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

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  160 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
Drawing on untapped resources, exclusive interviews, and new archival research, The Pope’s Last Crusade by Peter Eisner is a thrilling narrative that sheds new light on Pope Pius XI’s valiant effort to condemn Nazism and the policies of the Third Reich—a crusade that might have changed the course of World War II.

A shocking tale of intrigue and suspense, illustrated with si
ebook, 320 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by William Morrow (first published February 26th 2013)
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Mar 30, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one.
Recommended to Ian by: Received a reviewer copy from the publisher
Sloppily researched; it's more about the story the author wanted to tell than actual history. Readers unfamiliar with the era are likely to be grossly misinformed.

Edit: Since discussed the book with a Jesuit priest of my acquaintance who had also read it, and he agreed with me that it was a poorly researched book that made a lot of unsubstantiated claims.

Second Edit: Since this book has been getting high ratings by readers, I should note that, for a book that claims to tell a story of "The Lost
Jun 09, 2015 rated it liked it
(July 1938, Paris) "As for Hitler, they explained to me, there was really nothing to worry about," LaFarge wrote. "Nous sommes si calme," people kept telling him. "But when you have heard people tell you four or five times a day how calm they are, you wonder just how deep is that tranquility?"
Peter Eisner

I think this story would fall under a "missed opportunity" of history.
Of course, intrigue and secrecy are the foundation for the lost encyclical of Pius XI. The characters of the title are Pope
Mar 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
May 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A well researched, very interesting book about the last days of Pope PiusXI and his campaign against Mussolini and Hitler and their policies of hate and racisism against the Jews. Pius had selected and American Jesuit who had already written extensively about racisism in the American South where he spent his early career working with the poor in southern Maryland. Pius arrange to meet him in secret while Fr.LaFarge was traveling in Europe for America Magazine published by the Jesuits.The Pope in ...more
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I won Peter Eisner’s The Pope’s Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius Xi’s Campaign to Stop Hitler, as a Goodread's Giveaways. Eisner introduces us to the Jesuit John LaFarge. An American Jesuit who dedicated his life to racial justice and the pursuit of equality for all.

The book read more like a series of newspaper articles, but clearly details the political intrigue behind the Vatican walls. Pope Pius XI was a staunch enemy of Hitler, Mussolini and all their anti-Semitic polic
Gary Patton
I love a good spy story ...especially when it is alleged to be true. And as fellow reviewer, Ian, points out below in his comments, you're wise to NEVER forget that this is an author's interpretation of a complex issue in our past ...not documented history. One could argue that this book is much like Dan Brown's fictional novels.

The Catholic Church and its Pope during the 15 years that Hitler and His Nazis ravaged Europe and North Africa are regularly still criticized for not doing much to coun
Apr 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What intrigued me to read this book was the title "American Jesuit helped Pius XI Crusade to stop Hitler" Even though I am a Catholic, I know Pius XII was the pope during WWII and I knew nothing about Pius XI. It was a very good read and really gave me pause to wonder what would have happened if Pius XI had lived and published the encyclical that he had the Jesuit,John LaFarge, write secretly condemning in no uncertain terms Hitler and Mussolini. He died in 1939 and realized the evil and inevita ...more
Fredrick Danysh
On the eve of World War II Pope Pius XI was about the only head of state to challenge Hilter's treatment of the Jews and his move for territorial dominance. The pope commissioned an American Jesuit priest, Father John LaFarge, to write an encyclical for him on human rights. This is the story of Father LaFarge's efforts to compose the document and the pope's struggle against anti-semitism despite obstacles placed in their paths by Church officals.
It read well, but could get repetitive at times. It was odd that the never-published encyclical was said to be the "first" blast at Nazism & anti-Semitism, at the same time to be reading of the pope's radio addresses and other public statements covering the same topics.

Cardinal Pacelli (Pope Pius XII) comes out looking poorly, as a Vatican insider who slow-rolled the Pope's statements in the interest of preserving the Church.
Mar 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book through Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

A non-fiction that reads like a novel. Is it religion or politics? The year 1938, Pope Pius XI had the courage to express his views against Hilter and Nazism...not everyone in the Vatican agreed with him. Some even went so far as to go against his instructions or wishes. A good read!
Maria Kiguthi
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very well researched and presented. This book focuses on Pope Pious XI and John LaFarge and the encyclical that could have changed the course of history had it been published. I received a copy through Goodreads First Reads.
H.E. Regis
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads

I received a copy of this book through a goodreads giveaway. It was truly a masterfully written book. Extremely informative and yet very enjoyable to read. Definitely one I would recommend!
May 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book....lots of questions regarding the catholic Church in WWII. Hopefully many things will become clear after 2015 when more files become open.
Mar 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-read
good book, I loved learning about this little discussed aspect of WW2. As a former catholic and history buff I found it interesting and an easy read
Karen  Fiandaca
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A ggod companion book to In the garden of the Beasts. And new understanding of Pope Pius XI and that era of pre WWII.
Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The Pope's Last Crusade is rather short, but well researched and well written. I do believe that the title is somewhat misleading, but that would be a spoiler. The book is a fascinating look into the inner workings of the Vatican with all its rivalry and intrigue, and a very good look at an overlooked Pope. It is always a pleasure to learn about how Pius XI stood up to Hitler and Mussolini at great personal risk. It was disappointing to see the way some around the Pope, including the future Pius
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be eye opening and it put into perspective of one during and before the war .the pope died during 1939 and the next Pope was not open to the Nazism that was in full swing by the time of his time
Jamie Boehmer
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great Historical Read

A great insight to the inner workings of the Vatican and the major players of Catholicism leading up to WW2.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating treatise on the implication of a unpublished encyclical that may have affected the outcome of the persecution of Jews by Nazi Germany.
John McDonald
Feb 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John LaFarge was the unassuming and scholarly Jesuit Editor of America magazine during pre-World War II years. America, published in New York, was read by Catholics worldwide for its reporting on issues and events important to Catholics. It appears it was also read by Achilles Ratti, Pope Pius XI, a mountaineer of reknown andan outspoken critic of Adolph Hitler and Nazism at time when the Vatican timidly tip toed around Nazism and the Vatican' political relations with Germany and Italy.

LaFarge h
Nov 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Peter Eisner's book, "The Pope's Last Crusade", tells the story of Pope Pius XI stance against the abuses of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, and his unsuccessful attempt to issue a Papal Encyclical condemning the abuses of Jews by those regimes in the years just prior to World War II. Impressed with the writings of an American priest, Father John LaForge, who had written a book about the evils of racism against blacks, the Pope had assigned the drafting of the paper to him. However, some senior ...more
Ed Smiley
Pius XXIth was a thorn in the side of the Vatican bureaucracy, because he spoke from the heart. This may sound familiar today.

People have heard much more about Pius XII, his appeasing successor, who was his secretary of state, and wanted to "smooth over the waters" whenever Pius the XXIth let drop that he really despised racism, Hitler and Mussolini. It appears that this faction buried his encyclical condemning same. And although his work on the encyclical, never saw the light of day until many
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Courtney Skelton
This was one great book on one of the darkest and saddest eras ever in the history of mankind. It details the rising forces behind Mussolini and Hitler from the perspective of the Vatican. It shows an angle of the past never seen before. The pope and his Jesuit have such passion for equality for all as well as the word of God, you cannot help but to find them both enduring. Whether you are a practicing Catholic or not (like me) this book is for any one who wants to read about the history of worl ...more
Laurence O'Bryan
Aug 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly enjoyed this as part of my research for The Nuremberg Puzzle. One startling aspect came through clearly. The accusation that Pius XI was murdered just before he was about to speak to a gathering of bishops and denounce Hitler's Germany.

The story felt unfinished, so I've recently started Hitler's Pope, which fills in many details on the main suspect in Pius Xi's murder.
Dusty Summerford (Reviews by Reds)
I really enjoyed this book. It doesn't matter to me if all of it was true or not. I watch movies all the time that are based on a true story. Lol! I thought it was very informative & interesting! It kept my interest all the way through. I won this book from Peter Eisner & Goodreads, otherwise I probably would have missed out on a great story of our history. Would definitely recommend to all history buffs or anyone who wants to learn about our history.
Not my usual light and fluffy reading. A marvelous look at the history of what—until recently—was a lock-and-key mystery known only to Vatican powers. I am unsure whether the reluctance of Pacelli and his ilk was a symptom of personal opinion, appeasement thinking, the Catholic Church’s wish for world peace, or an aversion to violence. History buffs and religious buffs alike may want to give this a try.
Mar 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting true story. It explains the debate at the time between Godless-Communism and Fascism. Also of interest are the varying accounts of Pope Pius XI's death. This is a true tragedy about how LaFarge did not have the courage and strength to complete the task assigned to him by Pius XI, but was stymied by his immediate superiors in the Church.
I will be honest here: I never read the book. I never received my giveaway from the publisher, and after several contacts, did not hear back. I am giving this a middle-star review so I can move on with my life. I really would have been interested, but I do not want to go out and find the book nor do I want to continue pursuing the publisher (a year and a half later).
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PETER EISNER's newest book is MacArthur's Spies, a nonfiction account of American spies and guerrillas who challenged the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. He has served as deputy foreign editor and Washington, D.C, political editor with the Washington Post, foreign editor and senior foreign correspondent of Newsday, and bureau chief and correspondent for AP in the US and Latin America. Eisn ...more
More about Peter Eisner...