October 27, 2023 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Dr. Robert Ventresca, Interim Vice-President Academic Dean, was part of an international conference, “New Documents from the Pontificate of Pope Pius XII and their Meaning for Jewish-Christian Relations: A Dialogue Between Historians and Theologians,” held at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome on October 9-11, 2023.

Dr. Ventresca was a panelist during the conference’s second session, held on October 10, titled “The Vatican’s Worldview and the Holocaust.” The session explored the worldview of the Vatican as a whole in the era of the two world wars and in the face of the Holocaust, and in particular the views on nations and religions that shaped the response of officials, prelates and laypeople around Pius XII.

Dr. Ventresca’s contribution included his paper, “Papal Humanitarianism and its Limits in the Era of the Two World Wars and the Holocaust,” which evaluates the development and deployment of papal humanitarian diplomacy to respond to war, genocide, and post-conflict transitions.

Dr. Ventresca argued that the Vatican’s responses to the Holocaust cannot be understood fully if studied in a vacuum – isolated, and disconnected from a critical examination of the humanitarian discourse and structures of papal during the time in question.  “Ultimately, my research seeks to understand how theology, politics and diplomacy intersected and interacted to determine the course of papal policy in times of extreme humanitarian crises,” he says.

The conference was a very positive experience, including “a real exchange of ideas; some disagreements but respectful and in a spirit of dialogue,” says Dr. Ventresca.

One of the highlights was the Conference opening with comments from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, and Riccardo Di Segni, the Chief Rabbi of Rome. Dr. Ventresca says it was “fascinating to see them sitting side by side and addressing historical contexts as well as the recent and ongoing violence in the Holy Land.”

The sessions were well attended and not just by scholars but also by students and members of the general public, which Dr. Ventresca says is evidence of the vibrant intellectual life to be found in Rome. Having lived in the city for extended periods of time during his doctoral work, Dr. Ventresca says, “It is always inspiring to be in such an exciting and diverse city as Rome.”

Dr. Ventresca says his role as a member of the Program for Ethics, Religion and the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., one of the sponsors of the conference, keeps him connected to the network of international scholars gathered at the conference.

The organizers hope to publish the conference proceedings, and Dr. Ventresca is looking forward to being able to share his research findings from his ongoing work in the Vatican archives more widely.