Jews Angry After Pope Moves Pius XII Closer to Sainthood

December 21, 2009

Author: Francis X. Rocca

Source: The Pew Forum/Religion News Service

Jewish leaders warned of new strains in Catholic-Jewish relations after Pope Benedict XVI moved his controversial wartime predecessor, Pope Pius XII, one step closer to possible sainthood.

Benedict signed a decree on Saturday (Dec. 19) recognizing Pius' "heroic virtues" and declaring him "venerable." That new status makes the late pope eligible for beatification, the rank just below sainthood.

"While it is entirely a matter for the Catholic Church to decide on whom religious honors are bestowed, there are strong concerns about Pope Pius XII's political role during World War II," said Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress. "It would be appreciated if the Vatican showed more sensitivity on this matter."

Critics say that Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, failed to do or say all he could to stop the Nazis' persecution and genocide of the Jews.