Sister Margherita Marchione, Defender of Pius XII, Dies at 99

Sister Margherita Marchione, who turned referred to as “the fighting nun” for her protection of Pope Pius XII in opposition to allegations that he had didn’t do as a lot as he might have to save lots of the Jews from Nazi atrocities throughout World War II, died on May 19 at her convent, Villa Walsh, in Morristown, N.J. She was 99.

Her loss of life was confirmed by Sister Patricia Pompa, provincial superior of Sister Margherita’s order, the Religious Teachers Filippini.

The creator of greater than 45 books, Sister Margherita was the American-born daughter of Italian immigrants and spent practically twenty years educating Italian language and literature at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, N.J. She was the primary nun to change into a tenured professor at the college.

Early on, she delved into analysis on Philip Mazzei, a Florentine surgeon and horticulturalist who got here to the United States within the 1700s, fought within the American Revolution and have become mates with Thomas Jefferson.

She wrote seven volumes on Mazzei and amassed 1000’s of his papers, works of artwork and different gadgets, which she donated to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. And she campaigned efficiently to get the United States Postal Service to situation a commemorative stamp in his honor in 1980.

But the work that dominated her later many years was her push for the beatification of Pope Pius XII, whose papacy lasted from 1939 till his loss of life in 1958. Beatification is one step within the Vatican’s course of of making somebody a saint.

The pope’s report through the battle has lengthy been extremely contentious, with many within the worldwide Jewish neighborhood and others saying that he had remained shamefully silent and failed to make use of his ethical authority to sentence the slaughter of Jews.

His defenders say he labored behind the scenes to encourage the Roman Catholic Church to save lots of 1000’s of Jews and different victims of persecution.

History has but to render a last judgment. Scholars have simply begun to look at the pope’s immense archives, which consist of tens of 1000’s of papers and had been totally opened solely final yr. Early reports bolstered accusations of Vatican indifference to Jewish struggling, however students mentioned the entire image wouldn’t be clear till all of the papers may very well be studied, a course of that has been slowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Yad Vashem, the memorial in Israel to victims of the Holocaust, which additionally acknowledges those that saved Jews from genocide, has been extremely important of Pius XII. In its museum, beneath {a photograph} of him, an announcement reads:

“Although reports about the assassination of Jews reached the Vatican, the pope did not protest either by speaking out or in writing. In December of 1942, he did not participate in the condemnation by members of the Allies regarding the killing of Jews. Even when the Jews were being deported from Rome to Auschwitz, the pope did not intervene.”

Sister Margherita was thought of the pope’s foremost defender exterior of the Vatican. She wrote a number of books arguing that, removed from being passive, he had allowed 1000’s of Jews to cover in Vatican establishments through the battle. She mentioned that she had interviewed scores of them, and that they had been grateful to him for saving their lives.

She acquired an award in 2003 from Pope John Paul II for her work “promoting the truth about Pope Pius XII.” In a speech acknowledging the award, she famous that her personal order in Rome had sheltered 114 Jews in its convents, and that in gratitude they’d introduced one of these convents with a five-foot statue of the Madonna.

She additionally made quite a few appeals to Yad Vashem to rethink its characterization of the pope’s actions.

“If Jewish leaders say today that Pius XII did nothing to save Jews, they are disputing the testimony of other Jews who said he did quite a lot,” she instructed New Jersey Jewish News in 2007.

“It is terribly unfair,” Sister Margherita added, “to put so much blame on Pius, who had no army besides a few Swiss Guards with which to resist Hitler, while leaders like Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, who had the means to bomb the concentration camps, failed to do so.”

Walter Ruby, who interviewed Sister Margherita for New Jersey Jewish News, wrote in his article that students of the interval agreed that convents and monasteries had hidden practically 5,000 Jews through the German occupation of Rome, from September 1943 to June 1944. But, he added, “these same scholars assert there is no proof that these institutions acted at the behest of the pope.”

Sister Marchione maintained that bodily proof was arduous to come back by as a result of the pope by no means wrote down particular orders, nor did he communicate out for worry of Nazi retribution. But, she mentioned, it was inconceivable that convents and monasteries would have sheltered Jews with out his permission.

Margherita Frances Marchione was born on Feb. 19, 1922, in Little Ferry, N.J., simply throughout the Hudson River from Manhattan. Her mother and father, Crescenzo and Felicetta (Schettino) Marchione, had come to the United States from a small city close to Salerno, Italy, in 1902. At the time, a lot of New Jersey was nonetheless farmland, and so they ran a dairy enterprise with their eight youngsters, of whom Margherita was the youngest.

She attended St. Mary’s School in close by Hackensack and entered the Religious Teachers Filippini in 1935. She acquired the behavior in 1938, when she was 16.

Sister Margherita acquired her bachelor’s diploma from Georgian Court College, now Georgian Court University, in Lakewood, N.J., the place she majored in Italian and graduated in 1943. Furthering her research in Italian, she went to Columbia University, the place she earned her grasp’s in 1949 and her doctorate in 1960.

While pursuing her research, she taught Italian at Villa Walsh College, which at the time was a two-year school for the sisters of Religious Teachers Filippini; in 1967, the school turned Villa Walsh Academy, an all-girls school preparatory highschool.

After a yr as a Fulbright scholar, she started her educating profession at Fairleigh Dickinson in 1965.

Over time, she acquired quite a few honors and awards for her writings and her contributions to greater training and Italian tradition. She titled her autobiography, revealed in 2000, “The Fighting Nun: My Story.” In 2016 she donated her collection of supplies on Pope Pius XII to Stonehill College in Easton, Mass.

She leaves nieces and nephews however no instant survivors.

Sister Margherita didn’t dwell to see whether or not Pius XII could be made a saint. But she did witness the declaration of him as “venerable” in 2009 — a transfer, protested by some Holocaust survivors, that put him on the trail to canonization.

The subsequent step could be discovering a miracle attributed to his intercession, however that course of seems to be on maintain whereas students comb by way of his archives.

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