Page 1, 26th September 2008

26th September 2008
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Page 1, 26th September 2008 — Pope Benedict defends role of wartime pontiff

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Locations: Rome


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Pope Benedict defends role of wartime pontiff

• Pius XII 'spared no effort' in his attempts to save many Jewish lives, says Holy Father


POPE BENEDICT XVI has launched an impassioned defence of his predecessor Pius XII — in a move seen as a signal that the wartime pontiff is to be beatified.

At a conference last week Jewish scholars and rabbis from around the world said that the reputation of the wartime pope was much maligned and that he helped to save nearly a million Jewish lives.

Pius XII worked courageously, secretly and silently to save Jews targeted by the Nazis, Pope Benedict said, and their "criminal plan ... to eliminate them from the face of the earth".

"Wherever possible," he said, Pope Pius "spared no effort in intervening in their favour" and in providing organised assistance to the Jews either directly or through Catholic religious institutes.

The Holy Father was speaking at an international symposium to examine the papacy of Pius XII.

The conference was held at Castel Gandolfo. the Pope's residence south of Rome. and was attended by 80 people at the Pope's invitation. The event was organised by the American interfaith group, the Pave the Way Foundation. Among the participants were representatives from the Jewish world including rabbis and scholars from Europe, Israel and North America.

It was the first time a pope has defended Pius XII 's wartime record publicly. In May last year members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted unanimously to recommend that Pope Benedict formally declare Pope Pius Venerable, but Benedict XVI put the Cause on hold seven months later. He established a commission to study archive material about Pius's papacy and to examine how his beatification might affect CatholicJewish relations.

Jesuit Fr Peter Gumpel, a historian and investigating judge of Pius's Cause, was one of the panellists at the September symposium. He said he has "no doubt that sooner or later Pope Benedict is going to sign" the decree recognising Pope Pius as Venerable. He said the "real problem" is the controversy over Jews' perception of Pope Pius.

Addressing the seminar Pope Benedict said that "not all of the genuine facets" of Pope Pius's pontificate have been examined "in just light" in the 50 years since his death in October 1958.

Critics say Pius did not speak out against the Nazi genocide of the Jews. But Pope Benedict said many of Pope Pius's efforts to support the Jews were "made secretly and silently" because "in that difficult historical moment. only in this way was it possible to avoid the worst and save the greatest number of Jews".

Gary Krupp, the Jewish founder and president of the Pave the Way Foundation, told the Pope in his speech that "the Catholic Church under the pontificate of Pius XII was instrumental in saving the lives of as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands".

After the audience Mr Krupp said that Pope Benedict "was very appreciative" of the organisation's extensive research, which had suggested that the popular, negative image of Pius XII "is completely wrong".

He also presented the Pope with nine video testimonies from Holocaust survivors and other eyewitnesses to Vatican humanitarian efforts, and a 200page book of documentation compiled by the foundation and unveiled at the Rome symposium.

The organisers had invited several Jewish representatives who believed that Pius had done nothing to save Jews in order to persuade them otherwise. However, while many accepted the invitation, representatives from three major Jewish museums did not attend and even refused the offer of a live video feed.

They had wanted in particular to convince curators of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial that their picture display of Pope Pius was inaccurate. The caption of the pope at the Jerusalem museum states that he did nothing to condemn the Nazis and their mass murder of the Jews. Pius >ars behaviour Continued on page 2

Vatican Notebook: Page 4 Editorial comment: Page 11

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