Among other things, Benedict prayed aloud that the cause to declare Pius XII a saint “may move forward happily.”PHOTO: AFP/Getty
Benedict XVI’s comments came in a homily for a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Pius XII in October 1958. A reminder of the controversy surrounding Pius came earlier in the week, when the first rabbi ever invited to address the Synod of Bishops, Shear-Yashuv Cohen, said in Benedict’s presence that Jews cannot “forgive and forget” what they regard as Pius’ public silence about the Nazi genocide.
In effect, Benedict today fired back, asserting that even when Archbishop Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pius XII, served as a papal ambassador in Germany in the 1920s, he saw clearly “the danger constituted by the monstrous ideology of Nazism, with its dangerous anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic roots.”
During the war itself, Benedict said, Pius XII engaged in “an intense campaign of charity in favor of the persecuted, without any distinction in terms of religion, ethnicity, nationality, or political affiliation.”
Benedict also recalled Pius XII’s famous radio message in December 1942, in which the pope referred to the “hundreds of thousands who through no fault of their own, and solely because of their nation or race, have been condemned to death or progressive extinction.” Benedict called it a “clear reference to the deportation and extermination perpetrated against the Jews."
Benedict also recalled that immediately after Pius’ death there were expressions of gratitude from many Jewish leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who said: “We mourn the loss of a great servant of peace.”
Pius XII, Benedict said, “often acted in a secret and silent way, because, in the light of the concrete situations in that complex historical moment, he understood that only in this way could he avoid the worst and save the greatest possible number of Jews.”
Later in the Mass, Benedict read a prayer that Pius XII might “enter with all the saints into the full possession of the truth, in which, with apostolic courage, he confirmed his brothers.”
Taken in tandem with a lengthy article in defense of Pius XII by Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, published earlier this week by L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, Benedict’s remarks this morning seem the clearest possible indication that the cause to declare Pius a saint is on track.
Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, this morning released a brief statement to journalists on this point: “With the words he pronounced in his homily with regard to the cause for the beatification of the Servant of God Pope Pius XII, which is currently underway, the pope meant to explicitly express his spiritual union with a widespread desire among the People of God,” Lombardi said.
“However, the pope did not express himself on the successive steps in the process or their timing, such as the signature of the degree recognizing heroic virtue, or, in its turn, the successive process for the recognition of a miracle,” Lombardi said.