Yes, he was authoritarian. But look at his neighbours, and look what he was up against domestically. Imagine if a Fascist putsch in the Irish Free State (and at least one was attempted) had coincided with very serious Communist and Fascist threats in Britain. The British Government of the day would have been authoritarian, too. And, while the emergency lasted, it would have been right. In the same tradition was Blessed Franz Jägerstätter. Google him, people. Google him.
Examples of Catholic anti-Nazism could be multiplied practically without end. The more Catholic an area was, the less likely it was to vote Nazi, without any exception whatever.
Meanwhile, we all need to learn far more about Portugal, our dear old friend, where they even use GMT when we do, and where they even use what we call British Summer Time when we do. Far from laying claim to any part of our territory, Portugal allowed us to use the Azores during the Falklands War.
There, a leader sometimes categorised by the lazy as a "Fascist", actually, on the border of Civil War-ravaged Spain, held the line against against both the Communists and the "National Syndicalists". That line was the Estado Novo (strikingly similar to the British tradition of morally and socially conservative economic social democracy) and exceedingly multiethnic, indeed multiracial, Lusotropicalism (strikingly similar to a patriotic allegiance to the United Kingdom and to the Commonwealth).
Yes, again, Salazar was authoritarian. But, again, look at his neighbour, and look what he was up against domestically. Again, imagine if a Fascist putsch in the Irish Free State (and at least one was attempted) had coincided with very serious Communist and Fascist threats in Britain. Again, the British Government of the day would have been authoritarian, too. And again, while the emergency lasted, it would have been right.
Salazar was overthrown by a Maoist (yes, Maoist) insurrection, a figure from which went on to become a rabidly "free"-marketeering and pro-Bush Prime Minister before being wafted into the Presidency of the European Commission. What progress, eh?
No wonder that Salazar was recently voted the Greatest Portuguese Ever in a mass television poll of his compatriots.