Today marks the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s passing, an anniversary that raises the hackles of some, but has seen the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, give a fervent defense of the late Pope in L’Osservatore Romano.
Some Jews accuse Pope Pius XII of not having spoken up forcefully enough, but Cardinal Bertone disagrees.
Writing in an introduction for Sister Margherita Marchione’s book entitled, “Pius XII: The Truth Will Set You Free," Cardinal Bertone said, “It was precisely by means of a prudent approach that Pius XII protected Jews and refugees."
Bertone argued that research has shown that Pius "was neither silent nor anti-Semetic. He was prudent."
"If he had made a public intervention, he would have endangered the lives of thousands of Jews, who, upon his directive, were hidden, in 155 convents and monasteries in Rome alone," Bertone contended.
Bertone even warned that extending a “veil of prejudice” over the work of Pius XII during the war is “profoundly unjust.”
Rome’s Chief Rabbi Dr. Riccardo Di Segni sees thing from a different point of view, telling the Jerusalem Post that Pius XII failed to prevent deportations from happening.
"The train to Auschwitz was not stopped," he said. "Seven hundred and fifty Roman Jews were gassed immediately on arrival. Another thousand were deported during the following nine months. In Bulgaria, where the Bulgarian government intervened forcefully, a similar train never left the station," therefore saving his own grandfather, he said.
Pope Benedict XVI, celebrating a Mass for the anniversary of Pius XII’s death on Thursday, did not agree with Rabbi Segni.
Pius XII "often acted secretly and silently because, in the real situations of that complex moment in history, he had an intuition that only in this way would he be able to avoid the worst, and to save the largest possible number of Jews."
Benedict XVI also asserted that the historical debate over the figure of Pius XII "has not thrown light on all aspects of his multifaceted pontificate." In this context he recalled the numerous messages and discourses his predecessor had given to all categories of people, "some of which are still extraordinarily relevant even today, and continue to provide a sure point of reference.”