The Chief and His Men

On June 1, 1945, Pope Pius XII met for three hours in private audience with his co-conspirator, the German lawyer Josef Müller.  “I had hardly crossed the threshold into his study when the Holy Father approached me, and embraced me,” Müller later wrote.  “The Pope said,” writes the author of this remarkable tale of spiritual combat, “he felt as if his own son had returned from terrible danger.”  Joey Ox (so named by friends because he had worked his way from peasant upbringings through law school pulling an ox cart) and Pius XII had been collaborating since 1939 on a great mission to, among other things, assassinate Adolf Hitler and bring about a coup that would restore a “Decent Germany.”  “We had to wage war against the powers of evil,” the Holy Father said to Müller.  “We contended with diabolical forces.”

Josef Müller risked his life, avoiding execution by the Nazis several times by the skin of his teeth.  Pius XII “put the largest church in the world at risk.”  They and many others, says Mark Riebling, conducted what “would not be the Church’s covert campaign against the Reich, but the pope’s secret war against Hitler.”  Joey Ox and Fr. Robert Leiber, the Pope’s minister without portfolio, both called the Holy Father “Chief,” a code name of endearment...

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