Cesare Vincenzo Orsenigo (December 13, 1873 – April 1, 1946) was Apostolic Nuncio to Germany from 1930 to 1945, during the rise of Nazi Germany and World War II. Along with the German ambassador to the Vatican, Diego von Bergen and later Ernst von Weizsäcker, Orsenigo was the direct diplomatic link between Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII and the Nazi regime, meeting several times with Adolf Hitler directly and frequently with other high-ranking officials and diplomats.
Orsenigo was close to Achille Ratti, the Archbishop of Milan, and was appointed to the Vatican diplomatic corps when Ratti was elected Pope Pius XI, as nuncio to the Netherlands (1922–1925), Hungary (1925–1930), and Germany (1930–1945).
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.
Orsenigo with Hitler and Joachim von Ribbentrop, January 1939
|Born||December 13, 1873|
Villa San Carlo, Italy
|Died||April 1, 1946 (aged 72)|
Orsenigo was born in Olginate, Italy. He attended a seminary in Milan and was ordained in 1896. . He became a Kaplan and later a priest of San Fedele in Milan. 1912, he was finally a member of the cathedral chapter of Milan. Even as a parish priest in Milan, he met Achille Ratti, who soon after became Pope Pius XI.
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.
On April 25, 1930, he became Apostolic Nuncio in Germany, a post previously held by Eugenio Pacelli (future Pope Pius XII), who had been appointed Cardinal. He received his conformation letter from President Paul von Hindenburg. Orsenigo's nunciature was located in Berlin, although a separate nunciature existed in Munich due to its "peculiar status" dating back to 1871.
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 Reichskonkordat on July 20, 1933, Orsenigo urged German bishops to support the Nazi regime. For example, anti-Nazi bishop Maximilian Kaller complained that Orsenigo (who, Kaller assumed, spoke for the pope) "put the skids under me" by telling him to make amends with the Nazis. Orsenigo punished Bishop August von Galen, who continued to publicly criticize the Nazi's euthanasia program, with a critical letter to Rome.
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 Alfred Rosenberg's The Myth of the Twentieth Century.
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 from 1930 to 1938, only four contain references to Jews.
Pius XII retained Orsenigo as nuncio to Germany; his priorities (as he made clear to Orsenigo) were the preservation of the Reichskonkordat specifically, and Vatican-German relations more generally. According to Phayer, "In Orsenigo, Pius had the right man for the job. A pro-German, pro-Nazi, antisemitic fascist, Orsenigo would have no trouble adjusting to the Nazi regime in Berlin. In addition, Orsenigo who hankered after the cardinal's hat, could be trusted not to interfere with Pius's well-known intention to deal with Germany himself". On the orders of Pius XII, Orsenigo warmly and publicly congratulated Hitler on April 20, 1939, the Führer's fiftieth birthday.
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.
On June 21, 1942, he was a consecrator at the Cologne Cathedral for the inauguration of the new archbishop in Cologne, Joseph Frings. In November 1943, he again met with Hitler on behalf of Pius XII. According to Orsenigo's own account:
On February 8, 1945, prior to the end of World War II, Orsenigo moved to Eichstätt, in Bavaria. The nunciature lost its official status in May 1945, with the defeat of Nazi Germany, although the Allied Control Council allowed Orsenigo to remain in Eichstätt. Orsenigo died in Eichstätt on April 1, 1946, leaving his aide de camp, Monsignor Carlo Colli as the only remaining link between Pius XII and the German Church. Colli died in January 1947, leaving his secretary Monsignor Bernard Hack alone in Eichstätt. After a lengthy interregnum, during which Pius XII relied on Father Igo Ziegler at the Villa Grosch in Kronberg, the next nuncio would be Aloisius Joseph Muench.
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, Orsenigo 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 in the Netherlands were vocal in their protests against the deportation of the Dutch Jewry, although the mainline Protestant Church eventually turned silent on the basis of Nazi promises that doing such would save further "Jews" of their denomination from deportation. Orsenigo sent word to the Vatican that the protest of the Church had caused the Dutch deportations to end, despite the fact that exactly the opposite had occurred, and seizures, murders, and deportations of Catholics of Jewish heritage increased.
Because Germany would not allow Pius XII to appoint a nuncio to occupied Poland, Orsenigo fulfilled that role as well, for all intents and purposes. On November 1, 1939, Orsenigo's authority was formally extended to Poland. In August 1940, Orsenigo indeed launched a private protest with the German government, listing a variety of abuses against the Polish Church (but none against the Polish people); this had no noticeable effect. Bishop Adam Stefan Sapieha of Cracow wrote Orsenigo, telling him that a direct protest by the Pope (rather than the nuncio) was "indispensable". Phayer finds it "doubtful" that Orsenigo forwarded Sapieha's request to the Holy See.
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 of 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, only the latter of whom assured Breitinger they would deliver the letter.
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 [clarification needed] 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 [Pope Pius XII] is his unwillingness to replace Cesare Orsenigo as his nuncio to Berlin". The Vatican received many contemporary complaints about Orsenigo as nuncio; for example, Cardinal Theodor Innitzer, the Archbishop of Vienna, wrote to Cardinal Secretary of State Luigi Maglione in 1939, stating that Orsenigo was too timid and ineffectual. The German episcopate was divided on Orsenigo; Bishop Konrad von Preysing wrote a letter to the Vatican in 1937 calling Orsenigo too sympathetic with the Nazis, but Cardinal Adolf Bertram, the chairman of the German Bishops Conference, wrote a letter of praise recommending that Orsenigo be allowed to stay. von Preysing had a history of correspondence with Orsenigo, but became frustrated upon receiving the following response: "charity is well and good but the greatest charity is not to make problems for the church".
Owen Chadwick argues that "the Pope knew how weak with the Nazis [Orsenigo] was". Phayer and Morley also criticize Pius XII for leaving Orsenigo at one of his most important nunciatures. However, Pierre Blet argues that had Orsenigo been replaced, a new nuncio may not have been accepted by the Nazis and the Vatican would have lost communication with the German Church.
Susan Zuccotti argues that Orsenigo was "never known for his imagination or daring". Chadwick states that "Orsenigo saw nothing but ill to come from a breach between the Church and a Nazi State. As an Italian he believed in the Fascist State. His ideas on what ought to happen in Germany were formed on the basis of what happened in Italy". Chadwick credits to Orsenigo the creation of a chaplain-general for the German army, the circulation of pastoral letters from German bishops on pro-Nazi subjects such as mass procreation.
|Catholic Church titles|
Giovanni Tacci Porcelli
| Nuncio to the Netherlands
23 June 1922 – 2 June 1925
| Nuncio to Hungary
2 June 1925 – 18 March 1930
| Nuncio to Germany and Nuncio to Prussia
18 March 1930 – 1945
Aloisius Joseph Muench
A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair is a 2003 book by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, previously the author of Hitler's Willing Executioners (1996). Goldhagen examines the Roman Catholic Church's role in the Holocaust, and offers a review of scholarship in English addressing what he argues is antisemitism throughout the history of the Church, which he claims contributed substantially to the persecution of the Jews during World War II.
Goldhagen recommends several significant steps that might be taken by the Church to make reparation for its alleged role. A Moral Reckoning received mixed reviews and was the subject of considerable controversy regarding allegations of inaccuracies and anti-Catholic bias.Adolf Hitler's 50th birthday
The 50th birthday of Adolf Hitler on 20 April 1939 was celebrated as a national holiday throughout Nazi Germany and some other parts of the world.Apostolic Nunciature to Germany
The Apostolic Nunciature to Germany is an ecclesiastical office of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany. It is a diplomatic post of the Holy See, whose representative is called the Apostolic Nuncio to Germany with the rank of an ambassador. The office of the nunciature has been located in Berlin since 1925, in union with the new Apostolic Nuncio to Prussia until 1934. Between 1920 and 1925 the nunciature was held in personal union by the Apostolic Nuncio to Bavaria, seated in Munich. With the unconditional surrender of Germany in 1945 the diplomatic ties were interrupted and reestablished for West Germany only in 1951, then in Bonn. In 2001 the nunciature moved again to Berlin.
The three Popes, once serving as nuncios in what is today's Germany, were Alexander VII, Leo XII and Pius XII. As of 2014 the Apostolic Nuncio to Germany is Nikola Eterović, appointed by Pope Francis on September 21, 2013.Apostolic Nunciature to Poland
The Apostolic Nuncio to Poland is one of the oldest nuncios, appointed by the Pope as apostolic representative to the Roman Catholic Church in Poland. Three nuncios to Poland went on to be elected pope. Three were cardinals at the time of their appointment as nuncio, and the rest—with the sole exception of Filippo Cortesi—were elevated afterwards.Apostolic Nunciature to the Netherlands
The Apostolic Nuncio to the Netherlands is the principal representative of the Holy See to the Royal Government of the Netherlands. The nunciature is located at Carnegielaan 5 in The Hague.
Giovanni Tacci Porcelli (29 Apr 1911 - 8 Dec 1916)
Roberto Vicentini (19 May 1921 - 1922)
Cesare Orsenigo (23 Jun 1922 - 2 Jun 1925)
Paolo Giobbe (12 Aug 1935 - 14 Nov 1959 )
Giuseppe Beltrami (31 Jan 1959 - 22 Jul 1967 )
Angelo Felici (22 Jul 1967 - 13 May 1976)
John Gordon ( 1976 - 1978 )
Bruno Wüstenberg (17 Jan 1979 - 31 May 1984)
Edward Idris Cassidy (6 Nov 1984 - 23 Mar 1988)
Audrys Juozas Bačkis (5 Aug 1988 - 24 Dec 1991)
Henri Lemaitre (28 Mar 1992 - 8 Feb 1997 Retired)
Angelo Acerbi (8 Feb 1997 - 27 Feb 2001)
François Robert Bacqué (27 Feb 2001 - 15 Dec 2011)
André Dupuy (15 Dec 2011 - date unknown)
Aldo Cavalli (21 Mar 2015–present); Titular Archbishop of Vibo Valentia; previously, Apostolic Nuncio to Malta and LibyaApostolic Nuncio to Prussia
The Apostolic Nuncio to Prussia was the ambassador of the Holy See to the Free State of Prussia. He was based in Berlin.Diego von Bergen
Dr. Carl-Ludwig Diego von Bergen (1872 – October 7, 1944) was the ambassador to the Holy See from the Kingdom of Prussia (1915–1918), the Weimar Republic (1920–1933), and Nazi Germany (1933–1943), most notably during the negotiation of the Reichskonkordat and during the Second World War.
From 1930 to 1943, by virtue of seniority, Bergen was also the doyen of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. This office entitled him to speak at the funeral of Pope Pius XI in 1939, when he infamously urged the cardinals to elect a new pope who would work with the fascist governments of Europe to build "a new world upon the ruins of a past that in many things has no longer any reason to exist". Bergen was recalled in 1943, aged more than seventy, which was a good deal more than the mandatory retirement age for German diplomats, and was replaced by Ernst von Weizsäcker.Eichstätt
Eichstätt (German pronunciation: [ˈaɪçʃtɛt], formerly also Eichstädt or Aichstädt) is a town in the federal state of Bavaria, Germany, and capital of the district of Eichstätt. It is located on the Altmühl river and has a population of around 13,000. Eichstätt is also the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Eichstätt.Filippo Cortesi
Filippo Cortesi (8 Octobter 1876 – 1 February 1947) was the Apostolic Nuncio to Poland from December 24, 1936 to February 1, 1947. Cortesi earlier served as nuncio to Paraguay in the interim. Cortesi was the only nuncio to Poland never to become a cardinal.Foreign relations of Pope Pius XII
Foreign relations of Pope Pius XII extended to most of Europe and a few states outside Europe. Pius XII was pope from 1939 to 1958, during World War II and the beginning of the Cold War.Franz Justus Rarkowski
Franz Justus Rarkowski, S.M. (June 8, 1873 – February 9, 1950) was the Catholic military bishop of Nazi Germany. The existence of such a role was provided for by the Reichskonkordat (1933), and Rarkowski had been acting head of the military chaplaincy since 1929, before he was officially consecrated on February 29, 1938 as episcopus castrensis. Rarkowski's title was translated into English as "Field Bishop of the German Army".The first draft of the Apostolic Brief to regulate the military chaplaincy was given to the German government on June 26, 1934. The brief was issued on September 19, 1935.Giovanni Tacci Porcelli
Giovanni Tacci Porcelli (12 November 1863 – 30 June 1928) was an Italian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who served as Secretary of the Congregation for Oriental Churches from 1922 to 1927, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1921.Hilarius Breitinger
Hilarius Breitinger, OFM Conv (7 June 1907 – 23 August 1994) was a German Franciscan prelate made apostolic administrator of the Reichsgau Wartheland during World War II by Pope Pius XII, one of the most controversial examples of the reorganization of occupied dioceses during World War II. Breitinger's appointment and those like it were the justification of the Polish Provisional Government for declaring the Concordat of 1925 "null and void" in 1945.Lorenz Jaeger
Lorenz Jaeger (23 September 1892 – 1 April 1975) was a German Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who served as Archbishop of Paderborn from 1941 to 1973, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1965.Orsenigo
Orsenigo is an Italian surname. Notable people with the surname include:
Cesare Orsenigo, Vatican diplomat
Giovanni Battista Orsenigo, Italian monk and dentist
Simone da Orsenigo, Italian architectPaolo Giobbe
Paolo Giobbe (10 January 1880 – 14 August 1972) was an Italian Cardinal of the Catholic Church who served as Papal Datary in the Roman Curia from 1959 to 1968, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1958.Ptolemais, Cyrenaica
Ptolemais (Greek: Πτολεμαΐς) was one of the five cities that formed the Pentapolis of Cyrenaica, the others being Cyrene, Euesperides (later Berenice, and now Benghazi), Tauchira/Teuchira (later Arsinoe, and now Tocra), and Apollonia (now Susa).Its ruins are at a small village in modern Libya called Tolmeita (Arabic طلميتة), after the ancient name.Reorganization of occupied dioceses during World War II
The reorganization of occupied dioceses during World War II was an issue faced by Pope Pius XII of whether to extend the apostolic authority of Catholic bishops from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy to German-occupied Europe during World War II.
Although such reorganization was often refused, the decision of Pius XII to appoint German apostolic administrators to occupied Poland was "one of his most controversial decisions". These actions were the primary justification given by the Soviet-backed Polish Provisional Government (which replaced the pro-Catholic Polish government-in-exile), for declaring the Concordat of 1925 null and void in 1945, an act that had tremendous consequences for post-war Polish-Holy See relations. There was no Apostolic Nuncio to Poland between 1947 and 1989.Robert Leiber
Robert Leiber, S.J. (10 April 1887 – 18 February 1967) was a close advisor to Pope Pius XII, a Jesuit priest from Germany, and Professor for Church History at the Gregorian University in Rome from 1930 to 1960. Leiber was, according to Pius' biographer Susan Zuccotti, "throughout his entire papacy his private secretary and closest advisor".