The beatification process of Pope Pius XII has begun in the Vatican with Pope Benedict XVI defending the actions of his predecessor during World War II. Pius XII has long been accused by Jewish groups and scholars of turning a blind eye to the fate of the Jews.
However, in one of the strongest Vatican defences yet of Pius’s role, Pope Benedict said that the wartime pope had intervened directly and indirectly on behalf of Jews but often had to be ‘secret and silent’ given the circumstances.
Pope Benedict believes Pius showed ‘courageous and paternal dedication’ in trying to save Jews, saying, ‘Wherever possible he spared no effort in intervening in their favour either directly or through instructions given to other individuals or to institutions of the Catholic Church’.
Jewish groups have long criticised Pius XII for not speaking out against the Nazis, who killed six million Jews. Material at the Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, talks of Pius’s ‘neutral’ position.