Vatican boycotts Holocaust ceremony over "offensive" photo

Citing the failure of a Jerusalem museum to remove an "offensive" photo caption criticising Pius XII, the Holy See nuncio to Israel is refusing to take part in an annual diplomatic ceremony to commemorate the Shoah.

AsiaNews reports that the nuncio, Archbishop Antonio, announced his decision not to attend because museum authorities "are not even taking into account recent historical findings".

Earlier Ynet News had reported that the controversial photograph first appeared at the new Yad Vashem Museum in 2005.

In early 2006, the previous Vatican ambassador turned to the museum with the request that the caption be changed, the paper said.

In response, Yad Vashem said they would readily examine Pius XII's conduct during the Holocaust if the Vatican opened its World War II-era archives to the museum's research staff. The Vatican however did not open the archives, and thus the caption remained.

Commenting on Archbishop Franco's decision, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official said that "if the Vatican ambassador does not come to the ceremony, his absence will definitely stand out."

In response, Archbishop Franco told AsiaNews that noone is calling for history to be changed, but rather for a change in the interpretation of history.

"Already last year," Archbishop Franco said, "Nuncio Pietro Samba wrote to Museum executives calling attention to the caption, to this very negative judgement against Pius XII and asked that it be reviewed or removed.

"Historical studies and material were also subsequently brought to the Museum's attention. Nothing was done and given the imminent celebrations I wrote to the President of Yad Vashem's board of directors, the Mr Avner Shalev who had replied to us last year, specifying that it was an interpretation that was problematic for me - and not just for me, but for all Catholic believers - offensive to the Pope's dignity - and the Pope is Pope for us - so I did not feel at ease about going to this commemoration.

"My suggestion was for reconsidering the possibility, shall we say, that the caption be corrected or that the photo be removed. And it was clearly a communication, not a press conference; there was and there is no desire for controversy. They gave it to the press.

"Now, the reality is that that caption is an interpretation, not a historical truth," Archbishop Franco said.

Vatican delegate to shun Holocaust remembrance service (Ynet News, 12/4/07)
Nuncio in Israel: enough with false interpretations on Pius XII (AsiaNews, 12/4/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum
Pius XII (Wikipedia)
Pius XII (Vatican)

Pius XII an "enemy of Third Reich", documents show (CathNews, 4/4/07)
"Incredulity" at Israel cancellation of Vatican meeting (CathNews, 28/3/07)
Israel apologises over cancelled Vatican meeting (CathNews, 30/3/07)
KGB smear campaign against Pius XII exposed (CathNews, 30/1/07)
Vatican's secret archives now open to scholars (CathNews, 19/9/06)
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)

13 Apr 2007