March 31, 1998

VATICAN (CWN) -- Myriam Zolli, a psychiatrist whose father was the Rabbit Israel Zolli, the head of the Jewish community in Rome during World War II, has issued a strong defense of Pope Pius XII and his response to the Nazi Holocaust. Zolli said that Pope Pius was in steady contact with her father, and worked diligently to save Jews from persecution.

In fact, the friendship established between the rabbi and the Pope during the wartime years led eventually to the decision by Rabbi Zolli to convert to Catholicism. When he was baptized, Zolli took the name "Eugenio," in honor of Pope Pius, who was born Eugenio Pacelli.

In an interview published today in the Italian daily Il Giornale, Myriam Zolli recalled her father's prediction that Pope Pius XII would become a scapegoat for the West's silence in the face of the Holocaust. She said that the polemical attacks on the late pontiff were examples of "ignoble and false history," and concluded that in fact "the world's Jewish community owes him a great debt."