ROME - Pope Pius XII, who some critics say remained silent
during the Holocaust, played a pivotal role in coordinating
covert spy operations and efforts to take down Adolf Hitler,
a U.S. author said.
"Pius XII conspired with the German resistance to try and get
rid of Hitler on not just one but three occasions - from 1939
to 1945 - and that's the story that I tell," Mark Riebling
In his book, Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War
Against Hitler, Riebling's research unveils a series of
plots and acts of espionage involving Pope Pius that sought
to bring down the tyrannical Nazi regime, which was
responsible for the death of an estimated 6 million Jews.
One of the stars of Riebling's book is Joseph Muller, a
German Catholic who worked as an intelligence agent for both
the CIA and the Vatican, the author said.
"Joseph Muller was caught between his country and his church.
And in the end, his country became so evil, that he worked
with his church to try and have a regime change," Riebling
At the start of the war, Muller visited the Vatican on
several occasions, passing correspondence to Pope Pius who,
while publicly appearing neutral, served as an intermediary
and passed along information to British and Allied
intelligence, Riebling said.
Although he and other members of the German resistance were
ultimately discovered and sent to concentration camps, Muller
and several others survived, keeping the knowledge of Pope
Pius's actions against the Nazis alive.
Despite the pope's disdain for the Nazi's actions, authors
critical of what they consider to be his public silence
continued pushing the notion that he was "Hitler's pope,"
Riebling said. The documents he researched from several
unpublished sources, including the Vatican Secret Archives
and Germany's Institut für Zeitgeschichte, countered
those notions and led him to write his book.
"Rather than considering what he did not say - about which
billions of words have been published in English alone - I
thought, 'Why not just look at what he actually did, even if
it's in secret.' And that took me many, many years to piece
together," Riebling said.
While the evidence currently available does not support the
notion that Pope Pius remained silent over the Holocaust, he
said, the pope continues to be used as a "scapegoat" for the
inaction of some Christians against the persecution of the
However, the U.S. historian said that while he must remain
objective, the research into the actions of Pope Pius paint a
"From all of the information I have seen, he was a very
saintly man and there is nothing that I have seen or from
anyone I know who has seen the archives - particularly the
former (postulator) of his beatification proceedings, Father
Peter Gumpel - nothing that any of us has seen indicates he
did anything contrary to faith or morals as they were defined
at the time or against church law," he said.
Riebling, who gave Pope Francis a copy of his book in Spanish
after a general audience in St. Peter's Square March 2, said
he hopes that the Vatican's Secret Archives will be opened
soon to look further into historical records and place the
"debate about Pius XII, which has big implications for
interfaith relations, on a different footing." Although Pope
Benedict XVI authorized allowing scholars access to Vatican
Secret Archives' documents dating up to 1939, papers from the
World War II years are still being catalogued.
The story of Pope Pius and those "who went to the gallows for
their complicity and plots to remove Hitler," Riebling said,
are a reminder of the heroism that human beings are capable
of, particularly when people are being persecuted and killed
for their faith.
"People don't have any myths or stories to live by, nothing
to encourage them on how to behave in times of moral crisis
in these crucial, demanding moral decisions," the author
said. Terrorist organizations like the Islamic State, he
added, are in touch with their history and myths and "don't
have any problem going in and risking their lives for their
"I think this book, Church of Spies, really points a
way to a recovery of Christendom which I think can help the
West unite itself against something which would really do us
all in," Riebling said.