Vatican defends wartime pope’s beatification

December 24th, 2009 - 1:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Vatican City, Dec 24 (IANS/AKI) The Vatican has defended its moves towards making Pope Pius XII a saint saying that they reflected the controversial wartime pontiff’s piety, not his “historical impact”.
Responding to widespread Jewish criticism over the moves, the Vatican Wednesday said Pius XII would not be beatified at the same time as Pope John Paul II.

The title of ‘venerable’ bestowed on Pius XII last Saturday by Pope Benedict XVI did not drive from Pius’s “operative decisions” but his deep piety and “witness of Christian life”, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

Becoming ‘venerable’ is a necessary step towards beatification and eventual sainthood in the Catholic Church, and Benedict’s decree drew widespread criticism from Jewish bodies.

Pius XII, who was pope from 1939 to 1958, has been criticised by historians for his silence in the face of the World War II Nazi Holocaust in which six million Jews perished.

Critics accuse Pius XII of not having done enough to save Jews during the Holocaust, and they have called for the opening of the Vatican’s secret archives to clarify the issue.

Lombardi said it was “widely recognised” that the wartime pontiff had expressed “attention’ and “concern” for the fate of the Jews.

But he said the fact Pius XII and John Paul II had been made venerable on the same day “gave no reason to imagine that any future beatification will take place together”.

Lombardi’s comments were welcomed by Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Segni.

“I consider the statement a timely, conciliatory signal,” he said.

Benedict is due to pay a visit to Rome’s main synagogue Jan 17.

Lombardi said he hoped that visit would be “an opportunity for the cordial reiteration and reinforcement of ties of friendship and respect”.

–IANS/AKI

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