By MATTHEW WAGNER
Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger said Tuesday that Pope Benedict XVI's decision to proceed with the beatification of Pius XII would make it difficult to continue with Catholic-Jewish interfaith dialogue.
Nevertheless, Metzger made it clear that the Chief Rabbinate would not cut off relations with the Vatican.
"It will be difficult to continue our dialogue with the Vatican because this move hurts our relationship," said Metzger.
"But from experience we have seen that maintaining contact with leaders of other religions is important. Nevertheless, we will express our dissatisfaction with this controversial decision.
"We have an ongoing dialogue with the Vatican. If we tell them that we were hurt by this decision I am sure they will understand," added the chief rabbi, who voiced hope that the final decision would be delayed until more information about Pius's role during the Holocaust can be ascertained.
"Time should be given to allow researchers to do a more a thorough investigation," Metzger said.
Vatican archives yet to be fully examined might shed more light on Pius, who served during World War II and the years following the war.
Critics say that Pius did not do enough to save Jews, gypsies and others who were persecuted during the Holocaust. Supporters, however, say that Pius was purposely quiet, so he could work behind the scenes to save Holocaust victims.
Metzger said that the Benedict's decision might strengthen Holocaust deniers.
"This is a man who may or may not have done enough during the Holocaust to save Jews," he said. "Elevating him to the status of blessed or saint before the controversy is cleared up might give credence to Holocaust deniers."
Benedict's decision comes ahead of a visit he plans to make to Rome's Jewish community.
Metzger said that consultations were held Tuesday regarding the visit. Holocaust experts such as Yad Vashem director Avner Shalev and diplomats such as Israel's ambassador to the Vatican considered, but eventually rejected, the possibility of canceling the meeting.
"In the end the decision was made not to cancel the pope's visit. But a clear message of protest will be made," he said.
Chief Rabbi of Rome Shmuel Riccardo di Segni, wrote in response, "Regarding the Church's decision on Pius XII we emphasize that we cannot in any way interfere with internal decisions of the Church and infringe on its freedom of religious expression.
"But at the same time if this is a final and unilateral decision regarding the actions of Pope Pius XII, we emphasize that we do not agree and we have a lot of criticism for the move."
Di Segni signed this statement together with Rome's Jewish Community President Riccardo Pacifici and Renzo Gattegna, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities.
"We must remember," wrote the three, "the expulsion of Italy's Jews and the death train that carried 1,021 Jews on the 16th of October, 1943, that made its way to Auschwitz while Pius XII remained silent.
"Still, the Jewish world continues to be grateful to Church individuals and institutions who endangered their own lives to save Jews."
Metzger voiced concern that once Pius was elevated to the status of saint he would be protected from criticism.
"There are thousands of missing Jews would were hidden during the war by Catholic families and almost nothing has been done to locate them. I am not saying all of these people will necessarily wish to return to their Jewish roots. But they should be given the chance to decide.
"If Pius is made into a saint it might make it more difficult to track down these Jews because it would mean that Pius's lack of cooperation in finding these Jews might be scrutinized."
On Saturday Benedict authorized the use of the title "venerable" to describe Pius, which is one step away from beatification.
To become beatified, or blessed, and therefore a person to whom the faithful can pray, a miracle must be attributed to the would-be saint.
A second miracle is needed for the beatified to become a saint.
Numerous Jewish organizations have voiced criticism for granting Pius this status, including the Anti-Defamation League and the World Jewish Congress.
var cont = `Stay Informed
As the war against Hamas unfolds, our unwavering newsroom remains committed to covering Israel's most profound crisis.
Sign up for our newsletter to get real-time news and in-depth analysis from our top reporters.