Comments made last week by the priest charged with heading up Pope Pius XII's cause for beatification have caused the Vatican's press director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, to issue a statement refuting the idea that the Church is holding back the process because of Jewish concerns.
Fr. Peter Gumpel S.J., the priest leading Pius XII's beatification process, said at a conference in Rome last week that Pope Benedict XVI was "impressed" by concerns that Jewish relations could be marred by a declaration of the World War II era Pope as a Servant of God.
According to ANSA, Fr. Gumpel said that Jewish leaders had told Benedict XVI recently that "relations between the Catholic church and Jews would be definitively and permanently compromised" by moving forward with Pius' cause.
Fr. Lombardi reacted quickly to the comments by emphasizing that “the signing of decrees concerning causes of beatification is the exclusive prerogative of the Pope, who must be left completely free in his evaluations and decisions.”
The director of the Vatican press office also warned against interference in the Pope's decision making process, saying, "If the Pope believes that study and reflection upon the cause of Pius XII are to be further prolonged, his position must be respected without unjustified and inappropriate interventions."
Accusations have been made that Pope Pius XII did not do enough to save Jews who were being killed and persecuted by the Nazis. Despite evidence to the contrary, some Jews and historians claim that the late Pope was silent in the face of the Holocaust.
Meanwhile, Jewish leaders have asked that Pope Benedict open the Vatican's secret archives from the time period of Pius XII before any move is made on the late Pontiff's cause. Archivists responded by saying that it will take more time to catalog the 16 million documents from Pius' pontificate.