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Vatican changes tack on boycott of Holocaust remembrance

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  • Vatican changes tack on boycott of Holocaust remembrance

    · Shock as envoy rejects invite to Jerusalem service

    · Row grows over reference to pope's wartime role

    The Vatican ambassador to Israel has sparked a row after refusing to attend tomorrow's annual Holocaust memorial service in Jerusalem in protest at a description of the wartime role of Pope Pius XII.

    Monsignor Antonio Franco, who arrived in Jerusalem last year, has called on Israel's official Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, to change a picture caption that criticises the pontiff for failing to condemn the deportation and mass killing of Jews under the Nazis. Earlier this month he turned down a formal invitation to Sunday's torch-lighting remembrance ceremony.

    The museum said it was "shocked" at Msgr Franco's decision and called on the Vatican to open its archives for examination of the troubled history of Pius XII.

    The dispute revolves around a paragraph-long caption of Pius XII installed when the newly designed museum was opened in 2005. A letter of complaint was also sent by the previous Vatican ambassador a year ago.

    The text notes that Pius XII's reaction to the Holocaust is controversial and states: "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." The description also says Pius XII chose not to sign a December 1942 Allied declaration condemning the extermination of Jews and did not intervene when Jews were deported from Rome to Auschwitz.

    Pius XII has long been regarded as one of the most controversial popes. In the past critics have dismissed him as "Hitler's pope" for failing to speak out against the Holocaust and suggested his silence was aimed at averting a communist takeover in Europe. Others, though, have argued he was trying to defend a Catholic minority in Germany from the Nazis and should be fast-tracked for canonisation.

    Msgr Franco, an Italian who has been a Vatican diplomat for 35 years, accepted there was debate and disagreement about the part played by the pope during the second world war but he opposed the wording of the text at Yad Vashem. "I consider this picture in that place and the caption that accompanies it unfair and something that disturbs my feelings and the feelings of Catholics all over the world. It does not correspond to the truth," he told the Guardian yesterday.

    "My approach is not polemic," he said. "It is an approach of dialogue and research and discussion and to see if perhaps it could be presented in another way."

    Msgr Franco, 70, defended Pius XII's silence over the Holocaust. "It was not really silence, it was a policy taken to avoid worsening the situation," he said. "When there were public statements and declarations there would be a huge number of people who were simply eliminated. Repression was the response to any kind of public position taken."

    Yad Vashem stood by its text, although it said yesterday it was "prepared to continue examining the issue". It also called on the Vatican to open up its archives of documents relating to Pius XII.

    "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," Iris Rosenberg, a spokeswoman for the museum, said in a statement.

    "The Holocaust history museum presents the historical truth on Pope Pius XII as is known to scholars today. It is unacceptable to use diplomatic pressure when dealing with historical research."

    Relations between Israel and the Vatican have been fraught for years. Full diplomatic ties were only established in 1993 and there have been continuing disagreements over the taxing of church property in and around Jerusalem.

    Last month Israeli government officials postponed at the last minute a trip to the Vatican for what would have been the first fully attended meeting of a joint commission on church-state issues for five years.


    Pius XII was pope from 1939 until his death in 1958 and perhaps the most controversial leader of the Catholic church in its modern history. A caption in a display at the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem, criticises the pope's failure to condemn the killings of Jews under the Nazis. Although he has been criticised as 'Hitler's pope' some defenders of Pius XII are lobbying for him to be made a saint. The row over the church's role in the second world war has soured relations between the Vatican and Israel. Four months after inauguration Benedict XVI visited a synagogue in Cologne, condemned the Holocaust and called for better relations.

  • #2

    Holocaust memorial day, or Yom HaShoah, is observed on Sunday, April 15

    April 14, 2007 -- Calling the decision by the Vatican ambassador to Israel to boycott the Holocaust memorial services at Yad Vashem "inappropriate and insulting," the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today repeated its longstanding call for the Vatican to open its wartime archives so that the facts concerning the wartime actions of Pope Pius XII may finally be brought to light.

    Archbishop Antonio Franco, the Vatican's ambassador to Israel, has made the unprecedented announcement that he will boycott the April 16 memorial events at Yad Vashem, Israel's national memorial to the Holocaust, in protest of a photo caption in an exhibit that seemingly charges Pope Pius XII with failing to save Jews during the Holocaust.

    The bitter public dispute which ensued following Franco's statement last week threatened to upset the fragile relations between the Catholic Church and Israel, as the Vatican presses ahead with longstanding plans to make Pius a saint.

    "I will attend any ceremony on the victims of World War II, but I do not feel at ease at Yad Vashem when the pope is presented in this way," Monsignor Antonio Franco said in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post. Therefore, if nothing was done to change the caption, he added, he would "not feel comfortable" coming to the ceremony.

    Yad Vashem issued a statement which voiced its "shock and disappointment" that the Vatican's delegate to Israel has chosen not to respect the memory of the Holocaust by refusing to participate in the official ceremony in which the State of Israel and the Jewish people join in memory of the victims, saying that the move contradicts the pope's statement during his visit to Yad Vashem regarding the importance of remembering the Holocaust and its victims.

    "While we understand Archbishop Franco's displeasure about the photo caption, his decision to boycott the entire Holocaust Memorial Day ceremonies is unnecessarily insulting and unbecoming," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor. "The photo caption may be inappropriate and too judgmental, but it does not justify the Vatican's refusal to participate in Israel's national observation of Holocaust Memorial Day."

    Mr. Foxman said the episode served as yet another reminder of the need for the Vatican to declassify all archival materials covering the period of the rise of the Third Reich in Germany and World War II, "so that legitimate independent scholars and historians can study and analyze them and help us to finally learn the facts concerning Pope Pius XIII and his actions vis-à-vis Jews during the Holocaust.

    "Without the public release and analysis of the Vatican's wartime archives, the questions about Pope Pius XII will remain unresolved," said Mr. Foxman. "These records have special significance for Holocaust survivors and their families. We strongly urge the Vatican to make public access to the archives their highest priority."


    • #3

      A photograph of Pope Pius XII at the Yad Vashem museum

      Israel 'shocked' as Vatican boycotts Holocaust memorial service


      • #4
        The Papacy under Attack

        In recent years there have been a series of books that have dealt both directly and indirectly with the accusation that Pope Pius XII bore responsibility for the Holocaust in World War II. Beginning with John Cornwell’s “Hitler’s Pope,”1 through Garry Wills’ “Papal Sin”2 and concluding – at least at this point in time – with James Carroll’s “Constantine’s Sword,”3 all three books managed a short life on the New York Times’ bestsellers list. The books have been influential in continuing the propaganda campaign that Pope Pius XII was a silent witness to the Holocaust who did virtually nothing to help the Jews. The charge is made that Pius refused to condemn Nazi atrocities because he wanted to maintain a strong Germany to serve as a counter-balance to the Soviet Union in Europe. At heart, these critics claim, Pius was more interested in maintaining and reinforcing a developing papal absolutism than in facing the Nazis. And this campaign for “papal absolutism” is at the heart of the papacy of Pope John Paul II they charge.

        Each book, of course, has its own particular emphasis in addressing the subject. Cornwell portrays Pius as a monarchial pope with an anti-Semitic background whose primary agenda was increased centralization of Church power within the papacy. As such, Cornwell maintained that Pius XII “was the ideal Pope for Hitler’s unspeakable plan. He was Hitler’s pawn. He was Hitler’s Pope.”4 While Wills’ disavows any in depth exploration of the papal role in the Holocaust, he assumes that Pius had a basically pro-German stance out of fear of Communism, and was locked into the Vatican’s “own sorry history with regard to the Jews.”5 This analysis of Pius and the Church during World war II serves to introduce Wills’ central thesis that the Church has in place “structures of deceit” created to artificially prop-up papal power.

        Carroll relies primarily on Cornwell as a source for the role of Pius in the Holocaust6 He echoes Cornwell’s theory of Pius as solely concerned with papal power, but also sees Pius’ alleged lack of action in the face of the Holocaust as historically determined by 2,000 years of Church anti-Semitism, rooted in Scripture, theology and tradition. Echoing Wills, he states that “the Vatican’s preference for its own power, as it pursued its vision of an absolutist papacy, was only a version of the choice countless Europeans made to pursue their own welfare without regard for those outside the circle of their concern – the Jews.”7 Carroll argues that anti-Semitism was so central to Catholic thought that “Hitler’s anti-Jewish program, even at its extreme, was simply not that offensive to the broad population of Catholics.”8

        The critical aspect of all three books is that authors identifying themselves as Catholic wrote them, and all have a different agenda in mind than merely condemning Pope Pius XII. One can quickly determine that Pius and the Holocaust, even in Cornwell’s account, are only tools for the unifying premise that underlies all three books: that the papacy itself is the primary target, both in general, and specifically the papacy of Pope John Paul II. All three books use Pius XII, and exploit the Holocaust, as a means to make points in an internal Catholic debate over papal primacy – meaning the extent of papal juridical authority within the Church – and papal infallibility. While Cornwell’s focus is narrower that both Wills and Carroll, to see any of these books as a serious investigation into Catholic-Jewish relations, and how the Church under Pius responded to the Holocaust, is to misunderstand their purpose.

        Virtually all secular reviews highlighted these books because of their charges concerning the role of Pius and the Church in regard to the Jews during the World War, and as negative portrayals of the Church in history. Yet, these are derivative works in their treatment of Pius XII, with little original scholarship or research on the era, by authors who are not historians.9 Their primary purpose is to attack the papacy as an institution within the Catholic Church as it is led by Pope John Paul II, rather than to more clearly understand the role Pope Pius XII played during the war years. Pius XII is simply a tool for a radical internal Church agenda. As is the Holocaust.

        Pius XII s a convenient tool for a number of reasons. First, of course, he was the last pre-Vatican II pope. As such, identifying Pope John Paul II with him makes it far easier to paint the present pontiff as a reactionary figure representing the past rather than the future. Identifying the two means that discrediting the image of Pius XII, discredits the image of Pope John Paul II. Second, the movement for the beatification of Pius XII, protested in certain Jewish quarters, provided a useful spark. The possible beatification of Pius XII, along with the actual beatification of Pius IX in September 2000, could be portrayed as an endorsement of an “imperial papacy” by John Paul II (forgetting the fact that Pope John XXIII was beatified at the same time). Third, there was a small corpus of historical works in the last 40 years aimed at Pius XII that could supply ready secondary resources to build a case against him. Finally, there was a growing public awareness of the anti-Pius historical view in regard to the Holocaust with few contrary portraits. Pius has had over the last 40 years a good number of detractors but a comparatively small number of defenders, until recently. There was, therefore, a casual acceptance of the possibility of a negative portrait of Pius that made it unnecessary to build a rigorous case against him. Particularly in Wills and Carroll, the anti-Pius perspective is simply assumed, rather than carefully argued.


        • #5
          The Pius ‘animus’

          For the 13 years after World War II ended until his death on October 9, 1958, Pius XII was universally acclaimed for his efforts to save Jewish lives in the face of the Holocaust. There were no accusations during this period of a “silent” pontiff with pro-Nazi leanings. At the time of his death, numerous national and international Jewish organizations praised his wartime record, reflecting a 1942 New York Times Christmas editorial during the war that called Pius “a lonely voice crying out of the silence of a continent.” (Such Jewish praise would be dismissed later as Israeli politicking, rather than heartfelt – which is a rather cruel accusation to make, considering that at the time many of those praising Pius had lived through the Holocaust itself.)

          The myth of Pius XII began with a 1963 drama by Rolf Hochhuth, an obscure German playwright. In “Der Stellvertreter” (“The Representative” or “The Deputy”) Hochhuth charged that Pius XII maintained an icy silence during the Holocaust. "The Deputy” is readily dismissed as serious history.10 Yet, five years after his death, the reputation of Pius was beginning to face serious historical revisionism.
          Why this revisionism? Pius XII was unpopular with certain circles for the anti-Stalinist, anti-Communist agenda of his post-war pontificate. The Church under Pius XII was seen as the leading conservative force in post-war Europe. This was a period where leftist sentiments in the West were still tied to a flirtation with Communism, if no longer supportive of Stalinism. In leftist academic circles, particularly in Italy in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, Pope Pius was seen as the standard-bearer for a political crusade, establishing the Church as a universal anti-Communist force. There was a concerted effort to discredit both that crusade, and the pontificate that was perceived as generating it.

          The general charges against Pius XII were that while he was not pro-Nazi during the war, he hated Bolshevism more than he hated Hitler. This lead him to ignore the fate of the Jews so Nazi Germany would not be demonized. It was claimed that the wartime pontiff’s strategy was to maintain a strong Germany as a bulwark against Communism. He refused to excommunicate Hitler and his Nazi cronies with Catholic backgrounds, or to speak out boldly against Nazi atrocities, because he did not want to inflame anti-German passions as a strong Germany would be necessary to restrain the Soviet Union. Some even charged that the Vatican policy under Pope Pius XII covertly supported Nazi Germany in its attack on the Soviet Union, with papal plans to serve as the negotiator between Germany and the Western allies to follow after Communism’s collapse. When that strategy failed, the pope then helped to create the anti-Soviet atmosphere that resulted in the “Cold War” in the late 1940s and 1950s. Hochhuth’s charge of papal “silence” fit the theory that Pius XII refused to publicly criticize Nazi Germany’s attacks on the Jews in order that the country could serve effectively as an ongoing block to Soviet expansion.


          • #6

            The theory, of course, has never been documented because there is no evidence that even suggests such a papal strategy. The 2000 interim report of the international Catholic-Jewish commission formed to study the Vatican role in the Holocaust, a group not in any way particularly friendly to the legacy of Pius, could find no such evidence of an anti-Soviet, pro-Nazi Vatican strategy during the war. The sources for such theories, such as they exist, were generally Nazi wishful-thinking that hoped for Vatican support in the war once the Soviet Union became the enemy. Yet, the myth persists and is cited as a major motivating factor in papal complicity with Nazism in all three books.11

            Pius certainly recognized Stalinism for what it was. The Church under his leadership, as well as the prior pontificate of Pius XI, had no illusions about what Communist domination would mean, both for Europe and the Church. Yet all evidence points to the fact that the Vatican under Pius XII recognized Nazi Germany as the far greater immediate threat. By August 1933, when Hitler had become German chancellor, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pius XII, expressed to the British representative to the Holy See his disgust with the Nazis and “their persecution of the Jews, their proceedings against political opponents, the reign of terror to which the whole nation was subjected.” When it was stated to him that Germany now had a strong leader to deal with the communists, Cardinal Pacelli responded that the Nazis were infinitely worse.12 More important, his actions during the war belied any favorable strategy toward Nazi Germany at he Soviet Union’s expense. After Hitler ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union, the question quickly arose over aiding communists in the war against the Nazis. The issue became particularly important in the United States where aid was routinely supplied to the Allies and was to be extended to the Soviet Union. A number of bishops raised the issue and, very quickly, Pius XII settled the affair noting that aid to the “people” of the Soviet Union was not aid to communism. When the Soviets became part of the Allied war effort, Pius assured President Franklin Roosevelt that he would not issue any condemnations of Soviet atrocities against the Church. There is simply no evidence that Pius collaborated or compromised in any way with Nazi Germany in its war with the Soviet Union.

            Of course, the whole idea of the “silence” of Pius XII – whatever the alleged strategies behind it – is a misreading of history if meant to imply a lack of papal concern or actions on behalf of the Jews. What the Church was able to accomplish in World War II under the direction of Pius XII was what no other agency, government or entity at the time was able to accomplish: saving Jewish lives. Pulitzer Prize winning historian John Toland, no friend of Pius XII, summed it up when he wrote that the Church under the leadership of Pius “saved the lives of more Jews than all other churches, religious institutions and rescue organizations combined.”13 Pinchas Lapide, Israeli consul in Italy, estimated that the actions of Pius XII saved over 860,000 Jewish lives during World War II. If that were an exaggeration by half, and then half again, it would record more Jewish lives saved by the Church than by any other entity at the time. The critics of Pius have yet to suggest a strategy that he could have implemented that would have saved more lives.14

            Despite the clear historical record, “The Deputy” took on far greater importance than it deserved. Carroll tells the story that as a young seminarian, “we passed contraband copies of The Deputy from hand to hand as if it were pornography.”15 Leftists used it as a means to discredit an anti-Communist papacy. Instead of Pius working with every means available to the Holy See to rescue European Jews in the face of complete Nazi entrapment, an image was created of Pius XII as a political schemer who would willingly sacrifice Jewish lives to stop the spread of Communism. “The Deputy” was merely the mouthpiece for an ideological interpretation of history that helped create the myth of a “silent” Pope Pius XII doing nothing in the face of Nazi slaughter.

            This secular animus against Pius after his death had been generated throughout the 1960s and well into the 1970s. The animus against Pius within certain Catholic circles was certainly influenced by this agenda, but was not overly strong during the papacies of Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI. Pope Pius XII remained a popular figure after his death among Catholics as a whole, admired for his anti-Communism, his war record, and a general perception of his personal sanctity. Questions about Pope Pius XII in certain Catholic circles, particularly in the United States, were limited to concerns that his staunch anti-Communism had generated early support in the American hierarchy, particularly from Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York, for American involvement in Vietnam. But for the most part, Vatican II (1962-1965) and its aftermath overshadowed the papacy of Pius XII. If anything, he was viewed by progressives as a quaint remnant of a Church that was dramatically renewed after his papacy, rather than a regressive symbol or an anti-Semite with Nazi sympathies. It would not be until the papacy of Pope John Paul II that a stronger reaction began to develop against Pius within certain Catholic circles. As is clearly seen in Cornwell’s book, that response against Pope Pius XII generally developed out of a reaction against the papacy of Pope John Paul II.

            At the conclusion of “Hitler’s Pope,” Cornwell’s case against Pius is revealed for what it is: an attack on the papacy as exercised by Pope John Paul II. “The progressives believed that this was a Pope (John Paul II) to implement the reforms of Vatican II. The traditionalists, however, trusted that a prelate reared in the Catholicism of Poland would restore the old disciplines and values. Few suspected the extent to which he would disappoint the progressive side of the Church divide.”16 Under Pope John Paul II, Cornwell charges, “Pacelli’s monolithic pyramidal model of the Church has once again reasserted itself, and the metaphors of the ‘pilgrim Church on the move’ and the ‘People of God’ are seldom employed. Pluralism and collegiality are characterized as antagonistic to central authority.”17

            Cornwell’s essential theory is echoed in both Wills and Carroll. “So what accounts not only for the silence of Pope Pius XII, but for Eugenio Pacelli’s complicity with Hitler in the early years?” Carroll asks, assuming both that alleged silence and alleged complicity. “The early years offer the clue, for it was then that Pacelli’s determination to put the accumulation and defense of papal power above everything else showed itself for what it was. Above the fate of the Jews, certainly, but also above the fate of the Catholic Church in Europe.”18 Wills portrays Pius as perhaps an unwitting victim, at best, of “structures of deceit” that force people to lie to defend papal authority. While stating that the actual role of Pope Pius XII during the war is still under debate19 Wills clearly presents his position by claiming that if Pius is canonized it will force his supporters to “make false claims in order to defend the words of a saint,” which “would make him the source of a new round of deceit structured into past dishonesties.”20 Wills entire thesis is that in order to artificially prop-up papal power, the Church engages in ongoing theological, sacramental, historical and disciplinary lying. Pope Pius XII did what he had to do in the war, according to Wills, to maintain these structures of deceit that support papal power. Those who defend him today are “papalotors” caught up in these same structures.

            Further reading: The Papacy under Attack By Robert P. Lockwood


            • #7
              860,000 Lives Saved - The Truth About Pius XII and the Jews

              People often ask: why did Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli, not speak out more forcefully against Hitler? Historian Fr Dermot Fenlon of the Birmingham Oratory looks at the facts and sets the record straight.

              The answer is recounted by a former inmate of Dachau, Mgr Jean Bernard, later Bishop of Luxembourg:

              "The detained priests trembled every time news reached us of some protest by a religious authority, but particularly by the Vatican. We all had the impression that our warders made us atone heavily for the fury these protests evoked ... whenever the way we were treated became more brutal, the Protestant pastors among the prisoners used to vent their indignation on the Catholic priests: 'Again your big naive Pope and those simpletons, your bishops, are shooting their mouths off .. why don't they get the idea once and for all, and shut up. They play the heroes and we have to pay the bill.'"

              Albrecht von Kessel, an official at the German Embassy to the Holy See during the war, wrote in 1963:

              "We were convinced that a fiery protest by Pius XII against the persecution of the Jews ... would certainly not have saved the life of a single Jew. Hitler, like a trapped beast, would react to any menace that he felt directed at him, with cruel violence."

              The real question is, therefore, not what did the Pope say, but what did the Pope do? Actions speak louder than words. Papal policy in Nazi Europe was directed with an eye to local conditions. It was co- ordinated with local hierarchies. Nazi policy towards the Jews varied from country to country. Thus, although anti-Jewish measures were met in France by public protest from Archbishop Saliege of Toulouse, together with Archbishop Gerlier of Lyons and Bishop Thias of Mantauban, their protest was backed by a highly effective rescue and shelter campaign. 200,000 lives were saved. In Holland, as Fr Michael O'Carroll writes, the outcome was 'tragically different'. The Jewish historian Pinchas Lapide sums it up:

              "The saddest and most thought provoking conclusion is that whilst the Catholic clergy of Holland protested more loudly, expressly and frequently against Jewish persecutions than the religious hierarchy of any other Nazi-occupied country, more Jews - some 11,000 or 79% of the total - were deported from Holland; more than anywhere else in the West."

              Van Kessel's view is therefore borne out by the experience of Nazi Holland: protest merely made for more reprisals.

              What of Rome itself? In 1943 the German ambassador to the Holy See, Von Weizsaecker, sent a telegram to Berlin. The telegram has been cited as damning 'evidence' against Pius XII.

              "Although under pressure from all sides, the Pope has not let himself be drawn into any demonstrative censure of the deportation of Jews from Rome ... As there is probably no reason to expect other German actions against the Jews of Rome we can consider that a question so disturbing to German-Vatican relations has been liquidated."

              Von Weizsaecker's telegram was in fact a warning not to proceed with the proposed deportation of the Roman Jews: 'there is probably no reason to expect other German actions against the Jews of Rome'. Von Weizsaecker's action was backed by a warning to Hitler from Pius XII: if the pursuit and arrest of Roman Jews was not halted, the Holy Father would have to make a public protest. together the joint action of Von Weizsaecker and Pius XII ended the Nazi manhunt against the Jews of Rome. 7,000 lives were saved.

              In Hungary, an estimated 80,000 baptismal certificates were issued by Church authorities to Jews. In other areas of Eastern Europe the Vatican escape network (organised via Bulgaria by the Nuncio Roncalli - later John XXIII) has impressed those writers who have studied the subject, with the effectiveness of the Church's rescue operation. David Herstig concludes his book on the subject thus:

              "Those rescued by Pius are today living all over the world. There went to Israel alone from Romania 360,000 to the year 1965."

              The vindication of Pius XII has been established principally by Jewish writers and from Israeli archives. It is now established that the Pope supervised a rescue network which saved 860,000 Jewish lives - more than all the international agencies put together.

              After the war the Chief Rabbi of Israel thanked Pius XII for what he had done. The Chief Rabbi of Rome went one step further. He became a Catholic. He took the name Eugenio.

              Article from Jewish Virtual Library


              • #9
                Vatican delegate to shun Holocaust remembrance service

                Vatican objects to photograph in Yad Vashem of Pope Pius XII, who served during Holocaust, with caption commenting on pope's dubious response to murder of Jews. Yad Vashem staff: History cannot be changed cause Holy See asks. Foreign Ministry officials: Vatican ambassador's absence will definitely stand out

                Vatican ambassador to Israel Monsignor Antonio Franco has refused to participate in annual Holocaust Day memorial services at the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem.

                Franco is shunning the service due a photograph displayed at the Holocaust museum depicting then-Pope Pius XII. The caption beside the photo comments on the pope's dubious reaction to the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.

                The controversial photograph first appeared at the new Yad Vashem museum in 2005. In early 2006, the previous Vatican ambassador turned to the museum with the request that the caption be changed. In response, Yad Vashem said they would readily examine Pius XII's conduct during the Holocaust if the Vatican opened its World War II-era archives to the museum's research staff. The Vatican however did not open the archives, and thus the caption remained.

                The Holocaust Day memorial service is annually attended by all foreign ambassadors to Israel, or by their representatives if they cannot attend. "If the Vatican ambassador does not come to the ceremony, his absence will definitely stand out," Foreign Ministry officials said.

                Officials involved in the matter told Ynet, "This is a very sensitive matter which needs to be examined in depth. It is important to us that all diplomatic delegates attend the memorial ceremony. As well, Israel aspires to good relations with the Vatican.

                "On the other hand history cannot be changed, and if certain officials failed to help Jews during the Holocaust – that is the reality. There are nations that take responsibility for their actions during the Holocaust and those that don't. The Vatican did not actively participate in exterminating Jews, but questions remain regarding the pope's actions.

                "Since the Holocaust there have been substantial improvements in relations between Israel and the Vatican, but certain scars from the past cannot be ignored. History can't be tossed in the trash."

                Other officials noted that the incident wouldn't likely lead to an irreversible rift between Israel and the Vatican. "Yad Vashem's presentation of the facts is historical and reliable, but there will always be people that want to challenge it," they said.

                "It would be unthinkable to use diplomatic pressure to further historical research," Yad Vashem staff said. "The museum also presents many stories of members of the church who saved Jews during the Holocaust."

                'Shocked and disappointed'

                In an official response, Yad Vashem noted: "We are shocked and disappointed 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. This contradicts the pope's statement during his visit to Yad Vashem regarding the importance of remembering the Holocaust and its victims."

                "Yad Vashem is dedicated to historical research, and the Holocaust museum presents the historical truth on Pope Pius XII as is known to scholars today. Yad Vashem told to the Vatican's representative in Israel that it was willing to continue examining the issue, and noted that if granted access it would gladly study the Vatican's archives from the era of Pope Pius XII's service, to possibly learn new and different information than what is known today."

                The Foreign Ministry refused to respond to the report.


                • #10
                  Vatican boycotts Holocaust ceremony over "offensive" photo

                  Vatican boycotts Holocaust ceremony over "offensive" photo

                  Citing the failure of a Jerusalem museum to remove an "offensive" photo caption criticising Pius XII, the Holy See nuncio to Israel is refusing to take part in an annual diplomatic ceremony to commemorate the Shoah.

                  AsiaNews reports that the nuncio, Archbishop Antonio, announced his decision not to attend because museum authorities "are not even taking into account recent historical findings".

                  Earlier Ynet News had reported that the controversial photograph first appeared at the new Yad Vashem Museum in 2005.

                  In early 2006, the previous Vatican ambassador turned to the museum with the request that the caption be changed, the paper said.

                  In response, Yad Vashem said they would readily examine Pius XII's conduct during the Holocaust if the Vatican opened its World War II-era archives to the museum's research staff. The Vatican however did not open the archives, and thus the caption remained.

                  Commenting on Archbishop Franco's decision, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official said that "if the Vatican ambassador does not come to the ceremony, his absence will definitely stand out."

                  In response, Archbishop Franco told AsiaNews that noone is calling for history to be changed, but rather for a change in the interpretation of history.

                  "Already last year," Archbishop Franco said, "Nuncio Pietro Samba wrote to Museum executives calling attention to the caption, to this very negative judgement against Pius XII and asked that it be reviewed or removed.

                  "Historical studies and material were also subsequently brought to the Museum's attention. Nothing was done and given the imminent celebrations I wrote to the President of Yad Vashem's board of directors, the Mr Avner Shalev who had replied to us last year, specifying that it was an interpretation that was problematic for me - and not just for me, but for all Catholic believers - offensive to the Pope's dignity - and the Pope is Pope for us - so I did not feel at ease about going to this commemoration.

                  "My suggestion was for reconsidering the possibility, shall we say, that the caption be corrected or that the photo be removed. And it was clearly a communication, not a press conference; there was and there is no desire for controversy. They gave it to the press.

                  "Now, the reality is that that caption is an interpretation, not a historical truth," Archbishop Franco said.


                  • #11
                    Vatican's secret archives now open to scholars

                    Vatican's secret archives now open to scholars

                    Over sixty researchers visited the Vatican's secret pre-World War II archives yesterday asking to consult more than 30,000 documents dating from the 1922-1939 papacy of Pius XI which were opened for examination this week.

                    According to a Vatican spokesperson, the opening of the archives will lead to an overturning of "unjust opinions" concerning relations of the Church with Jews in the period leading up to World War II, the Washington Post reports.

                    Although the archives concern the papacy of Pius XI (Achille Ratti), Jewish scholars are expected to concentrate on documents relating to his Secretary of State, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who succeeded him in 1939 as Pope Pius XII.

                    Pacelli who also served as ambassador in Germany from 1917 to 1929 reigned as Pope until 1958.

                    Critics say Cardinal Pacelli, whose views as a Vatican official being groomed for the papacy would be reflected in the files, did too little in the war to save European Jews from the Holocaust.

                    However, the head of the Vatican archives, Fr Sergio Pagano told L'Osservatore Romano that the material on the Vatican's view of Jews in the 17 years before the war would bring some surprises.

                    "In this regard, some unjust judgments expressed in a recent book will perhaps be overturned," Fr Pagano wrote, without mentioning the name of the book.

                    The 1922-1939 archives are believed to include hitherto secret notes for internal policy sessions of the Secretariat of State, including what Cardinal Pacelli said in strategy sessions about Jewish issues.

                    The documents should also show Pacelli's private views on the 1933 Concordat with Nazi Germany, relations with Fascist Italy, the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War, the Nazi annexation of Austria and Britain and France's attempt to appease Hitler with the Munich Agreement in 1938.

                    Pius XII toed a cautious line during the war to avoid reprisals against Catholics in Germany and Nazi-occupied countries. He was initially praised for speaking out as openly as he could and helping to save Jews in secret.


                    • #13
                      JERUSALEM — The Vatican's ambassador to Israel attended a Holocaust memorial service on Sunday, reversing an earlier decision to boycott the event that threatened to upset fragile ties between Israel and the Holy See.

                      Monsignor Antonio Franco said last week he would skip the ceremony at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial marking the beginning of Israel's annual Holocaust Remembrance Day because Catholics were offended by a caption at the museum describing the wartime conduct of Pope Pius XII.

                      The caption next to the picture of Pius reads, "Even when reports about the murder of Jews reached the Vatican, the pope did not protest," refusing to sign a 1942 Allied condemnation of the massacre of Jews.

                      Pius "maintained his neutral position" with two exceptions — appeals he made to the rulers of Hungary and Slovakia toward the end of the war, the caption says. It also criticizes "his silence and absence of guidelines."

                      Israel and the Vatican established diplomatic relations in 1993 following hundreds of years of painful relations between Catholics and Jews. Many sensitive issues remain unresolved, including the Vatican's actions during the Nazi genocide of Jews.

                      The Vatican has struggled to defend its wartime pope as it pushes his sainthood cause, insisting that Pius spearheaded discreet diplomacy that saved thousands of Jews.

                      The disputed photo caption first appeared in 2005, when Yad Vashem opened its new museum. Shortly after, the previous Vatican ambassador asked that it be changed.

                      But Yad Vashem has not done so, insisting its research on the pope's role was accurate.

                      The memorial service is traditionally attended by all foreign ambassadors to Israel or their representatives. Had Franco stated away, Yad Vashem said it would have been the first time a foreign emissary deliberately skipped the ceremony.

                      Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II, is observed from sundown Sunday to sundown Monday with memorial ceremonies, somber music on the radio and historical documentaries and movies on national television. On Monday at 10 a.m., sirens will wail throughout Israel for two minutes with Israelis standing silently to remember the victims.

                      Yad Vashem spokeswoman Iris Rosenberg said the memorial appreciated Franco's decision, calling it "the right thing to do."

                      "Yad Vashem believes that it was inappropriate to link an issue of historical research with commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust," she said.

                      Yad Vashem has said it would be ready to re-examine Pius XII's conduct during the Holocaust if the Vatican opened its World War II-era archives to the museum's research staff and new material emerged. Despite frequent requests from Holocaust researchers, the Vatican has denied access to major parts of its archives, including wartime papers.

                      "The evaluation of the role of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust poses a challenge to those who wish to seriously confront it," Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said Sunday in a letter to Franco.

                      "It is a complex issue, and we will continue to make sure that we are firmly rooted in the most updated historical truth. We would be pleased to examine any new documentation that may come to light on this issue," he wrote.

                      Relations between Israel and the Vatican improved under Pope John Paul II, who visited the Holy Land and spoke out against anti-Semitism. The current Pope, Benedict XVI, has also pledged warmer ties, visiting synagogues in his native Germany.

                      Hundreds of people, including Holocaust survivors, attended the evening Holocaust memorial service, bundled up against the cold. A youth choir sang, and Israeli leaders addressed the somber gathering.

                      Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert noted that Israel celebrates the 59th anniversary of its independence next week.

                      "The renewal of the Jewish people, its shaking off the ashes of the Holocaust for a new life and national rebirth in its historic birthplace, is the pinnacle of its victory," he said.


                      • #14
                        Papal envoy's U-turn on memorial

                        The papal nuncio in Jerusalem reversed his decision to boycott the annual Holocaust memorial service, it was announced yesterday.
                        Monsignor Antonio Franco said he would attend a torch lighting ceremony at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, in spite of his earlier protests at a picture caption at the museum that is critical of the conduct of Pope Pius XII.

                        The ceremony yesterday evening preceded a day of memorial services which includes a nationwide two-minute silence this morning. The event is traditionally attended by representatives of all foreign embassies in Israel. Msgr Franco said he would not attend in protest at the description of the wartime pope as being reluctant to criticise the Holocaust.

                        Msgr Franco told the Guardian last week: "I consider this picture in that place and the caption that accompanies it unfair and something that disturbs my feelings and the feelings of Catholics all over the world." He said yesterday that his threat to boycott was "diplomacy" to draw attention to his position on the caption.

                        Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem, wrote to the nuncio to say he regretted the decision to link the commemoration of the Holocaust with the debate over the role of Pope Pius. "It is a complex issue, and we will continue to make sure that we are firmly rooted in the most updated historical truth. We would be pleased to examine any new documentation that may come to light on this issue," he wrote.


                        • #15
                          Christian leader presses Vatican on archives

                          A prominent evangelical Christian leader in Israel on Monday called on the Vatican to open its archives if they have any evidence that Pope Pius XII did not remain silent during the mass murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust.

                          The remarks come a day after the Vatican ambassador to the Holy Land, Monsignor Antonio Franco, reversed an earlier decision not to attend the annual state ceremony at Yad Vashem marking Holocaust Remembrance Day due to a photo caption at the Holocaust museum referring to the silence of the pope during World War II.

                          "This is not Yad Vashem's narrative but a generally accepted historical narrative," said Rev. Malcolm Hedding, the executive director of the International Christian Embassy, a Jerusalem-based evangelical organization.

                          "If the papal nuncio wants to protest then he must prove his case and show us otherwise by opening the Vatican archives," he added.

                          Yad Vashem and Jewish groups have long urged the Vatican to open its wartime archives but to no avail.

                          Franco said Monday that he changed his mind about going to the ceremony after determining that there was room for dialogue with Yad Vashem on the issue.

                          "What I was looking for was attention to the problem, which has now been received," Franco told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview Monday.

                          "I went to the ceremony because I felt that there is a basis on which to continue to work together towards clarification of the issue," he added.

                          Yad Vashem has repeatedly said they would readily reexamine Pius XII's conduct during the Holocaust if the Vatican opened its World War II-era archives to the museum's research staff or if any new documentation came to light on the issue.

                          The unusual open diplomatic wrangling, which threatened to upset already delicate relations between Israel and the Vatican, came as the Vatican presses ahead with its plans to beatify the wartime pope over the objection of the State of Israel and Jewish groups around the world.

                          In the interview, Franco brushed off suggestions that their archives be opened, and suggested that most of the material on the issue was already out in the open.

                          "The materials of the archives have been examined and considered, and there is already great documentation made public," he said.

                          The role of the Holocaust-era pope, who reined from 1939 until his death in 1958, has long been controversial, and the Vatican has struggled to defend him over his silence during the mass murder of six million Jews.

                          Franco said he was not looking for "tensions, polemics or controversy" in his threatened boycott of the event, but was stressing a point of "capital importance" to Catholics that he said was not against the Holocaust itself.

                          But the evangelical leader said the papal nuncio's threatened boycott of Israel's official state ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day was "totally unacceptable" behavior that bespoke a lack of understanding of the enormity of the Holocaust.

                          "The papal nuncio's blurring of a historical debate with the respect and memory of Holocaust martyrs was deeply irresponsible and disrespectful to the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust," Hedding concluded.
                          Last edited by _DigitaLVampirE_; 18th April 2007, 18:30.


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