I commend the Vatican for moving Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius XII a step closer to sainthood (“John Paul II, Pius closer to sainthood,” World, Dec. 20). John Paul II, a man of deep faith, will one day be canonized a saint by the Catholic Church. The Holy Father was an inspiration and model witness to the life of Christ - a Shepherd of Truth immersed in profound humility and immense love for both God and man.
His many writings and worldwide pilgrimages of faith were a source of strength, encouragement, confidence, optimism and enlightenment - not only to Catholics but to all men of good will.
A champion of the poor and ardent exponent of Christian unity, the Polish pontiff was - in such capacities as teaching, governing and sanctifying - both a beacon of light and salt of the Earth.
In addition to his historic role in the fall of communism, John Paul II was the world’s most influential and uncompromising defender of the dignity of human life. His tenacious pleas for the development of a “culture of life” and parallel denunciations of the “culture of death” have been instrumental in rallying opposition to violence, sexual depravity, abortion, euthanasia and embryonic-tissue research. I pray for his well-deserved heavenly reward that is promised by the giver of every gift to his good and faithful servants.
Pius XII also possessed heroic virtue. Despite efforts to cast a dark shadow over his good character, he and the Catholic Church saved more Jews in Europe during the Second World War than any other party, save only the Allied forces themselves. He often acted surreptitiously because, in light of the practical circumstances at that time, he knew this was the only way he could save the greatest possible number of Jews.
In 1946, Isaac Herzog, chief rabbi of Jerusalem, wrote a letter to Pius XII thanking him for helping Jews during the Holocaust and for “sheltering thousands of children, who were hidden in Catholic institutions.” Herzog further stated: “God willing, may history remember that when everything was dark for our people, His Holiness lit a light of hope for them.”
Gary Krupp of the Pave the Way Foundation estimates that Pius XII and the Roman Catholic Church saved the lives of 850,000 Jews, as well as others who were persecuted by the Nazis, during the Second World War.
Pius XII promoted intense charitable work on behalf of the persecuted, without distinction of religion, race, nationality or political affiliation. Relatives and other witnesses have attested to the fact that he voluntarily deprived himself of food, heating, clothes and other comforts in order to share the condition of the people, so harshly tried by the sufferings of war.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada