Monday, November 03, 2008

B16 "Seriously Considering" Pius' Cause... No More, No Less -- No News

Over the weekend, a papal comment to an international delegation of Jewish leaders made the rounds in many quarters under the spin that B16 was given to "freezing" the beatification of Pope Pius XII for the better part of a decade, until the latter's records sealed in the Vatican Archive had been opened for public review.

In reality, though, the Pope's informal word that he was "seriously considering" the cause of his wartime predecessor was... an informal word that he was "seriously considering" the cause of his wartime predecessor:
Prominent Jewish leader and Manhattan lawyer Seymour Reich made the request to suspend the sainthood process during a meeting with members of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, said Rabbi David Rosen, of Jerusalem, who led the group.

Benedict said, "I am considering the matter seriously," according to Rosen. He added he believed the pope was only saying "he understands the complexities and sensitivities.

"I think too much was being made of the comment," Rosen said.

Rosen said he told Benedict that to have "mutual respect with the Jewish people, you need to be sensitive to Jewish sensitivities."

The 16 million [archival] documents in question span from 1939 to 1944. Critics have argued the documents contain evidence that Pius did not speak out forcefully enough to prevent Jews from being targeted for extermination by Hitler's army....

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the requests to see the archives were "understandable," but added it would take another six or seven years to catalog.

Lombardi also said Benedict's response was not a "public commitment."

"You shouldn't read this response for beyond what it is," he said. "It is a polite, serious response."
On the 50th anniversary of Pius' death last month, Vatican efforts to dispel what it sees as a "black legend" surrounding the wartime Pope took a leap forward when B16 launched a strenuous defense of the former, saying that he "often acted secretly and silently because, in the light of the concrete realities of that complex historical moment, he saw that this was the only way to avoid the worst and save the largest possible number of Jews.

Noting the praise Pius received "at the end of the war and at the time of his death" from "the highest authorities of the Jewish world," Benedict went on to lament that "the historical debate on the figure of [Pius]... which has not always been the calmest, has prevented us shining a light on all the aspects of his multifaceted pontificate."

The current Pope's second praise of his predecessor in a month, the memorial homily was given days after the first rabbi ever to address a Synod of Bishops made his own plea against the late Pope's elevation to the ranks of the blessed.

Saying that Pius "should have spoken up more strongly than he did," chief rabbi of Haifa Shear Yashuv Cohen added that he would've declined the Vatican invitation had he known that his appearance would coincide with the observances marking the milestone of the wartime pontiff's death.

Currently pending before Benedict is the decree of Pius' "heroic virtue" approved by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Marking the successful close of an exhaustive investigation into a potential blessed's Christian character, the finding would require papal approval before candidates for the inexplicable cure that, if proven, would secure the cause's progress to beatification can be solicited or examined.