Jews tell pope of concern over moves to make Pius XII a saint

June 25, 2013

(Pope Pius XII, the wartime pontiff, appears in an undated file photo from the archives of Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano.  REUTERS/Osservatore Romano)

A Jewish leader expressed concern to Pope Francis on Monday over attempts to make a saint of World War Two-era Pope Pius XII, who has been accused of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust.

Francis made no mention of his wartime predecessor during his talks with members of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), but the pontiff repeated the Roman Catholic Church’s condemnation of anti-Semitism.

“The Jewish community continues to be concerned about efforts to canonize Pope Pius XII while innumerable documents pertaining to the history of the Church and the Jewish people during the dark years of the Holocaust still remain closed to outside scholarly investigation,” IJCIC chairman Lawrence Schiffman told the pope.

The issue of whether the Vatican and the Church under Pius did all they could to help Jews has dogged Catholic-Jewish relations for decades. Pius became pontiff in 1939, the year World War Two broke out, and reigned until 1958.

Critics accuse Pius of failing to take action to stop the Holocaust but his supporters say he worked actively behind the scenes to encourage the Church to save Jews. They say speaking out more forcefully would have worsened the situation for all.

Jews have asked that the process, still in its early stages, that could eventually make Pius a saint be frozen until after all the Vatican’s wartime archives have been opened and studied by scholars. The bulk is expected to be released next year.

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One comment

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The historical validity of the “common roots” argument asymptotically approaches 0. Don’t Protestants and Catholics have even greater “common roots”? How much time have they spent trying to annihilate each other? Aren’t a sizable chunk of them still out for each other’s blood?

I appreciate the Church’s efforts to move (back) towards a non-hateful approach to Christianity. Yes, that is much truer to the spirit of the Gospels. But, unless you want to start decanonizing every saint who thought sending a restless mob off to kill some infidels was sound policy, anti-Semitism isn’t really a valid argument against sainthood. It’s the future that the Church should focus on in its efforts to reach out to those with common religious roots. If it wants to look back, it should be to Jesus.

Trying to wash the blood off the hands of every saint is a lost cause. See Saint Louis IX: “A Christian should argue with a blasphemer only by running his sword through his bowels as far as it will go.” Lest you think this is just a metaphor, Saint Louis made sure to back that statement with a bloody Crusade or two.

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