Pope defends World War II-era predecessor over Jews: book

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Pope Benedict XVI said his World War II-era predecessor Pius XII did more to save Jews from Nazi persecution than anybody but was unable to speak out as he wished, according to a book due out Tuesday.

"He did all he could to save people," said Benedict in a book of interviews in his native German obtained by AFP.

Benedict noted that Pius XII in 1938 prior to his reign as pope had written to all Catholic bishops urging them to intervene to support visa requests for Jews trying to leave Germany.

"Naturally, one can always ask: 'Why did he not protest more strongly?'. I believe he saw that the consequences could have been a public outcry," said the pope.

"He personally suffered enormously, we know this. He knew that he needed to speak and yet the situation prevented him," he said.

While Pius XII was pope, the Nazis rounded up more than 1,000 Roman Jews for deportation on October 16, 1943. Only a handful returned from the death camps.

An estimated six million Jews died in the Holocaust.

In December last year, Jews were up in arms when Benedict moved Pius XII a step closer to sainthood with a decree bestowing the title "venerable."

The Catholic Church has long argued that Pius XII, who was pope from 1939 to 1958, saved many Jews who were hidden away in religious institutions, and that his silence was born out of a wish to avoid aggravating their situation.

In 2008, the pope infuriated the Jewish community with a decision to lift the excommunication of a known Holocaust denier, English bishop Richard Williamson.

© 2010 AFP

1 Comment To This Article

  • Koldo posted:

    on 23rd November 2010, 21:18:22 - Reply

    I doubt very much of the famous number 6.0 million, perhaps you can help me to know where it came from. What I did know is that it was a soviet before the end of the war. If you want I can give you more information to publish it.
    On the other hand if the jewish community is furious against Bishop Williamson, is their business but I don't remember a supported answer to reply to him. The Bishop indeed is well informed, and did his homework. I feel sorry for the jews, while they slaughter Palestinians and Norman Finkelstein published how big business is the holocaust, or better the Holohoax.