Dialogika

Canonization of Pope Pius XII?

Pius12The role of Pope Pius XII during the Second World War has been very contentious ever since the 1963 premiere of Rolf Hochhuth's play, The Deputy: A Christian Tragedy, which depicted the pope has haughty and unmoved by the plight of Jews during the Holocaust. Since then, he has been characterized on the one hand as "Hitler's Pope" (the title of a 1999 book by John Cornwell) and on the other hand as the "Architect for Peace" (the subtitle of a 2000 book by Margherita Marchione).

The subject of Pius XII's wartime actions has regularly surfaced in official interactions between the Catholic Church and the worldwide Jewish community. For instance, the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee met in the Vatican in March 1998 shortly after the publication by the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews of We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah. That document's defense of "the wisdom of Pope Pius XII's diplomacy" [fn. 16] sparked intense conversation, especially about the need for free access to the Vatican diplomatic archives for the period. Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy, then president of the Commission, proposed the formation of a team of Jewish and Catholic scholars to explore the state of the question.

The resulting "International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission" was appointed to review eleven volumes of previously published Vatican archival material and to prepare a list of questions that could not be resolved from them. On October 26, 2000, this Commission issued "The Vatican and the Holocaust: A Preliminary Report," listing dozens of questions that perhaps could be addressed by unpublished documents in the Vatican archives (see below).

As the first decade of the new century unfolded, numerous books about Pius XII and the Shoah were published, ranging from harsh condemnations to more balanced assessments to hagiographic defenses. Unpublished materials in the Vatican archives were catalogued and incrementally made available to researchers. And the ecclesiastical process to investigate Pius XII's candidacy for sainthood proceeded. The possibility of canonizing the controversial pope periodically troubled Jewish-Catholic relations. Some urged that no action be taken until all the relevant historical evidence was accessible but others argued that aspects of Pius XII's life and papacy beyond his wartime role had to be considered, such as his theological contributions and support of scientific biblical research.

On December 19, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI approved a decree recognizing Pius XII's "heroic virtues," a standard description of those candidates for sainthood deemed worthy of the title "Venerable" and whose candidacy now proceeds to the step of beatification. This action has reopened the question of Pius XII's decisions during the Holocaust.

This page is not meant to be an exhaustive or comprehensive compendium about these matters, but to present primary and secondary materials as further developments unfold. Unsurprisingly, opinion pieces range across the spectrum. Essays or articles are presented here because of the prominence of the author or the distinctive perspective or information that is offered.  The inclusion of a particular item does not mean that the views expressed are endorsed either by the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations or Saint Joseph's University.

Title Date Author
Yad Vashem Statement regarding updated text on the panel about the Vatican July, 2012 Yad Vashem
Church Leaders Showing Rifts Over Vatican’s Pius XII Papers April, 2011 Josh Nathan-Kazis
N.Y. Archbishop Urges Vatican to Expedite Opening of Its Holocaust Archives April, 2011 Josh Nathan-Kazis
Reuters: Jewish leaders dismayed over comments in pope book November, 2010 Philip Pullella
Absp Koch: more study of WWII era needed July, 2010 Patricia Biel, Le Temps
Holocaust scholar begins "mainstream" blog March, 2010 Paul O'Shea
New Research: Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust January, 2010 Iael Nidam-Orvieto
The case for, and against, the canonization of Pope Pius XII February, 2010 Gillian Grace
Three expert Q&As about Pope Pius XII's problematic path to sainthood February, 2010 Charles Lewis
Catholics Scholars: Letter to Pope Benedict February, 2010 19 Catholic Scholars
Reuters: Catholic scholars urge Pope to slow Pius sainthood February, 2010 Philip Pullella
AP: Vatican putting wartime archives on Internet February, 2010 Victor L. Simpson
NCR: "Tensions over Pius XII surface in pope's synagogue visit" January, 2010 John Allen
The International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission September, 2005 Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy
Statement by the Holy See about the Accessiblity of Its Archives December, 1998 The Holy See
Statement of Two Catholic Members of the International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission July, 2001 Gerald Fogarty and John Morley
Canadian Jewish Congress urges full Vatican Archives disclosure January, 2010 Canadian Jewish Congress
Jewish Week: "Jewish Split Emerging On Pius Sainthood" December, 2006 Walter Ruby
Jewish Week: "Archives Release Hailed, Questioned" February, 2002 Eric J. Greenberg
Jewish Week: "Vatican To U.S.: No Archives" December, 1998 Eric J. Greenberg
Jewish Week: "O’Connor: Vatican Should Open Archives" October, 1998 Eric J. Greenberg
Op-ed: "Church's Misguided Honor" January, 2010 Debórah Dwork and Eric Greenberg
Responses to Krupp Op-ed: "Pope Pius: No Friend of the Jews" January, 2010 Debórah Dwork, Eric Greenberg, Gary Krupp
Op-Ed: "Friend to the Jews" December, 2009 Gary L. Krupp
Analysis: "Roman Jews, Benedict XVI and the Shadow of Pius XII" January, 2010 Lisa Palmieri-Billig
IJCIC Urges Release of Secret Vatican Archives Before Moving on Pope Pius XII December, 2009 International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations
Blog: "The Pope's Big Holocaust Lie" December, 2009 James Carroll
Op-ed: "Why has Pope Benedict Chosen Now to Beatify Nazi-era Pontiff?" December, 2009 Robert S. Wistrich
ADL Calls on Pope to Reject Flawed Conclusions of 'Historical Evidence' on Pius XII and the Jews December, 2009 Anti-Defamation League
"Rescuing a Pope's Spiritual Legacy" December, 2009 Robert Ventresca
Note Concerning Decree on the Heroic Virtues of Pius XII December, 2009 Fedrico Lombardi
AP: "Pope says visit to Holocaust memorial 'upsetting'" December, 2009 Alessandra Rizo
CNS: "Sainthood congregation recommends Pope Pius XII be named venerable" May, 2007 Cindy Wooden
Analysis: Canonization of the silent pontiff? December, 2009 Lisa Palmieri-Billig
Times.online: "Pope's visit to Rome synagogue 'at risk' over move to canonise Pius XII" December, 2009 Richard Owen
AJC Disappointed by Vatican’s Latest Move to Honor Pope Pius XII December, 2009 American Jewish Committee
NCR: "Vatican moves John Paul II and Pius XII closer to sainthood" December, 2009 John Allen
ADL Deeply Troubled By Move to Put Pius XII Back on Track for Sainthood December, 2009 Anti-Defamation League
Statement on Pope Pius XII December, 2009 U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Decrees of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints December, 2009 Vatican Information Service
On Pius XII and His Virtues December, 2009 Hebrew Speaking Vicariate in Israel
The Vatican and the Holocaust: A Preliminary Report October, 2000 International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission
Address to Congress on "The Legacy of the Magisterium of Pius XII and the Second Vatican Council" November, 2008 Benedict XVI
Address to Symposium on Pope Pius XII Sponsored by the Pave the Way Foundation September, 2008 Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI and Pius XII December, 2010 Richard Prasquier