Pope hopes Nazi-era predecessor moves toward sainthood

October 9, 2008

Pope Benedict at mass for Pius XII, 9 Oct 2008//Tony Gentile

In the latest step in the discussion about Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust, Pope Benedict has issued a ringing defence of his wartime predecessor and said he hoped his beatification “can proceed happily.” To critics who say Pius should have spoken out publicly against the Nazi slaughter of European Jews, Benedict said Pius’s “secret and silent way” was the right approach.

“Given the real situations of that complex moment in history, he realized that only in this manner could the worst be avoided and greatest number of Jews be saved,” the German-born pontiff said at a mass commemorating the 50th anniversary of Pius’s death.

Read Phil Pullella’s full story from Vatican City here.

While this “full court press” (as John Allen of the National Cathoilc Reporter calls it) may encourage those supporting the beatification and disappoint those — including many Jewish critics — who want the process stopped, Benedict left out a crucial element both sides wanted to know more about. He made no mention of when the benediction should go ahead. An institution that is two millennia old can put off some decisions for a long time, in this case maybe long enough for World War Two to fade out of living memory. But Benedict is not one to take the easy way out, so the omission of any deadline does not mean the issue has been put off indefinitely.

Cover page of Under His Very Windows, by Susan ZuccottiIn the meantime, others have joined the discussion. A U.S. Jewish group, the Anti-Defamation League, has renewed its call to open all Vatican archives on Pius. Sister Margherita Marchione, a noted Pius defender, has just presented her latest book about him in Rome.

The Sant’Egidio community, the Rome-based movement of “justice and peace” Catholic laypeople, will lead its annual silent march in memory of more than 1,000 Jews rounded up by the Nazis in Rome on October 16, 1943 and sent to Auschwitz. This round-up is part of the Pius XII controversy. Critics say the pope let it happen “under his very windows” while defenders say the deportations stopped within 24 hours because he complained to the Germans.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

This disgraceful and morally reprehensible campaign to make someone a saint who was nothing more than a Nazi appeaser – who probably supported the annihilation of the jews, is proof that their is nothing holy about the Pope.

Posted by TheTruthIs… | Report as abusive

I guess this has and will always be a polarizing issue. No one knows what was in Pius’ heart when he did, or didn’t do, what he did (or didn’t do). But I have a very particular take on the whole beatification issue, for anyone who might be interested.

Grace and Peace,
Raffi Shahinian
Parables of a Prodigal World

Posted by raffi shahinian | Report as abusive

This holy man has been villified enough. He was not in a very good situation to do much of anything.If he would have done anything against the nazis, they would have marched in and taken over the vatican states and he would have been their prisoner and not have been able to help anyone. Besides that he hid jews in his home and protected them.

Posted by sasha | Report as abusive

TheTruthIs – That was spoken like a true bigot. I noticed that you didn’t try to back up your claim with actual historical facts. I would like to repeat a couple of points that I have made before on this topic.

Pope Pius XII did more than any other religious leader of his day to help they Jews and I challenge anyone to show me a religious leader who did more (including Jewish leaders) during that time period. That is why the Grand Rabbi of Jerusalem Isaac Herzog chose to honor the Pontiff.

Now why didn’t he speak out more? Before the U.S. entered the war in 1942 over 3,000 priests and religious brothers (monks) and sisters (nuns) were already in death camps. The Pontiff knew the very lives of these people were in jeopardy if he had said anything. The U.S. deputy chief of counsel at the Nuremberg war trials, Dr. Robert M.W. Kempner, wrote, “Every propaganda move of the Catholic Church against Hitler’s Reich would have been not only ‘provoking suicide’. . . but would have hastened the execution of still more Jews and priests.”

Posted by D B | Report as abusive

its funny–the pope defends this mans “secret” way of saying nothing,and then the blog post here for today it states that the pope is calling on christians to speak out more on moral issues. God figure

Posted by nancy | Report as abusive