FaithWorld

Criticised Israeli ambassador backtracks on rare praise of Pope Pius XII

June 26, 2011

(Photo exhibit critical of Pius XII at at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, 15 April 2007/Yonathan Weitzman)

The comments made last Thursday by Mordechay Lewy, the Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, were some of the warmest ever made by a Jewish official about Pius. Most have been very critical of his record.

In an indication of how sensitive the subject of Pius is among Jews, Lewy was quickly assailed by some Jewish groups, including Holocaust survivors. In a statement issued in what appeared to be an attempt to calm the dispute within the world Jewish community, Lewy said his comments were “embedded in a larger historical context”.

“Given the fact that this context is still under the subject of ongoing and future research, passing my personal historical judgment on it was premature,” Lewy said.

The question of what Pius did or did not do to help Jews has tormented Catholic-Jewish relations for decades and it is very rare for a leading Jewish or Israeli official to praise Pius. Many Jews accuse Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust. The Vatican says he worked quietly behind the scenes because speaking out would have led to Nazi reprisals against Catholics and Jews in Europe.

Lewy, speaking at a ceremony to honour an Italian priest who helped Jews, had said Catholic convents and monasteries opened their doors to save Jews in the days following a Nazi sweep of Rome’s Ghetto on Oct. 16, 1943. In his speech on Thursday night, Lewy said: “There is reason to believe that this happened under the supervision of the highest Vatican officials, who were informed about what was going on.”

“So it would be a mistake to say that the Catholic Church, the Vatican and the pope himself opposed actions to save the Jews. To the contrary, the opposite is true,” he said.

Elan Steinberg, vice-president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, called Lewy’s comments unsustainable. “For any ambassador to make such specious comments is morally wrong. For the Israeli envoy to do so is particularly hurtful to Holocaust survivors who suffered grievously because of Pius’s silence,” Steinberg said in a statement. He said Lewy had “disgracefully conflated the praiseworthy actions of elements in the Catholic Church to rescue Jews with the glaring failure of Pope Pius to do so”.

When Pope Benedict visited Rome’s synagogue last year, the president of the capital’s Jewish community told him that Pius’ “silence before the Holocaust” still hurt Jews because more should have been done. Many Jews responded angrily last year when the pope said in a book that Pius was “one of the great righteous men and that he saved more Jews than anyone else”.

Jews have asked that a process that could lead to Pius becoming a saint in the Roman Catholic Church be frozen until all the Vatican archives from the period have been opened and studied.

.

Follow FaithWorld on Twitter at RTRFaithWorld

rss buttonSubscribe to all posts via RSS

Comments
2 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

but he didnt praise him

he objectively said that jews were saved by the church and by clergy, and there is some chance that pius knew about it. he also said that pius was silent on the holocaust.
all this is a moot point. it cant be proven one way or the other – possibly not even after the vatican releases the records (after possibly burning what shouldnt be there).
what is on record is his blatant antisemitism and his almost fascist objection to the state of israel.
and lewy has gone on record on this account as well (drawing much more heated reactions from the vatican than what he’s received from the jews on this latest comment).

Posted by oferdesade | Report as abusive
 

ambassador lewy did not praise the pope!
he objectivel­y said that jews were saved by the church and by clergy, and there is some chance that pius 12 knew about this. all this is a moot point. it cant be proven one way or the other – possibly not even after the vatican releases whatever records it sees fit to release.
Lewy has time and again also said that pius was silent on the holocaust. he remained silent even though american diplomats pleaded with him to speak up. (the response was that the nazis may make it worse for the jews. worse! get it. how much worse i dunno)
for this silence his being beatified may raise questions, but none that can be addressed by the State of Israel, for which beatificat­ion is an internal vatican matter. the catholic church can define as a saint whomever they wish, and certainly worse people than pius12 have achieved this questionab­le status. if the church wishes to demean the term, so be it. latin is their language and they can use it as they wish.
Favorite (0) Flag as Abusive oferdesade: ambassador lewy did not praise the pope! he objectively said
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/ofe rdesade/israeli-ambassador-praise_n_8843 22_94331455.html
History | Edit | Permalink | Share it
HUFFPOST SUPER USER
oferdesade 19 Fans
0 minute ago (4:04 AM) This comment is pending approval and won’t be displayed until it is approved.

what IS on record and IS a problem is Pius’ blatant antisemiti­sm and his almost fascist objection to the state of israel. and lewy – as the editor of the JTA well knows – has gone on record on this account as well (drawing much more heated reactions from the vatican than what he’s received from the jews on this latest comment).
he referred to the jewish state as a communist virus (now there are those calling it a theocracy.­.. sigh); the first time he mentioned the term “concentra­tion camp” was in reference to palestinia­ns (justified or not, one has to admit that concentrat­ion camps DID exist before the zionist state used them to round up and gas all those millions of palestinia­ns to death). one can go on and on. the long and the short of it is that he was a product of that world in which the jews were to be eternally damned for killing christ, never to achieve statehood, to be the dregs of humanity for their religion..­. shame this kind of attitude still exists, but what can you do

Posted by oferdesade | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

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/