Museum caption on war time pope sparks rift
13 April 2007, Rome (dpa) - Traditionally frail relations between Israel and the Vatican took a strain on Friday after the Holy See's ambassador to Jerusalem threatened not to attend the annual remembrance of the Holocaust at the local Yad Vashem museum. In a letter addressed to officials at the Holocaust History Museum ahead of Sunday's event, Monsignor Antonio Franco said he had taken his decision in protest at a caption at the museum suggesting Pope Pius XII did not do enough to stop the massacre of mil
13 April 2007
Rome (dpa) - Traditionally frail relations between Israel and the Vatican took a strain on Friday after the Holy See's ambassador to Jerusalem threatened not to attend the annual remembrance of the Holocaust at the local Yad Vashem museum.
In a letter addressed to officials at the Holocaust History Museum ahead of Sunday's event, Monsignor Antonio Franco said he had taken his decision in protest at a caption at the museum suggesting Pope Pius XII did not do enough to stop the massacre of millions of Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II.
"It hurts me to go to the museum and see Pius represented in this way," Franco was quoted as saying in the Italian media.
In a statement, Yad Vashem officials said they were "shocked" by the decision.
"Yad Vashem is shocked by, and regrets, that the Vatican's delegate to Israel has chosen not to respect the memory of the Holocaust and not to participate in the official ceremony in which the State of Israel and the Jewish people join in memory of the victims," said a museum spokeswoman, Iris Rosenberg.
Franco says his decision was "a personal one" and the Vatican has not made any official comment. But papal experts noted Friday that the delegate's initiative had been quietly endorsed by Church authorities in Rome.
The caption at the centre of the dispute states that Pius XII's role during the Holocaust is "a matter of controversy".
"When he was elected pope, in 1939, he shelved a letter against racism and anti-Semitism that his predecessor had prepared. Even when reports about the murder of Jews reached the Vatican, the pope did not protest either verbally or in writing. In December 1942, he abstained from signing the Allied declaration condemning the extermination of the Jews. When Jews were deported from Rome to Auschwitz, the pope did not intervene," the caption states.
According to Luigi Accattoli of Corriere della Sera, the Holy See is still waiting for a clear-cut reply to a "formal complaint" about the caption issued by Franco's predecessor, Pietro Sambi.
Yad Vashem officials in turn argue that they are ready to re- examine the situation, but only if the Vatican allows researchers full access to its World War II archives, "so that they can possibly learn new and different information to that which is known today".
The role of Pius XII, whose beatification cause has been placed on a back burner in recent years, continues to divide historians.
Matteo Luigi Napolitano, author of a book called "The Pope who Saved the Jews", argues that Pius' criticisms towards Nazism and his role in helping save Jews by instructing nuns to hide them in Catholic convents is "well documented".
Others, like Giovanni Miccoli, argue that Pius was too concerned by Communist Russia and the safety of Germany's Catholic priests to risk breaking relations with the Nazis.
Diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel, established as recently as 1994, received a boost during a 2000 visit to Jerusalem by the late Pope John Paul II but have been strained by a number of issues, including plans to tax Church properties in Israel.
Quoted Friday by the Adnkronos news agency, Monsignor Pasquale Jacobone of the Pontifical Council for Culture said Vatican diplomacy was "traditionally careful about relations with Israel" and suggested Israeli "hostility" towards Pope Pius XII might be the result of a superficial approach to events.
A former nuncio (ambassador) to Germany and a Vatican secretary of state, Pope Pius XII headed the Church from 1939 until his death, in 1958.
Subject: German news