Another Pius XII controversy as Vatican prepares commemoration
This November, the Vatican will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of wartime Pope Pius XII. There will be a photo exhibition and a conference on his teachings. That’s the official agenda. Although not be part of the program, there will also be controversy.
Vatican officials at a news conference presenting the initiatives appeared to be making a pre-emptive strike against what will most likely resurface during in November — the seemingly never-ending debate about about what Pius did or did not do, what he did or did not know about the Holocaust and whether he could have done more.
“Pius XII never failed to make his voice heard in a clear and explicit way in different circumstances, when needs called for it, and when there was precise information on facts and their consequences could be seen,” said Monsignor Rino Fisichella, rector of the Pontifical Lateran University.
“It is our hope that this solemn commemoration of such a great pope will offer impetus for more and deeper research without prejudice on his work,” Monsignor Walter Brandmüller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historic Sciences, said in his prepared speech.
Later, in a question and answer session, Brandmüller lost his cool just a bit and expressed irritation at questions about calls for more opening of the Vatican archives. He effectively said the archives of Jewish organisations such as the World Jewish Congress should be more open and used more, suggesting that scholars would find material supporting the Vatican’s view that Pius did as much as he could under the circumstances.
Addressing a separate issue, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the commemorations were in no way intended to promote efforts to beatify Pius, which would put him on the path to sainthood. “These two things are completely different,” he said.
Jewish groups were surprised by Brandmüller’s comments, saying their archives are and always were wide open. It’s unlikely this is the last we hear — from either side — on this issue.