A spokesman for Pope Benedict XVI announced over the weekend that the Catholic leader had stopped the beatification of Pope Pius XII, an issue that has heightened tensions between the
Pope Pius, who served during World War II, has been criticized by Jews the world over for his silence in the face of the Nazi genocide during the Holocaust.
Numerous Jewish groups as well as a leading Israeli rabbi expressed their opposition to recent steps toward beatification, which means making him a saint. Pope Benedict's spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi reacted and stated that the pope had decided to study the matter further.
The central umbrella organization for Jewish groups in
Jewish groups in
The charges were refuted by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who wrote in a pre-emptive full-page tribute to Pius XII published in the
Threat to Snub
Rev. Peter Gumpel, a Jesuit priest in charge of the beatification process, told the ANSA news agency on Saturday that the pope would not visit the State of Israel unless the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem removes a photo of Pius XII captioned with a note that he "abstained from signing the Allied declaration condemning the extermination of the Jews."
The threat set off a further storm of protest from Jewish groups, who stepped forward with public statements criticizing the
In an effort to contain the damage, Rev. Lombardi acknowledged the Vatican's displeasure over the plaque but said it was not the "determining factor" in a decision over whether the pope would accept an invitation from Jerusalem to visit the Jewish State.
Pope Benedict Taking Time to Consider Issues
According to the Catholic News Service, the Rev. Lombardi "told reporters not to expect the pope to go off and sign such a decree immediately after the mass. The pope was demonstrating his 'spiritual union' with those hoping for canonization, but gave no indication about future steps."
Rev. Gumpel was quoted in the same article as saying "The pope may have his good reasons, of course, for example the constant attack from some Jewish parties. The church wants to live in peace with the Jews."
The article noted, however, that from Pope Benedict's perspective, there is another issue to contend with as well: the fact that elevation of a saint should not be a cause of division or discontent.