The Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Father Federico Lombardi S.J., confirmed on Sunday that Pope Benedict XVI is considering signing the decree of heroic virtues for Pope Pius XII, and asked that no one try to exert pressure "one way or the other."
Fr. Lombardi’s words come after some Jewish organizations launched a campaign against the beatification of Pope Pius XII, arguing that it would negatively impact relations between Judaism and the Church. The argument is based on the "black legend," which attempts to paint him as an "accomplice" to the wholesale slaughter of Jews by the Nazis during World War II.
Another cause of controversy that has arisen concerns the caption placed under Pope Pius XII's photograph in Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Museum.
The caption reads: "Even when reports about the murder of Jews reached the Vatican, the pope did not protest, either verbally or in writing. In December 1942, [Pius XII] 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 pope maintained his neutral position throughout the war, with the exception of appeals to the rulers of Hungary and Slovakia toward its end. His silence and the absence of guidelines obliged churchmen throughout Europe to decide on their own how to react."
On Sunday Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi called on the museum to re-examine the caption, saying, "As is already known, the Holy See representative to Israel has in the past raised objections concerning the caption about Pius XII in the Yad Vashem Museum. It is, therefore, to be hoped that this be the subject of a new, objective and profound examination on the part of the museum management.”
While some have said that the alteration of the caption is necessary before Pope Benedict would travel to the Holy Land, Fr. Lombardi dismissed that notion, calling the caption an “important fact” but also stating that it “cannot be considered decisive in determining any papal journey to the Holy Land.”
Turning to the declaration of Pope Pius XII as a “blessed”—the last step before being declared a saint—Fr. Lombardi emphasized that Pope Benedict has not yet signed the decree.
With Jewish groups trying to influence Church affairs and Church officials also trying to weigh-in, Lombardi said that the Pope “is dedicating profound thought and reflection to the matter” and also underscored that “it is not appropriate to seek to exercise pressure upon him in one way or in another."