In June 1938, John LaFarge, an unassuming American Jesuit priest and scholar, was summoned to a private audience with Pope Pius XI. Inspired by LaFarge’s book, Interracial Justice, which argued that “racialism and nationalism were fundamentally the same,” the pope enlisted the priest to pen a papal encyclical—a declaration of the Catholic Church’s official view—condemning Nazism and anti-Semitism. A profoundly moral and devout man, Pius XI hoped that this official decree, the highest public statement expressed by the Holy See, would raise public opposition to the Third Reich and compel world leaders to challenge Adolf Hitler and his allies before it was too late.
A shocking tale of intrigue and suspense, illustrated with sixteen pages of photos, The Pope’s Last Crusade illuminates this religious leader’s daring yet little known campaign to fight Hitler, a spiritual and political battle that would be derailed by Pius’s XIs death just a few months later. Peter Eisner reveals how Pius XI intended to unequivocally reject Nazism in one of the most unprecedented and progressive pronouncements ever issued by the Vatican, and how a group of conservative churchmen eager to appease Hitler, including his successor, Cardinal Pacelli, Pope Pius XII, plotted to prevent it.
For seventy years, only parts of this story have been known. Eisner offers a new interpretation of this historic event and the powerful figures at its center in an essential work that provides thoughtful insight and raises controversial questions impacting our own time.