.- An expert on Pope Pius XII expressed support for an Israeli ambassador who faces controversy after publicly praising the World War II pontiff for helping save Jews during the Holocaust.
Israeli ambassador to the Vatican Mordechai Lewy said on June 27 that his positive comments about late Pope were historically âpremature,â after he was criticized by Jewish groups.
However, author William Doino commended the ambassador for âopening up healthy and productive discussionâ and supports his stance in favor of Pope Pius XIIâ who is often accused of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust.
Ambassador Lewy sparked the debate at a June 23 ceremony honoring World War II Italian priest Fr. Gaetano Piccini, when he recalled how convents and monasteries opened their doors to save Jews after the Nazis persecuted Rome's Ghetto in 1943.
âThere is reason to believe that this happened under the supervision of the highest Vatican officials, who were informed about what was going on,â Lewy said during his address. âSo it would be a mistake to say that the Catholic Church, the Vatican and the Pope himself opposed actions to save the Jews.â
âTo the contrary, the opposite is true,â he said.
Days later, after Jewish leaders claimed his remarks were historically inaccurate and insensitive to Holocaust survivors, Lewy explained that his comments âwere embedded in a larger historical contextâ which is âstill under the subject of ongoing and future research.â
Passing âmy personal historical judgment on it,â he added, âwas premature.â
While Lewy faces criticism over his remarks, he's also gained support from those like Doino, an expert on the late Pope who contributed extensively to an anthology titled âThe Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XIIâ (Lexington Books).
âHaving read his original statements, the responses to them, and his clarification, I believe it is all for the good, because it demonstrates how prominent officials in Israel are beginning to express greater openness toward Pius XII,â Doino said to CNA on June 27.
Despite media reports claiming that Lewy has now backtracked on his original comments, Doino said âthe Ambassador did not deny what he said may well be true.â Rather, he only said it's too early âto make definitive, all-encompasing statements.â
Doino also noted that research is showing how the popular cultural perception that Pius XII ignored the plight of the Jews during World War II is false.
âI believe there is an increasing amount of evidence, independent of the Vatican archives, and impossible to ignore by anyone interested in this subject â through first-hand testimonies, diaries, and other primary documents â demonstrating that Pius XII did indeed 'speak out,' in ways clearly understood by Catholic rescuers, and that he did indeed help rescue persecuted Jews.â
Doino recalled how the Nazis were âfuriousâ about Pius XIIâs public addresses and conduct and denounced him as a âmouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals.â
He added that early in his pontificate, Pius XII approved a plot to overthrow Hitler and was commended by many leaders of the anti-Nazi Resistance.
âThese are documented facts, which cannot be erased, and will remain part of the larger discussion, whatever else is said, and whatever more comes out of the Vatican archives,â Doino said.