- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 20, 2009

VATICAN CITY | Pope Benedict XVI moved two of his predecessors closer to possible sainthood on Saturday, signing decrees on the virtues of the beloved Pope John Paul II and controversial Pope Pius XII, who has been criticized for not doing enough to stop the Holocaust.

The decrees mean that both men can be beatified once the Vatican certifies that a miracle attributed to their intercession has occurred. Beatification is the first major step before possible sainthood.

Some Jews and historians have argued Pius should have done more to prevent the deaths of 6 million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators. As a result, the German-born Benedict’s surprise decision to recognize Pius’ “heroic virtues” sparked immediate outcry from Jewish groups.

The Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee said the move was premature, given that the Vatican still hasn’t opened up to outside historians its secret archives from Pius’ 1939-1958 pontificate. The Vatican says the 16 million files won’t be ready until 2014 at the earliest.

“While it is obviously up to the Vatican to determine who its saints are, the church’s repeated insistence that it seeks mutually respectful ties with the Jewish community ought to mean taking our sensitivities into account on this most crucial historical era,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee.

Abraham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor and the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, said he was disappointed that the pope had taken the action while the historical jury is still out on Pius’ record.

“I can’t understand the rush, especially while there are still survivors who are alive who feel the issue very, very deeply and are being told the files need time to be processed. What’s the imperative?” Mr. Foxman said.

The Vatican insists Pius used quiet diplomacy to try to save the Jews.

Pius, a Vatican diplomat in Germany and the Vatican’s secretary of state before being elected pope, did denounce in general terms the extermination of people based on race and opened Vatican City up to war refugees, including Jews, after Hitler occupied Rome in 1943.

But he didn’t issue scathing public indictments of Jewish deportations, and some historians say he cared more about securing a concordat with Nazi Germany than saving Jewish lives.

In contrast to Pius, John Paul II is greatly admired by Jews. During his 27-year pontificate he forged diplomatic ties with Israel; prayed at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site; and was the first pope in history to visit a synagogue.

No dates for the beatification ceremonies were announced, but Italian and Polish media widely reported that John Paul could be beatified as early as October.

Benedict put John Paul on the fast-track for possible sainthood just weeks after his April 2, 2005, death, heeding the calls of “Santo Subito!” or “Sainthood Immediately!” that erupted in St. Peter’s Square during the funeral of the much-loved pontiff.

Benedict waived the customary five-year waiting period and allowed the investigation into John Paul’s life and virtues to begin immediately.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide