(photo credit: )
The Vatican says it has "taken action" to track down Jewish children who were hidden by the Church and Catholic families during the Holocaust and later disappeared.
In a letter sent on June 6 to Yad Le'Achim, a haredi anti-missionary organization, Archbishop Antonio Franco, the apostolic nuncio in the Holy Land, wrote, "The matter of the fate of the Jewish families during World War II is a very delicate and very complex one."
"I know that there has been action taken by the Holy See, but at this moment I cannot be accurate in my information. I assure you that I will try to provide more precise information and see if an appeal that the one you propose could be made."
Yad L'Achim said the letter marked the first time the Church had publicly acknowledged the issue.
Before Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Israel last month, Rabbi Shalom Dov Lipshitz, who heads Yad L'Achim, asked that the pope call on all members of the Catholic Church to reveal the identities of Jews saved by the Church from the Nazis.
"We believe that hundreds, perhaps thousands of Jews and their offspring can be discovered if the pope makes an unequivocal announcement while in Israel that every Catholic has an obligation to reveal the Jewish roots of those saved from the Holocaust," Lipshitz said.
He said Yad L'Achim had a list of about 2,000 names of children believed to have been handed over to Catholic families, orphanages and other Church institutions to hide them from the Nazis.
A sample page from the list was sent to The Jerusalem Post. It includes the names, dates and places of birth and last known addresses of the individuals thought to be Jews.
All of the people on the sample page were from the Netherlands, and all were born between 1920 and 1938.
Lipshitz said Yad L'Achim's list, based on information collected after the war, also included Jews from France, Italy and Belgium.
He added that his organization was working with the Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE) to obtain more lists and track down the names that he already had. Yad L'Achim and the conference plan to open an office in Europe to coordinate these efforts.
"Time isn't working in our favor and we must act quickly," Lipshitz said.
"There is no doubt that the martyrs [Nazi victims], the parents and grandparents of these orphans, most of whom don't even know they are Jewish, won't find heavenly rest until their descendants return to the religion of their fathers," he said.