In a recent round of authorizations by Benedict XVI on Saturday, Pope Pius XII was proclaimed as having displayed exemplary and “heroic virtue” in his life. The Holy Father's decision to move ahead with the declaration rebuffs claims that Pius XII did nothing to help the Jews during World War II. He now needs two miracles to be officially attributed to him to become a saint.
Pope Pius XII, born Eugenio Pacelli, is most remembered for being the Pontiff during World War II. While some say he did little to protest the deportation of Jews and the Holocaust, written records and witnesses tell another story. They testify to his actions in defense of the Jews. Accounts of his intervention to save 4,000 Jews from a ghetto in Rome and place them in convents and Catholic schools refute claims of his passiveness.
In May of 2009, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, former president of the Italian Bishops' Conference, a seminarian during the War, said that he couldn't remember anyone saying anything but good things about the Pope during that time. No one, he said, would have described the Pope's reaction as "silent," as would be said of him later.
In an article published in L'Osservatore Romano on May 28, 2008, Cardinal Ruini wrote, “it was obvious, in the atmosphere and ecclesial praxis of the time,” that if many “priests and religious communities, and the Vatican itself, had taken in and saved many persecuted Jews ... it could not have been done without the encouragement and consent of the Pope.”
Ruini called the claims of inaction nothing more than a "black legend."
Today's declaration on Pius XII was not the only news-making announcement.
Pope Benedict XVI also declared Pope John Paul II and eight others as having lived lives of “heroic virtue.” With the signature of the Pope and the support of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, they have all taken another step towards sainthood.