Nineteen Catholic scholars of theology and history are asking Pope Benedict XVI to slow the process of the sainthood cause of Pope Pius XII.
Saying that much more research needs to be done on the papacy of the mid-20th century pope, the scholars said in a Feb. 16 letter to Pope Benedict that “history needs distance and perspective” before definitive conclusions can be reached on the role of Pope Pius during World War II and the Holocaust.
Leading the effort are Servite Father John Pawlikowski, professor of ethics at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and Holy Cross Father Kevin Spicer, associate professor of history at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass.
In an e-mail to CNS last night, Father Pawlikowski told Catholic News Service the scholars are not opposed to Pope Pius’ canonization.
“We sent this letter because we feel that too often the issue of Pius XII is portrayed as one of Jewish concern,” Father Pawlikowski wrote. “We wanted to make it clear that some Catholics who have worked on Holocaust issues have serious concerns about advancing the cause of Pius XII at this time.”
16 February 2010
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Palace, 00120 Vatican City
As faithful, practicing Catholics, consecrated and lay, we urgently write to you concerning the cause of Pope Pius XII. We are educators who have conducted research and are currently carrying into effect more research on Catholicism under National Socialism and the Holocaust. The movement to press forward at this time the process of beatification of Pius XII greatly troubles us. Needless to say, the controversy over Pius XII’s actions during the Second World War and the Holocaust is long-standing. Numerous books and articles have been written on the topic. Nevertheless, the scholars still have a great deal of research to complete before final conclusions can be drawn about Pius XII’s behavior during the Holocaust. History needs distance and perspective to arrive at these conclusions. At the moment, scholars eagerly await the opening of papers from Pius XII’s pontificate that you, Holy Father, have so graciously arranged to be made available. At the same time, as researchers, we also realize that there are numerous archives, both secular and ecclesiastical, that scholars have yet to access or consult, many of which might shed more light on Pope Pius’s actions during the Holocaust. Currently, existing research leads us to the view that Pope Pius XII did not issue a clearly worded statement, unconditionally condemning the wholesale slaughter and murder of European Jews. At the same time, some evidence also compels us to see that Pius XII’s diplomatic background encouraged him as head of a neutral state, the Vatican, to assist Jews by means that were not made public during the war. It is essential that further research be conducted to resolve both these questions. As scholars of theology and history, we realize how important the historical critical method is to your own research and we implore you to ensure that such a historical investigation takes place before proceeding with the cause of Pope Pius XII.
A greater issue, of course, arises with the discussion of the beatification of Pius XII. For centuries the Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, have propagated both religious anti-Judaism and religious anti-Semitism, however unintentionally or in ignorance. “Nostra Aetate,” however, ensured that Catholics’ views of Jews would be definitively changed. Your most recent comments, Holy Father, in the synagogue of Rome, endeavored to breach centuries of misunderstandings between Catholics and Jews. Your actions were moving and courageous. Still there is a great deal of work to be done in this area. Mistrust and apprehension still exist. For many Jews and Catholics, Pius XII takes on a role much larger than his historical papacy. In essence, Pius XII has become a symbol of centuries-old Christian anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism which, for example, the late Rev. Edward H. Flannery has documented and spelled out in his work “The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-Three Centuries of Anti-Semitism.” It is challenging to separate Pope Pius XII from this legacy. Proceeding with the cause of Pope Pius XII, without an exhaustive study of his actions during the Holocaust, might harm Jewish-Catholic relations in a way that cannot be overcome in the foreseeable future.
Holy Father, we implore you, acting on your wisdom as a renowned scholar, professor and teacher, to be patient with the cause of Pope Pius XII. Patience is not passive, it is active; indeed it is condensed strength and courage to bring one forward in hope to a central conclusion and point. In this regard, we humbly ask that scholars be given the access and time to carefully and thoroughly examine the documents relating to the pontificate of Pius XII before embarking on the beatification process. We thank you for hearing us and reflecting upon the urgent concerns of our request. We have the honor to be, Your Holiness,
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