The Vatican’s Role in the Finaly Children’s Kidnapping Case
Keywords:forced baptism, Finaly brothers, Pope Pius XII, Vatican, Church-Jewish relations, France
No case more fully embodies the tensions between the Roman Catholic Church and Europe’s traumatized Jews in the wake of the Shoah than the battle over the return of the two French Jewish orphans of the Holocaust, Robert and Gérald Finaly. The French Catholic woman who took the boys in when, in 1944, their parents were deported to their death at Auschwitz, refused to honor the parents’ wishes and allow the boys’ aunt to reclaim them when requested in 1945. Spurning a series of subsequent French judicial orders to give the boys back to their family, an underground network of nuns and monks hid them, ultimately, in early 1953, concealing the children under false names in a monastery in Spain. The opening of the Vatican archives for the papacy of Pius XII in 2020 now permits, for the first time, a clear view of the intense involvement of the pope, the Vatican Secretariat of State, and the Holy Office in directing the French and Spanish Church response to the demand that the boys be given up to their Jewish family. The findings demonstrate the Holy See’s continued commitment under Pius XII to uphold longtime Church doctrine on the impermissibility of allowing baptized Jewish children, even if baptized against their family’s wishes, to be returned to their Jewish families.
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