The Hidden Encyclical of Pius XI

Georges Passelecq, Author, Stephen Rendell, Translator, Garry Wills, Introduction by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $25 (352p) ISBN 978-0-15-100244-3
In a book that is part detective story and part church history, Passelecq, a monk at the Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium, and Suchecky, an historian and filmmaker, recount the story of a papal encyclical hidden from the eyes of the world for 50 years. In 1938, Pope Pius XI, seeking to bring the church into dialogue with the modern world in a way in which his predecessor, Pius X, had refused to do, sought through diplomacy to convince Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy of the political and religious wrongheadedness of their anti-Semitism. When his diplomatic efforts failed, Pius enlisted the efforts of a young American priest, John LaFarge, to compose an encyclical, ""to write as if you were the Pope,"" denouncing anti-Semitism. LaFarge's encyclical, Humani Generis Unitas (The Unity of the Human Race), never saw the light of day however, for Pius XI died the next year, and Pius XII maintained silence while the Nazis implemented their Final Solution. Just what happened to LaFarge's draft of the encyclical is unclear, although LaFarge made some use of his own writing in a book he later published called The Race Question and the Negro (1943). While the reluctance of the church to enter the modern world may have played a significant role in the intrigue surrounding this hidden encyclical, the authors' uncovering of this case and their attempt to bring these matters to light makes for engaging reading. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Religion
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-15-600631-6
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