PASTORAL LETTER FROM HIS EXCELLENCY MONSIGNOR SALIEGE, ARCHBISHOP OF
On "human dignity", read out from the pulpit on August 23, 1942
My very dear Brothers,
There is a Christian morality, a
human morality, which lays down duties and recognizes rights. These rights and
duties stem from the nature of man; they come from God. One can violate them...
[but] no mortal has the power to do away with them.
Children, women, men,
fathers and mothers being treated like a lowly herd; members of a single family
being separated from each other and carted away to an unknown destination - it
is our age which was destined to see this dreadful sight.
Why is there no
longer any right of asylum in our churches?
Why are we the defeated?
Lord, have pity on us.
Our Lady, pray for France.
In our diocese,
moving scenes have occurred in the camps of Noe and Recebedou. The Jews are men;
the Jewesses are women. The foreigners are men and women. One may not do
anything one wishes to these men, to these women, to these fathers and mothers.
They are part of the human race; they are our brothers, like so many others. A
Christian cannot forget this.
France, beloved Fatherland; France, which
bears in the consciences of all your children the tradition of respect for human
dignity; chivalrous and generous France - I have no doubt that you are not
responsible for these errors.
Yours devotedly, dear Brothers,
Jules Gerard SALIEGE Archbishop of Toulouse
Source: AIU, CC-26, CDJC,
Saturday, February 28, 2009
In 1997, a film, "Woman on a Bicycle," based on her resistance work was released as part of the three-part drama,
The archbishop of Toulouse was one of the first to oppose the actions of Vichy France in deporting the Jews to their deaths and wrote a letter on their behalf which I quote below:
The letter he wrote was a supremely courageous one and was duplicated in tone and spirit by many other bishops in France at that time and was read over Vatican radio as well.
Marie Geneste joined the underground in 1942.Her house became a center for refugees and the underground and she was involved in the forging of identity cards. She lived in Mantauban and saw children torn from their parents, but was unaware of the holocaust until after the war. Her picture is given in this post. She is one of the heroes of our time recognized by Yad Vashem.
Yad Vashem, which in 1969 declared Saliège as Righteous Among the Nations,
notes, "Overnight, the document became a manifesto; hundreds
of thousands of copies were made and were circulated by members of the
Resistance throughout France." The letter was received by all
priests in all the churches of Saliège's diocese and, consequently, read from
some 400 pulpits at Sunday mass on August 23,
1942. The written protest was "vastly
influential in the abrupt turnabout in French public opinion at the time, in
which support for the Vichy regime plummeted," Yad Vashem cites
historians as noting. Saliège, then 72 years old, was ordered and
threatened to retract his remarks. When he refused, feeling "It is my duty
to teach morals to the members of the diocese and when it is necessary to teach
them also to government officials," he was persecuted and underwent trying jabs
to his character and reputation.
Archbishop Saliège's letter had wide
implications. It was read for four days on Vatican Radio, and the BBC
covered news of Saliège's protests. Following the example of Saliège,
Monsignor Pierre Marie Théas, Bishop of Montauban, France, wrote a letter for
the priests in his diocese to read to their parishioners during mass on the
following Sunday, August 30. Théas' message mirrored that of Saliège's:
"In Paris, tens of thousands of Jews have been treated with the utmost wild
barbarism. Even in our own regions, one witnesses a disturbing spectacle:
families are uprooted; men and women are treated as wild animals and sent to
unknown destinations, with the expectation of the greatest dangers. I hereby
give voice to the outraged protest of Christian conscience, and I proclaim that
all men, Aryans or non-Aryans, are brothers, because created by the same God. [I
further assert] that all men whatever their race or religion, have the right to
be respected by individuals and by states. Hence, the recent antisemitic
measures are an affront to human dignity and a violation of the most sacred
rights of the individual and the family."
Kimel acknowledges the Archbishop of Toulouse, France, Jules Gerard Saliège,
as being the "first to raise his voice in the defense of the Jews," particularly
through his use of written documents as a form of persuasion. The
Archbishop wrote directly to the Vichy authorities, protesting their
ill-treatment of the Jews. He was particularly influential and afterward
especially remembered for his pastoral letter which read, in part, "There is a Christian morality...that confers rights and imposes
duties. These duties and these rights come from God. One can violate
them. But no mortal has the power to suppress them. Alas, it has
been our destiny to witness the dreadful spectacle of women and children,
fathers and mothers treated like cattle, members of a family separated from one
another and dispatched to an unknown destination –it has been reserved for our
own time to see such a sad spectacle. Why does the right of sanctuary no longer
exist in our churches? Why are we defeated? ... The Jews are real men and women.
Foreigners are real men and women. They cannot be abused without limit. ... They
are part of the human species. They are our brothers, like so many others.
No Christian dares forget that!"
Jules Gerard Saliege was the Archbishop of Toulouse, France during World
War II and gave his full support to the rescue of Jewish people.
Holocaust is a story of indescribable tragedy and horror. No nation ever
attempted the systematic mass murder of people as did Germany in World War II.
It is estimated that 11 million people were victims of Nazi genocide, 6 million
were Jewish, the others were Gypsies, people with disabilities, Germans who
resisted, and thousands of others.
In those times of chaos, it was extremely
dangerous and difficult to organize rescue activities. The Nazi Gestapo and
secret police were vigilant and quick to punish anyone who tried to save Jewish
people. Aware of the terror and cruelty of the Nazi regime, the Catholic priests
and nuns who engaged in rescue activities did so at the risk of their own lives.
Rescue activities took many forms and included hiding people, helping them
escape, and providing false identities, food and shelter. These activities had
to be carried out in secret, there was always the risk of being discovered. The
rescues that took place are a tribute to the power of goodness over evil.
Rescuers who were caught were arrested and sent to concentration camps and
prisons and many were killed. The stories of the heroic priests and nuns who
risked their lives to rescue Jewish people have been documented, they have been
honored by the Catholic church and the Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Documentation
Center in Israel, but they are not as well known as they deserve to be. They
must never be forgotten. This article is based on documented accounts and
briefly summarizes the rescue activities of courageous priests and