Canadian Jewish Congress wants Pius sainthood cause slowed down

  • January 14, 2010
{mosimage}Another step, however minor, toward canonizing Pope Pius XII has got Canadian Jews wondering, why now?

The Dec. 19 Vatican declaration of Pope Pius XII’s “heroic virtues” has prompted the Canadian Jewish Congress to remind Canadian bishops that many Jews still harbour doubts about the war-time pope’s record.

“We hope our ongoing concerns about Pius’s silence during the Holocaust will not be met with ongoing silence by Vatican authorities today. We reiterate our request for the secret archives to be fully opened,” said a Jan. 6 statement from the CJC.

“We don’t want this to be seen as confrontational, but I think it is fair to say that given the history of this issue, given the losses suffered by the Jewish people during the Holocaust, that we have — as my father used to say — the right to open a mouth,” CJC CEO Bernie Farber told The Catholic Register.

It’s not a matter of accusing Pope Pius XII of complicity with the Nazis, or even accusing the Vatican today of being insensitive, said historian and Holocaust scholar Michael Marrus. Rather, Jews are hoping the Vatican doesn’t proceed while the historical record is incomplete. However, Pope Benedict is satisfied with the evidence so far, stating Dec. 19 that Pius “spared no effort in intervening” on behalf of Jews, though in many cases “secretly and silently.”

“Historians still disagree very substantially,” said Marrus, who served on the Vatican-appointed joint Catholic-Jewish committee of scholars which examined 11 volumes of war-time Vatican records in 1999. “While saint-making is for Catholics and not for anyone else, we thought it would be wrong to ignore this obvious reality.”

The Vatican needs more time to go through the laborious and expensive process of cataloguing millions of documents from the Second World War before it can open those archives to scholars. According to Bishop Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican’s Secret Archives, millions of post-1939 wartime documents will be ready for review in four to five years.

That’s fine with Marrus, but Catholics should be aware canonizing Pope Pius before those records have been examined would damage Catholic-Jewish relations.

“No one should be under the illusion that this is going to be a step without consequences and very grave consequences,” he said.

Jewish concerns have been noted and are taken seriously, said Bede Hubbard, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops associate general secretary.

“There is commitment on all sides, and certainly in Canada as well, of Jews and Catholics continuing,” he said.

By taking a longer view, and a longer time to canonize Pius XII, the Vatican can avoid a controversy that has become bitterly polemicized on various sides, said Marrus.

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