Pope Benedict will not visit Israeli museum which denigrates Pius XII

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI


The Israeli ambassador to the Holy See on Friday said that Pope Benedict XVI will not visit Israel’s Holocaust Museum which accuses Pope Pius XII of inaction on the Holocaust. The news comes as a researcher announced on Friday that he had discovered a message from Pius XII that ordered monasteries to give refuge to Jews.

During the Pope’s May 8-15 trip, the pontiff will attend a memorial ceremony at the Yad Vasdhem site but will not visit the museum itself, Ambassador Mordechai Levi told the Italian news agency ANSA. Instead, the Pope, accompanied by Israeli President Shimon Peres, will light a remembrance fire and make a speech.

A caption of a Pope Pius XII exhibit at the museum reads:

“Even when reports about the murder of Jews reached the Vatican, the pope did not protest, either verbally or in writing. In December 1942, [Pius XII] abstained from signing the Allied declaration condemning the extermination of the Jews. When Jews were deported from Rome to Auschwitz, the pope did not intervene.

"The pope maintained his neutral position throughout the war, with the exception of appeals to the rulers of Hungary and Slovakia toward its end. His silence and the absence of guidelines obliged churchmen throughout Europe to decide on their own how to react."

Despite Pope Pius XII’s wartime actions which saved many Jews from Nazi persecution, he has been persistently attacked by some critics who adopt the same line of attack as the caption in Yad Vashem.

The Holy See’s representative to Israel has objected to the caption, as have other Catholics. Ambassador Levi’s comments came after reports that the exhibit caption might be changed.

A debate at Yad Vashem will reportedly take place on Sunday and Monday. The gathering will look at Pius XII in light of the latest historical evidence.

Organizers said the conference will see “if there is something new or something which has to be completely revised” because of new research, ANSA reports.

Recently, Fr. Peter Gumpel, the promoter of Pope Pius XII’s cause of beatification, revealed a note by Pope Pius XII from the archives of a Roman monastery which directly ordered monasteries to shelter persecuted Jews.

“The Holy Father wishes to save his children, the Jews as well, and orders that the Monasteries provide hospitality to these persecuted people,” the November 1943 note reads.

Speaking to Vatican Radio, Fr. Gumpel said there are “numerous oral testimonies” from priests, nuns and others about the Pope’s actions during World War II, but Pius XII’s detractors often demand written evidence.

Fr. Gumpel argued that it would have been dangerous to commit such orders to paper in a time of war and hostility.

He said the rediscovered note could be useful in countering “those who persistently denigrate Pius XII and attack the Catholic Church.”

Yad Vashem’s controversial caption appeared in 2005 when a new museum was unveiled. In 2007, Vatican Ambassador to Israel Archbishop Antonio Franco refused to attend the annual Holocaust remembrance ceremony at Yad Vashem because of the caption.

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