Reckoning with History: Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust

A discussion with Prof. David Kertzer and Fr. John Pawlikowski


6:00PM–7:15PM CST

Virtual Event

Via Zoom


  • Reckoning with History: Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust

    Panel discussion on role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust.


Join us for a discussion on the newly unsealed Vatican archives and the role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust with Professor David Kertzer, Brown University, and Father John Pawlikowski, Catholic Theological Union, moderated by Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis.

Pulitzer-Prize-winning author David Kertzer is the Paul Dupee University Professor of Social Science at Brown University. His most recent book, The Pope Who Would be King (Random House, 2018) tells the dramatic story of the Roman revolution of 1848, when the pope was driven into exile and the end of the papal theocracy was proclaimed. Kertzer’s previous book, The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe, (Random House, 2014), won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 2015 and the American Historical Association prize for best book in Italian history. Kertzer’s previous books include Amalia’s Tale (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), Prisoner of the Vatican (Houghton Mifflin, 2004), and The Popes Against the Jews (Knopf/Vintage, 2001). Kertzer’s The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (Knopf/Vintage) was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1997. Kertzer is an authority on Italian politics, society, and history; political symbolism; and anthropological demography. He is co-founder and served for many years as co-editor of the Journal of Modern Italian Studies. In 2005 Kertzer was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. From 2006 to 2011, he was the Provost of Brown University.

John Pawlikowski is a member of the Order of Friar Servants of Mary (Servites) and was ordained at the University of St. Mary of the Lake. One of the founding faculty members of Catholic Theological Union, he served on the faculty from 1968 until his retirement in 2017. He has been an active participant in the Christian-Jewish Dialogue as well as the wider inter-religious dialogue for nearly fifty years. He served for six years as President of the International Council of Christians and Jews and has served several terms on the board of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.  He was deeply involved in the development of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington having served four terms on its board by presidential appointment. He has worked with the Office of Justice & Peace at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops on its Energy Statement and its Pastoral Letter of the Economy; has participated in three United Nations international conferences on world peace, on alternative energy, and on human trafficking; helped negotiate the termination of the United Nations Trusteeship for Micronesia. In 2014 the Catholic Theological Society of America conferred on him its annual John Courtney Murray Award. He was awarded fellowships by Cambridge University (UK), The Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium), and the Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, CA), as well as Honorary Doctorates by Hebrew Union College, Dominican University, and the Catholic University of Australia.

Rori Picker Neiss serves as the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St Louis. Prior to that she was the Director of Programming, Education, and Community Engagement at Bais Abraham Congregation, a Modern Orthodox Jewish synagogue in University City, MO. She is one of the first graduates of Yeshivat Maharat, a pioneering institution training Orthodox Jewish women to be spiritual leaders and halakhic (Jewish legal) authorities. She previously served as Acting Executive Director for Religions for Peace-USA, Program Coordinator for the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, Assistant Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, and Secretariat for the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, the formal Jewish representative in international, interreligious dialogue. Rori is the co-chair of the North American Interfaith Youth Network of Religions for Peace, a CLAL Rabbis Without Borders fellow, and co-editor of “InterActive Faith: The Essential Interreligious Community-Building Handbook.” She is married to Russel Neiss, a Software Engineer for Sefaria, and they have three wonderful children.

Free advance screening of the documentary Holy Silence will be included with registration. The film takes a fresh look at a topic that has sparked controversy for decades. During the years leading up to WWII, what was the Vatican’s reaction to the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany? After the war began, how did the pope respond to the horrors of the Holocaust? In telling that story, Holy Silence focuses on American officials who worked behind the scenes to influence the Vatican’s actions.

Cosponsored with the Newmark Institute of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis and the Bernardin Center at Catholic Theological Union.

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  • Rori Picker-Neiss

    Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Council

  • John T. Pawlikowski, OSM

    Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics and Former Director, Catholic-Jewish Studies Program at Catholic Theological Union

  • David Kertzer

    Paul Dupee University Professor of Social Science at Brown University

  • R. Marie Griffith

    John C. Danforth Distinguished Professor in the Humanities