San Diego International Law Journal

Document Type



The debate on the silence of Pope Pius XII has been rekindled by recent close examination of the Pope’s 1942 Christmas Message denouncing totalitarianism and the killing of persons “only because of their nationality and race,” along with a particular condemnation of Marxist Socialism and a call for national and international relations to be based on natural law principles guaranteeing justice, order, and peace. In particular, Michael Phayer, a historian writing on the Vatican’s relation to the Holocaust, suggested a need for renewed attention to the 1942 Christmas Message. According to Phayer:

Historians . . . have been rather too dismissive of his 1942 Christmas address. Since Pius never spoke out again in a comparable way, the Christmas address has been judged by the Pope’s critics as falling short of the mark, given the enormity of the Holocaust. This judgment rests on hindsight. Most of those who heard or read the Christmas message viewed the statement in a different light, precisely because it was the Pope’s initial comment about wartime atrocities.

Considering views such as Phayer’s, this Article will assess the 1942 Christmas Message to determine whether it in fact provided a response to the Holocaust, thus defeating the charge of “silence” which has been directed against Pius XII by revisionist historians and critics.