Pope Benedict told Jewish leaders on Thursday that he was seriously considering freezing the sainthood process of his Nazi-era predecessor Pius XII until Vatican archives from the war years can be opened. At a meeting with Jewish leaders, one urged the pontiff not to go ahead with the beatification of Pius until the files were open for study by historians. “The pope said ‘I am looking into it, I am considering it seriously’,” Rabbi David Rosen, head of the delegation. told reporters.
The Vatican said another six or seven years of preparatory work would be needed before the wartime archives could be opened. Read Phil Pullella’s full story here.
It seems prudent for Benedict to put this off for several years, if not decades. The Vatican has taken hundreds of years before making other people saints. Hurrying up the honours for Pius XII can only antagonise Jews, especially if he is beatified before all the archives are opened. The debate about his stand during the Holocaust can be pursued with less heat and more light once Pius and his papacy move out of living memory and his archives have been opened and studied.
I suspect there is nothing in those archives that shows Pius being markedly more courageous than we’ve seen up to now, although there might well be evidence of hitherto unknown examples of discreet help to Jews in certain cases. What might be more problematic for the Vatican would be documents that critics could interpret negatively, even if his supporters would read them in a positive light.
Do you think Benedict should freeze the sainthood process for Pius? Would that take some heat out of this debate and let cooler heads prevail later on?