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Vatican hits back at Jewish Historians

The Vatican denounced what it called a "slanderous campaign" mounted against the Catholic Church over the Holocaust-era pope, Pius XII, accusing some Jewish historians on Tuesday of "clearly incorrect behaviour."

The Vatican was responding to the 23 July announcement that a panel of Jewish and Catholic historians investigating Pius' actions during the Holocaust had suspended work because the Vatican has not released all its archives from the World War II years.

The statement issued on Tuesday angered and surprised Jewish leaders, disrupting efforts to find some way to reconcile on an issue that has been a source of contention between the Vatican and Jews for more than 40 years.

Fr Peter Gumpel, a German Jesuit gathering documents to support the possible beatification of Pius XII, wrote the Vatican statement.

"In recent days a violent attack has again been unleashed against the Catholic church," the statement said. "The occasion for this slanderous campaign has been furnished by the decision of the Jewish-Catholic study group to suspend its activity."

Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, called the statement a "disgraceful slap in the face to Jews and Catholics who have worked for reconciliation and understanding."