BY FFIEDDY GRAY
'DIE ISRAELI ambassador to the Holy See has called on the Vatican to stop the beatification process of Pius XII.
The request comes just days after the alleged discovery of a first-hand account of how Pius X11, so often condemned as anti-Semite, once told a Jewish German to be proud of his faith in front of a crowd of Nazi soldiers.
Ambassador Oded Ben-Hur said that Pius XII's Cause should not progress until the Vatican archives had been fully researched. "I am asking the Vatican to block the beatification process for Pius XII," he was reported to have said at a press launch for a new book, The Holy See and The Jewish Question.
Mr Ben-Hr added that the remarks reflected his own opinion, not the position of the Israeli government. However, Vatican officials and Catholic historians were nevertheless shocked by his outburst, which seems to run counter to historical analysis of the Church's relationship with Nazism.
Pius XII's reputation has long been marred by allegations that he failed to speak out against the Holocaust and was therefore complicit in Hitler's mass slaughter of Jews. But recent Findings have suggested that Pius XII in fact went to great lengths to help those fleeing the Holocaust.
Last week the Catholic magazine Inside the Vatican announced that one of its contributors, William Doino, had discovered, in Tel Aviv University, Israel, the testimony of a German Jew who went to the Vatican in 1941 to protest about the treatment of his co-religionists in Mussolini's Italy.
The papal chamber was full of other visitors, including a group of German soldiers, as it was common at that time for military delegations to visit the Pontiff. After listening to the young man, who has not been named, Pope Pius XII reportedly responded: "You have done well to come to me and tell me this. I have heard about it before. Come back tomorrow with a written report and give it to the Secretary of State who is dealing with the question. But now for you, my son, you are a young Jew. know what that means and I hope you will always be proud to be a Jew."
The Pope then reportedly raised his voice, so that everyone in the room could hear, and added: "My son, whether you are worthier than others only the Lord knows, but believe me, you are at least as worthy as every other human being that lives on our earth. And now, my Jewish friend, go with the protection of the Lord, and never forget, you must always be proud to be a Jew."
Mr Doino argued that the quotation was of considerable significance to Pius XII's cause. "It may well be the most explicit single testimony about Pius's personal feelings toward Jews that has ever been recorded," he said. "For Pius XII to make this statement to a German Jew, in 1941, in private, would have been remarkable enough. That he did it in public, with his voice raised so that 'everybody in the hall' could 'hear it clearly,' in front of German soldiers, as well as cardinals, bishops and other high dignitaries of the Vatican government, is more astonishing still. It doesn't merely reveal Pius XII's kindness and Christian compassion; he goes well beyond that and affirms the young man's Jewishness, the very core and dignity of his being."
In September. in an attempt to debunk widely held views that the Church failed to Oppose the evils of Nazism, the Vatican opened its archives from 1922-1939. Many of the files shed light on the career of Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who became Pius >al in 1939 after serving as apostolic nuncio to Germany and later as the Vatican Secretary of State.