Pius XII beatification on track, says Kasper

Cardinal Walter Kasper has defended the role of Pope Pius XII during World War II but a Jewish expert has called for further argument and debate before any eventual beatification.

The Holy See has stepped up its campaign to rehabilitate the memory of war time pontiff Pope Pius XII - before he is moved further down the track to sainthood and is beatified by the Church, according to a report in The Universe.

Pius XII, who denounced the extermination without citing the Jews or Nazis, had to "strike a balance in such a dramatic situation" according to Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Vatican Office for Religious Dialogue with Jews, who spoke at a conference about him at the pontifical Lateran University.

"I think that means he thought stronger words would have had very negative consequences," the Cardinal said.

The controversial Pontiff "silently helped countless victims of persecution," Cardinal Kasper said, revealing that Pius's path to beatification - a halfway house on the way to sainthood - was "proceeding according to the rules and in a very well-pondered way."

"Right here in Rome, for instance, many Catholics, Jews and even atheists found refuge in convents and other church buildings," he added. "It is unthinkable that it all happened without the Pope's knowledge. It is unfair to judge Pius by today's standards."

There is concern however that the memory of Pius XII has only been rehabilitated in some limited scholarly circles.

"In the last 10 years we have become more knowledgeable about Pius XII and a great deal of positive and heartening information has emerged," said Rev Jonathan Gorsky, of the Council of Christians and Jews.

"The problem is that this is still not widely known in the Jewish community and by the general public.

Rev Gorsky called for further argument and debate before any eventual beatification.

"I think that at the moment, many Jews would construe a beatification in a way that the Vatican and the Catholic Church certainly do not intend," he added.

It would be very important to encourage Catholics to communicate with Jewish leaders about this before, rather than after, it takes place to make known the reasoning and the understanding behind it," he said.

Campaign for the Sainthood of Pius XII Hots Up (The Universe 26/7/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
The Spiritual Bond Between Jew and Christian, A Jewish Perspective (Pastoral Review, January 1997)
Pius XII and the Holocaust (PDF)

Vatican to release Pius XI's secret archives (CathNews 3/7/06)
Hitler plot to kidnap Pius XII revealed (CathNews 17/1/05)
Catholics join latest debate on Pope Pius XII (CathNews, 7/1/05)
Lutherans on board for Pius XII smear reversal (CathNews 4/4/03)
Pius XII's secret efforts on behalf of Jews (CathNews 5/8/02)

27 Jul 2006