Jewish leaders reacted with dismay Sunday to comments in Pope Benedict’s new book that his wartime predecessor Pius was a “great, righteous” man who “saved more Jews than anyone else.”
Many Jews accuse Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, of having turned a blind eye to the Holocaust. The Vatican says he worked quietly behind the scenes because speaking out would have prompted Nazi reprisals against Catholics and Jews in Europe.
In his book to be published Tuesday, called “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times,” the German pope says Pius did what he could and did not protest more clearly because he feared the consequences. (Photo: Undated photo of Pope Pius XII from the archives of the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano)
In the book-length interview with a German journalist, the pope says of Pius: “The decisive thing is what he did and what he tried to do, and on that score we really must acknowledge, I believe, that he was one of the great righteous men and that he saved more Jews than anyone else.”
“Pope Benedict’s comments fill us with pain and sadness and cast a menacing shadow on Vatican-Jewish relations,” said Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants.