Pope may reexamine Pius XII sainthood

Jewish group headed by Rabbi Rosen pressures Benedict XVI to freeze WWII pope's canonization.

October 30, 2008 16:45
2 minute read.
Pope may reexamine Pius XII sainthood

rabbi david rosen 224.88. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Pope Benedict XVI may reconsider moving ahead with the beatification process that would prepare controversial Holocaust-era Pope Pius XII for declaration as a saint, Rabbi David Rosen, director of the American Jewish Committee's Department for Interreligious Affairs, told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview from Rome on Thursday. "In a meeting this morning at the Vatican, a member of our group, Seymour Reich of B'nei B'rith, asked Pope Benedict to postpone the Vatican's decision regarding Pius's beatification until all the relevant archival materials are examined," Rosen said. "The pope said in response that he would give the request serious consideration. He did not elaborate so we do not know for sure what the pope meant." The beatification process could be postponed five or six years if the pope decides to accept Reich's request. According to Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi it would take that long to catalogue some 16 million documents from an archive holding materials relevant to Pius's papacy during the Holocaust. Currently, the archives can be consulted only up through the papacy of Pius XII's predecessor, Pius XI, which ended in February 1939, several months before World War II began in Europe. Some Jewish leaders and historians say Pius XII didn't speak out enough during World War II to save Jews during Germany's extermination campaign. Before becoming pope Pius XII - Eugenio Pacelli - served as the papal secretary of state. Some scholars who have examined archive documents dealing with his diplomacy say Pacelli was sometimes an indecisive diplomat in the face of rising Nazism and Fascism. The Vatican says Benedict has been reflecting on documentation gathered by Church officials about Pius XII's virtues as part of the process toward possible beatification, the last formal step before consideration for sainthood. Benedict, marking the 50th anniversary of Pius's death, recently described him as a great pope who spared no effort to try to save Jews. Earlier this month, President Shimon Peres urged the Vatican not to allow a contentious reference to Pius XII stop Benedict from visiting the Holy Land, as threatened by a Church official. A caption accompanying a photograph at Yad Vashem says the wartime pope did not act to save Jews from the Nazi genocide. Benedict met on Thursday with Rosen and others from the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations. The pontiff called for "sincere dialogue" and called Church condemnation of all forms of anti-Semitism a "significant milestone." Neither Benedict nor Rosen mentioned the sainthood controversy in their speeches. Rosen said Jews were "profoundly grateful for all that the Holy See has said and done in recent times" to combat anti-Semitism and he expressed thanks for Christians who "saved many Jews" during the Holocaust. "We reiterate our respectful call for full and transparent access of scholars to all archival material from that period, so that assessments regarding actions and policies during this tragic period may have the credibility they deserve," Rosen said. Pope John Paul II made an official visit to Israel in 2000.

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