Vatican rejects rabbi’s criticism of Pius XII’s Holocaust record

October 8, 2008

L’Osservatore Romano, 9 Oct 2008, with editorial in far left columnThe Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano has lost no time in rejecting the criticism of Pope Pius XII’s Holocaust record made by Shear-Yashuv Cohen, the Haifa Chief Rabbi who addressed a synod of bishops on Tuesday. Editor-in-chief Gian Maria Vian wrote a front-page editorial today saying charges that he turned a blind eye to the Nazi massacre of European Jews was a “black legend” not backed up by history.

“He confronted the wartime tragedy like no leader of his time did. Even when faced with the monstrous persecution of the Jews [he worked] in a suffered silence which is understandable and whose aim was an efficient endeavor of charity and undeniable help,” Vian wrote in the editorial “In memoria di Pio XII” (In Memory Of Pius XII).

Vian said Pius had been unfairly accused of being insensitive to the Holocaust and even pro-Nazi. He has also been unfairly contrasted with his successor, the popular Pope John XXIII. The Church had the duty, he said, to uphold the memory of Pius XII and his service to it. Read the whole news story here.

Vian’s defence of the wartime pope came after a biographer of Pius, Vatican expert Andrea Tornielli, rapped Cohen for his “totally inappropriate” comments. Is all this a drumroll for an announcement by Pope Benedict during the mass in Pius’s memory on Thursday?

UPDATE: Rabbi Brad Hirschfield at Beliefnet is calling this mass Benedict’s “Yom Kippur Mass” because it comes just before the Jewish holy day. He also gives it an interesting  and positive theological interpretation based on Yom Kippur — “On a day which celebrates that we can stand before God and get a second chance, no matter what we have done, Catholics and Jews have the opportunity to engage in a more honest dialogue than ever before …”

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