CESARE VINCENZO ORSENIGO (December 13, 1873 in Villa San Carlo, Italy
– April 1, 1946 in
Orsenigo was close to Achille Ratti, the
Orsenigo believed in the Italian fascist ideal and hoped the German variety would develop into something similar. He was a controversial figure among his contemporaries and remains the subject of historical criticism for his advocacy of "compromise and conciliation" with the Nazis, particularly in relation to The Holocaust . Pius XII has been criticized by several contemporaries and historians for not replacing Orsenigo as nuncio. Pius XII left the nunciature vacant after Orsenigo's death in 1946 until he appointed Aloisius Joseph Muench to the post in 1951.
* 4.1 Under Pius XI (1930–1939)
* 4.2 Under Pius XII (1939–1945)
* 4.2.1 The Holocaust
* 4.3 German espionage
* 5 Legacy * 6 Notes * 7 References * 8 External links
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
Orsenigo was born in
NUNCIO TO THE NETHERLANDS (1922–1925)
Ratti, after his election as pope in 1922 appointed Orsenigo to the rank of titular archbishop of Ptolemais and made him a nuncio to the Netherlands, effective June 23, 1922. Orsengio, aged 49 at his appointment, had no formal diplomatic training, but rather had been a friend of Ratti in Milan. Ratti overruled Orsenigo's objections that he lacked experience, noting that he himself had spent decades as a librarian before being appointed apostolic delegate to Poland.
NUNCIO TO HUNGARY (1925–1930)
NUNCIO TO GERMANY
Orsenigo shaking hands with Joseph Goebbels
UNDER PIUS XI (1930–1939)
On April 25, 1930, he became Apostolic
Nuncio in Germany, a post
previously held by Eugenio Pacelli (future
On February 16, 1933, Orsenigo wrote to Pacelli that it would be "ingenuous and incoherent" to support the newly elected Nazi government, but that he feared open opposition would lead to a new Kulturkampf . In a March 7, 1933 letter to Pacelli, Orsenigo estimated that six to seven million of Germany's thirteen million voting Catholics had supported the Nazi party. According to George Schuster , Orsenigo "was frankly jubilant" over the election of Hitler. As early as March 1933, Orsenigo concluded that compromise and conciliation was the only option, arguing that earlier condemnations of Nazism by German bishops had concerned only its religious, not political, tenets.
After the conclusion of the
Writing on May 8, 1933 about an earlier conversation with Hitler,
Orsenigo opined that Hitler saw Christianity as essential to private
life and the German state and that without the cooperation of the
Nazis the German church could not hope to defeat liberalism,
socialism, and Bolshevism. Orsenigo reported that Hitler did not
agree with the neo-pagan wing of the Nazi party, as represented in
Following an April 4, 1933 transmission from
Pope Pius XI to "look
into whether and how it might be possible to become involved" in
helping the victims of Nazi persecution, Orsenigo replied that any
intervention would be seen as "a protest against that government's
law" and thus not be advisable. Of the 95 documents from the Berlin
nunciature in the
Vatican Secret Archives
UNDER PIUS XII (1939–1945)
Pius XII retained Orsenigo as nuncio to Germany; his priorities (as
he made clear to Orsenigo) were the preservation of the
On May 4, 1939, Orsenigo visited Adolf Hitler in Obersalzberg; Orsenigo was flown to Salzburg and had lunch at the Grand Hotel in Berchtesgaden before being transported to Hitler's residence, where the two spoke privately for an hour before having tea with von Ribbentrop and his aide V. Hewel (who also wrote an account of the meeting). In a 1940 note to Pius XII, Orsenigo again argued in favor of conciliation, stating his fears of lapsed religiosity among German Catholics unless the clergy appeased the regime and relieved members of the church of a conflict of conscience. Goebbels, Hitler, Orsenigo, and Italian ambassador Vittorio Cerruti at a reception for foreign press in Berlin
On June 21, 1942, he was a consecrator at the
On February 8, 1945, prior to the end of World War II, Orsenigo moved
Orsenigo as nuncio routinely refused to intervene on behalf of Jews and more often than not failed to forward to Rome reports descriptive or critical of the Holocaust. A rare exception, was the Nazi plan to "resettle" Jews married to Christians, although Phayer argues that his concern was primarily with their Catholic spouses. According to Phayer, "when the nuncio was directed by the Holy See to discuss incidents concerning Jewish victims with Nazi officials, he did so timidly and with embarrassment".
In 1941, Orsenigo was contacted by
Kurt Gerstein , a Protestant SS
officer who had personally witnessed the extermination of Jews and
wished to notify the Vatican. Informed of the purpose of Gerstein's
visit, Orenigo refused to meet with him. Gerstein's message was
eventually sent to the Vatican, by the auxiliary bishop of Berlin, not
the nuncio's office, where the information reached a "dead end".
Both the Catholic and Protestant Churches of the
Among Polish Catholics, there was a widespread perception that
Orsenigo "purposefully minimized their situation in his reports to
Rome". For example,
Hilarius Breitinger , the apostolic administrator
Warthegau , delivered two copies of a letter critical of the pope's
silence towards Berlin with regard to the situation in Poland: one to
Orsenigo and another to Cardinal
Michael von Faulhaber
A November 25, 1939 dispatch from Orsenigo prompted Pius XII to make "one of his most controversial decisions ". Orsenigo informed the pope of the situation in the Diocese of Chełmno-Pelpin : the bishop, Stanisław Wojciech Okoniewski , was in exile; his auxiliary was ill; all but one canon was absent; only 20 of the 500 priests of the diocese had not been forced out, imprisoned, or murdered. Pius XII therefore reversed his decision not to replace Polish prelates with (even temporary) German ones, naming Karl Maria Splett , the bishop of Danzig, also apostolic administrator of Chełmno-Pelpin. This decision was seen as a betrayal by the Polish government-in-exile , as the Concordat of 1925 prohibited placing any Polish territory under the jurisdiction of a bishop outside Poland.
The RSHA infiltrated the Berlin nunciature through a German journalist who was to Orsenigo and a through a patriotic German priest who served under Orsenigo as adviser on German and east European affairs. According to Alvarez and Graham, this espionage provide "access to the attitudes and intentions of the nuncio".
Orsenigo's primary priest-assistant was in fact a secret member of the Nazi party. It is unknown whether Orsenigo himself was aware of his assistant's party membership, however this fact was certainly known by Robert Leiber , a German Jesuit who served as one of Pius XII's closest confidants and advisers during the war.
According to Prof. Jose Sánchez, "a chief point of criticism of is
his unwillingness to replace