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Vatican explains Pius XII move

'Won't be beatified with John Paul'

23 December, 20:29
Vatican explains Pius XII move

(ANSA) - Vatican City, December 23 - The Vatican on Wednesday tried to mend fences with Jews irked by Saturday's move towards sainthood of a wartime pope accused by some of not speaking out against the Holocaust.

WWII pope Pius XII would not be beatified along with John Paul II, the other pope whose 'heroic virtues' were recognised Saturday, putting them two steps away from sainthood, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

"There is no reason to forecast a dual beatification," said Lombardi in an implicit reply to critics surprised at the still-controversial Pius apparently being yoked together with the widely popular John Paul.

Pope Benedict XVI's decision to sign Saturday's decree was not to be seen as a hostile act towards Jews, the statement said.

The statement voiced the hope that Pius's progress towards sainthood "will not be considered an obstacle on the path of dialogue between Judaism and the Catholic Church". The Vatican explained the concept of the "heroic virtues" for which Pius was declared 'venerable', putting him two steps from sainthood.

The virtues, it stressed, concerned "his relationship with God and his Faith".

The recognition of these qualities did not therefore constitute "an assessment of the political scope of all his operational choices".

Detractors claim Pius XII didn't do enough to save Jews, particularly via a public anathema, but his supporters say he did not speak out loudly so he could help Jews behind the scenes, which he did.

Saturday's move caused friction with Jews in Italy and abroad and cast some doubt on Benedict's planned visit to the Rome Synagogue on January 17, the second since John Paul made the first-ever papal visit in 1986.

On Wednesday the Grand Rabbinate of Israel said it would be sending a delegation if the visit goes ahead.

However, it reiterated criticism of the "timing" of the Pius move, repeating a longstanding Jewish demand that his cause should advance once the Vatican opens its wartime archives to shed full light on his pontificate.

The Vatican has repeatedly stated that there is so much material on that period that it cannot be expected to open the secret files before 2015 at the earliest.

Wednesday's statement was seen as a response to a call from the The World Jewish Council for "greater sensitivity" on the issue, which the Grand Rabbinate reaffirmed was "a very painful and burning question for so many Jews".

A meeting of Rome's Jewish community on Wednesday evening will discuss the Synagogue visit.

In light of the pains the Vatican has taken to explain its move, it is now expected to greenlight the visit.


Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has said moves to make Pius a saint were the Vatican's business.

''The representation of Pius XII as indifferent towards the victims of the Nazis...or even as 'Hitler's Pope' (the title of a bestselling book) is outrageous and historically unsustainable,'' Bertone told a conference marking the 50th anniversary of Pius's death last year.

Bertone said the polemics - revived last October when a Jewish minister called the plans to beatify Pius ''unacceptable'' - were ''biased and ever less comprehensible''.

Pius was the victim of ''a defamatory legend,'' Bertone said, reiterating a view expressed by Pius's supporters.

Benedict praised Pius at an anniversary Mass in October 2008.

He reiterated that Pius saved the ''largest possible number of Jews'' by acting in silence to ''avert the worst''.

He told the mass that Pius's action had been recognised after the war by Jewish leaders including Golda Meir.

In order to be beatified, the two popes now need the certification of a miracle that happened to someone who prayed to them.

To be canonised and join the ranks of the saints, a second one would then be required.

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