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Skorka respects his friend’s struggle with this issue. But the rabbi is concerned about the possible canonization of Pope Pius as a saint of the Church. Pius, who led the Church from 1939 to 1958, has been the subject of a furious debate spanning decades regarding the actions he took — or failed to take — to save Jewish lives during World War II and oppose the Nazis’ campaign of mass extermination against Europe’s Jews. Individual Catholics and Jews are partisans on both sides of this debate.
In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI declared Pius XII to be “venerable,” the second of four steps on the path to sainthood. And an August 1 article in the National Catholic Register, citing an anonymous source in the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, reported that Pope Francis was considering invoking a procedure by which he could, on his own authority, leapfrog Pius XII over the other steps and make him a saint.
Skorka appears to be no fan of this prospect. “I cannot accept from Pius XII his silence during the Shoah,” he said.
In September, the Pope raised eyebrows among Conservative Catholics when he declared that the Church should move away from its single-minded emphasis on issues like gay marriage and abortion, and focus instead on spiritual healing through wider dialogue with both Church faithful and the rest of the word. It was a clear break with the approach taken by his immediate predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI and even his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
“Pope Francis, as far as I know him, will go ahead with what he considers he must do,” said Skorka. “He is a very traditional Catholic leader, but at the same time, what he does is try to maintain a dialogue, to build a bridge across to all Catholics, all the nations and all the peoples. The keyword in his ideology is dialogue.”
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