Apr 17, 2007 / 07:23 am
Archbishop Antonio Franco, the Papal Nuncio to Israel, reversed his earlier decision and attended a Holocaust memorial service on Sunday, marking the beginning of Israel's annual Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Archbishop Franco said last week he would skip the ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial because Catholics were offended by a caption at the museum describing the wartime conduct of Pope Pius XII, reported The Associated Press.
The caption next to the picture of the pontiff reads: "Even when reports about the murder of Jews reached the Vatican, the pope did not protest," refusing to sign a 1942 Allied condemnation of the massacre of Jews.
It says the late pope "maintained his neutral position" with two exceptions -- appeals he made to the rulers of Hungary and Slovakia toward the end of the war. It also criticizes "his silence and absence of guidelines."
The photo caption first appeared in 2005, when Yad Vashem opened its new museum. Shortly after, the previous Vatican ambassador asked that it be changed. But Yad Vashem has not done so, insisting its research on the Pope's role is accurate.
"Since my action was not intended as a move to disassociate myself from the commemoration but to call attention to the manner in which the pope is presented, my aim has been achieved," the archbishop told Vatican Radio before the memorial.
"I have no motives to keep up the tensions, and therefore I will participate in the ceremony," he added.
Yad Vashem on Sunday immediately welcomed the archbishop’s decision to attend, saying it was “the right thing to do." In a statement, it also said it “was inappropriate to link an issue of historical research with commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust.”
Yad Vashem has said it would be ready to re-examine Pope Pius XII's conduct during the Holocaust if the Vatican opened its World War II-era archives to the museum's research staff and new material emerged.
"It is a complex issue, and we will continue to make sure that we are firmly rooted in the most updated historical truth," said Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev in a letter to Archbishop Franco. “We would be pleased to examine any new documentation that may come to light on this issue.”
As part of Holocaust Remembrance Day, sirens wailed throughout Israel for two minutes while Israelis stood silently to remember the victims.