Pope Francis Defends Pius XII on Charges He Turned Blind Eye to Holocaust

Pontiff Backs Opening Vatican Archives

By Reuters

Published June 13, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Pope Francis has strongly defended his wartime predecessor Pius XII against accusations he turned a blind eye to the Holocaust, saying the opening of Vatican archives will shed light on the controversy.

In an interview published on Friday in the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, Francis condemned anti-Semitism, saying it was a “continuing” problem that was more prevalent in right-wing parties in Europe, and called Holocaust denial “madness”.

He also repeated that he did not rule out resigning as pope like his predecessor Benedict XVI if he felt he could no longer rule the 1.2 billion member Roman Catholic Church, saying that he would ask God for guidance “when the time comes”.

In his most comprehensive remarks to date on the controversy surrounding Pius, Francis confirmed that he intended to open up the Vatican archives for the wartime period but he did not say when that would happen.

“They will shed a lot of light,” he said.

Some Jews have accused Pius, who ruled from 1939 to 1958, of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust. The controversy has put a strain on Catholic-Jewish relations for decades.

The Vatican says Pius worked behind the scenes to save thousands of Jews and did not speak out more forcefully for fear that his words could have led to more deaths of both Jews and Christians at the hands of the Nazis.

“I don’t want to say that Pius XII did not make any mistakes - I myself make many - but he has to be seen in the context of that era. For example, was it better for him not to speak out so that more Jews were not killed, or that he speak out?” he said.

Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, said that during the war his predecessor was seen as “a great defender of Jews”, and that his critics “have dumped all kinds of things on poor Pius XII”.

“EXISTENTIAL RASH”

He said Pius ordered the Church to hide many Jews in the convents of Rome and other Italian cities, that he sheltered Jews in the papal summer residence south of Rome and that 42 children of Jews and other refugees were born in his apartments there.

He said he sometimes “breaks out in an existential rash” when “everyone takes it out against the Church and Pius XII” and “forgets” the responsibility of the great wartime powers.

“Did you know that they knew perfectly the train network the Nazis used to take the Jews to concentration camps? They had photos. But they didn’t bomb the train tracks. Why? It would be good if we could talk a little about everything,” he said.

Last month Francis visited the Yad Vashem memorial to Holocaust victims in Jerusalem. The Yad Vashem’s website, addressing the issue of the allies activity during the war, says: “In practice, no military initiatives were taken to prevent or delay the extermination.”

Jewish groups have asked Francis and his predecessors to freeze the process that could lead to sainthood for Pius until the all the World War Two era archives are opened to historians, saying Catholic-Jewish relations could be harmed if the process moved ahead.

Speaking to reporters on the plane returning from Jerusalem last month, Francis said the sainthood cause for Pius was stalled because he had not been credited with performing a miracle, which Church rules require, suggesting it was not stalled because of any outside pressure.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • How did Tariq Abu Khdeir go from fun-loving Palestinian-American teen to international icon in just a few short weeks? http://jd.fo/d4kkV
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.