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The Pope's Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI's Campaign to Stop Hitler [Digital]

4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Digital
  • ISBN-10: 006204916X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062049162
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Insight Into A Landmark Declaration March 19, 2013
By Ethan
The year was 1938. Hitler was in complete power, leading Nazi Germany on a campaign through Europe, to spread his views. In the Vatican, Pope Pius XI, who was slowly declining into failing health, sought the assistance of an American Jesuit Priest, John LaFarge. LaFarge was a scholar, whose expertise on racial injustices perfectly fit into the Church's views on the situation. His goal was to publicly denounce the Nazism and anti-Semitism that he feared would destroy the teachings of the church. Coming from the Pope, the highest leader of the Catholic Church, this condemnation of Hitler could potentially impact the views of other world leaders, and in turn, World War II itself.

Of course, this process was easier said than done. Pius XI found himself in the midst of an Italian government that seemed to be, whether out of fear or agreement, embracing Hitler's Germany. They even invited the leader to visit their country. Pius XI would have nothing to do with the fanfare of Hitler's arrival. Instead, he retreated to a private Vatican estate, outside of the city, in a quiet protest. Met by resistance from even members of his own church who would rather keep peace with Hitler than provoke him with a damning proclamation, Pius XI stuck to his guns, to denounce what he knew was wrong.

I've always been fascinated by the many pieces to the giant puzzle that is World War II. This time in our history seems to show the best and worst aspects of our world, and I think there are many things to be learned. I was unfamiliar with the story of Pope Pius XI, but with all of the recent actions taking place in the Vatican, it seemed like a good time to delve deeper into the church's history. I was immediately drawn to Pius's unassuming, humble ways. He really comes off as a kind of quiet force.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging tale about an unfairly forgotten man June 18, 2013
Peter Eisner has reached back into 20th Century history to find a fascinating character whom almost no one has ever heard of: the American Jesuit priest John LaFarge. An early campaigner for racial equality in the United States, LaFarge was asked in 1938 by Pope Pius XI to draft an encyclical that would condemn Nazi persecution and theories of racial superiority. What he wrote and what happened to the draft gives an illuminating look into church teachings, European politics and efforts to head off World War II. Eisner's book has a very engaging style, is deeply researched and draws on LaFarge's personal papers to recount not just one man's story but a whole era. You'll like this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great and fascinating read!!!! May 1, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Bought it after reading a HuffPost recommendation. I had an interest in Pius XII, the so-called 'Hitler's Pope' but had never heard of any contribution Pius XI had made. That all changed after reading this book. Great back story on Fr. LaFarge, Pius XI, and Cardinal Pachelli (later Pius XII) and how their world's collided at the apex of the Vatican's campaign to expose the threat of Nazism and fascism to the world. I will admit it is a bit of a page-burner and Mr. Eisner wrote in a manner that keeps each chapter hanging until the next. Great book and an easy read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mystery History July 8, 2014
“The Pope’s Last Crusade” by Peter Eisner.
Subtitled: “How An American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius Xi’s Campaign to Stop Hitler”.
HarperCollins, New York 2013.

Peter Eisner has taken the known history of the “hidden encyclical” of Pope Pius XI (1857-1939) and produced a mystery book, which has the reader involved in the next step in publishing the encyclical even while knowing that history shows the encyclical was NOT published. The book is well written and captures the intrigue within the Vatican and the hierarchy of the time.

The main characters are Pius XI (Achille Ratti 1857-1939), of course, and the Jesuit, John LaFarge, Jr., (1880-1963). In fact, this book is one of the more complete biography of John LaFarge, or, perhaps, an extensive biographical sketch.
Since the book deals with the time period to 1938 to early 1939, the author, Peter Eisner, has been rather dismissive of the strong courage of Pius XI. On page 33, Eisner emphasizes the general opinion of Pius XI: that he was a conservative defending the Church, regardless. Pius XI took on Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin when the Church was involved. This book, which addresses a limited time period, does not even mention the encyclical, “Non Abbiamo Bisogno” (We Do Not Need), the first modern encyclical written in a vernacular language and not in Latin. In this 1931 encyclical, Pius XI fundamentally called Mussolini’s regime anti-Catholic, and the Pope condemned the pagan worship of the state. Remember that this was the time when Mussolini was at the peak of his power, with a Vietnam type war in Libya and a war in Ethiopia that included the use of poison gas against the Ethiopians. The League of Nations censored Italy, but did nothing.

Hitler came to power by popular vote in 1933.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book May 5, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Mr. Eisner has created a well researched book on a topic not well known to me and I am sure many others. Most important is that it was compelling and engaging to read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monumental Times June 30, 2013
The events leading up to World War II were monumental and shaped history from that time forward. Peter Eisner has produced a eye-opening work of what went on behind the scenes in the Vatican during this period of history leading up to the second World War. The book is about John La Farge, an American Jesuit who worked on an encyclical for Pope Pius XI on the subject of racism.

I think this book is very significant for Americans, considering how history has played out, with the Nazi's losing the war and later the American Civil Rights Movement. Pius XI appears to have taken a moral stance on the subject and asked La Farge to produce the document. The book goes chronologically, step by step as the drama unfolds, and faithfully records the events that occured in the production, and suppression of this document.

Unfortunately the document was not published at that time and many people of our generation do not know anything about it. I am glad this book was written,showing that Pius did speak up against the Nazi's and their persecution of the Jews. I believe he stood for morality. Too bad he died before his plans for the encyclical could be carried out.

Eisner uses information recently released from Vaticn archives that I find fascinating. All the people from that generation that were involved in the project are dead, and it is good that our generation is finding out about it. The book includes excerps from La Farge's encyclical. -- Valerie Lull, Author, Ten Healtlhy Teas
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Ties in Jewish, World, and Church History
I enjoyed the book. It ties in Jewish history with church history and world history. These are important areas of history. Read more
Published 20 days ago by HOWARD M MERKEN
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and enlightening story of the devoted people in ...
Well written and enlightening story of the devoted people in the Vatican and those that have political aims instead of serving God.
Published 1 month ago by Panache
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
this is an interesting take on the times just before WW II.
Published 3 months ago by Bob Marshall
5.0 out of 5 stars Pope Pius Last Crusade Was An Encyclical Never Seen by the World
The story of a Papal Encyclical, written by the courageous Pope Pius XI, which never made it to the eyes of the world. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mary Anne Sheehy
5.0 out of 5 stars great read. learning about the inside of the Vatican ...
great read. learning about the inside of the Vatican is always interesting. mary hoffman
Published 5 months ago by Mary H Hoffman
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read. Full of intrigue
Good read. Full of intrigue. Interesting, it really shed light on Pope Pius XI, it's a shame he has not been considered for sainthood.
Published 10 months ago by Jill V.
5.0 out of 5 stars A provocative analysis of the Catholic Church's role leading up to...
Very well researched. The author excelled in creating a meaningful historical perspective and laid bare the fact that the Catholic Church has its share of political drama similar... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Joe Howard
5.0 out of 5 stars The Pope's Last Crusade
The story of how the Pope tried to alert the world to the coming horror in Europe was fascinating. Even the people around him were working against him. Read more
Published 15 months ago by pollyann
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed reading history of World War 11
I chose five stars because it was part of history's time at the Vatican during World War 11 and how the Pope delt with Hitler and the Roman dictator.
Published 15 months ago by Dolores M. Cordova
5.0 out of 5 stars What might have been.
This enlightening book answered questions I asked when studying the history of WWII. Why didn't world spiritual leaders cry out against Hitler and his allies? Read more
Published 15 months ago by Kindle Customer
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