Rationalist International Bulletin # 140

Vatican: The Kidnap Program

After the end of the Second World War, the Vatican issued a secret order to the French church authorities, directing them to keep all baptized children from Jewish families in their custody, who had been accommodated in Catholic homes and convents during the Nazi occupation of France. The Vatican had decided that these children should not be returned to their surviving Jewish parents, but handed over to Christian institutions to ensure their Christian education. This secret Vatican order, a document in French language dated October 23, 1946, has recently been digged up by Italian church historians and was published in January in translation in the respected Italian daily Corriere della Siera. It triggered yet another controversy over Pope Pius XII, who stands accused of supporting the fascist regimes in Italy, Germany and Croatia during the Second World War. Despite his dubious role during the war, Pope Pius XII tops the Vatican’s list for beatification today. After the new controversy, however, there are demands that the canonization process be stopped and an independent committee be set up to determine how many Jewish children were kidnapped by the Catholic church in Europe after the war.

The secret order gives detailed instructions, how to operate the kidnap program most effectively and secretly. Most important to avoid resistance of the Jewish authorities: they should never be given any written reply on their queries, and they should be held under the impression that each request for restitution of a child is carefully evaluated and decided individually. So they would fight hundreds of allegedly individual decisions individually, missing the chance to put up a political fight against the centrally ordered systematic kidnap program.

“The decision was taken by the Holy Office and has the approval of the Holy Father”, says the document. But who was actually its author and who its receiver is still under debate. Most likely, say historians, both – author and receiver – have been the same person: Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli, the then papal envoy to France, who was in any case the most responsible for the execution of the secret order. Roncalli, the later Pope John XXIII, is often called “il papa buono”, because he seemed to be one of the few popes in history without dirt on his robe. The document, which is going to be published together with Roncalli’s French diaries next year, could change this reputation.

Saudi Arabia: Women-free democracy!

The ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom of Saudi Arabia is holding the first ever public elections in its history. In three phases, starting on 11 February with the capital Riyadh and its sourroundings, half the members of the 178 local municipal councils across the kingdom will be elected. The other half will be nominated by the government. The absolute monarchy’s careful first step towards democracy, however, excludes more than half the Saudi population: Women are barred from participating. Though there are rules saying that all citizens over 21 years (except military personal) are entitled to cast their vote, this election is an exclusively male affair. The streets of Riyadh are full of posters with male candidates, all of them wearing traditional Saudi headgear and addressing the “brotherly citizens”. In the Sunni Islamic world headquarters Saudi Arabia – quite similar to the Catholic world headquarters Vatican – it goes without saying that all citizens translates into all men only. But there are a few voices – male voices – proposing that next time women should also be allowed to cast their ballots.

India: Pious spies

Christian missionaries are very active in India’s Northeast. Many of them, however, are not exactly in search of lost souls. They are busy collecting information and filing reports. Some local people, becoming suspicious, found out that those “missionaries” are working for a project with the name “Ploughshare”, sponsored by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, Canada. The “Ploughshare Project” is an in depth study about the many insurgent groups operating in the area, about the action taken by the Indian government against them and about the position taken by the neighbouring states. The Northeast is a politically sensitive part of India and of special strategic interest for the whole of Southeast Asia. It includes the states / union territories including Assam, Sikkim, Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur and Nagaland. Except a thin land connection to main land India, it has all international borders to Bhutan, China, Burma and Bangladesh. This part of India is constantly troubled by insurgent groups, taking advantage of the exposed situation.

Christian churches based in the USA and Canada are sending spying “missionaries” to the area to observe the political and military situation and file regular reports. The information collected by them includes studies about the various insurgent groups, their members, equipment, aims and techniques as well as studies about all “parties in the conflict” and details about their encounters and positions in the border region: the Indian Army, the Burmese Army, the Bhutanese Army, the Bangladesh Army, Assam police incl. all special units and commandos, etc. “Project Ploughshare” seems to be one of several spy rings under religious cover in the explosive area.

Rationalist International Bulletin # 140. Copyright © 2004 Rationalist International.

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