The Apostolic Nuncio to Jerusalem and Palestine, Archbishop Antonio Franco, has announced that he will not attend the annual ceremony in commemoration of the Holocaust due to be held next week at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum of Jerusalem.  The Vatican representative said he was refusing to participate after Yad Vashem refused to remove an inflammatory and highly contested description of Pope Pius XII.

Archbishop Franco told the Italian Religious Service (SIR) that he had lodged a complaint with Yad Vashem leadership last year after participating in the commemoration.  “I wrote a letter to the Directorate of the Yad Vashem to explain that last year we had already told them we had issues with the photo with the caption of Pius XII on the memorial.”   

According to SIR, a caption under the late Pontiff’s photo claims that he kept an ambiguous position about the murder of the Jews during the Holocaust.

However, the archbishop noted, “the reply to my letter that I see today on some Israeli papers says the historical truth cannot be changed.”

Indeed, Franco said, “facts cannot be changed, but such facts have been interpreted in a way that clashes with many other historical truths and above all with an entirely different historiography that gives a different view.”

“It hurts to go to the Yad Vashem and see Pius XII presented like that,” the archbishop said, “and this is what I wrote in my letter. Perhaps the photo could be removed or the caption could be changed. But the Pope cannot certainly be put amidst men that should be ashamed at what they did against the Jews.”

“Pius XII should not be ashamed at all that he did for the salvation of the Jews, which is highlighted by the historical sources.”

“My letter, which follows up on a similar one I had written last year, asked them to take care of this issue.”

Franco adamantly added that his refusal to attend the ceremony, “does not mean I am disrespectful of the memory and the victims of this tragedy. This is out of the question!”

“In reading the papers today I refuse point-blank to say the Catholic Church and the Holy See have any responsibility for not helping out the Jews, with all they did. That photo offends all of the Catholic Church. And that’s what I wanted to make clear.”