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-Pope Visits Synagogue but Holocaust still a major Dividing Issue

by Dr. D ~ January 19th, 2010

ROME - JANUARY 17:  Pope Benedict XVI (C) deli...
(Pope visits Synagogue by Getty Images via Daylife)

On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI paid an official visit to the head Synagogue in Rome. The visit dredged up a major issue that still divides the two religions—The Holocaust.

Jewish leaders continue to question the role of Pope Pius XII during the Nazi era and his apparent inaction in the face of the mass murder of Jews during WWII. Jewish historians have long demanded access to the papal archives from that period and the issue was boldly addressed to the Pope by Riccardo Pacific, head of Rome’s Jewish community:

“Awaiting a shared judgement, we wish with the utmost respect that historians will have access to the Vatican archives concerning this period.”

“Maybe he could not have stopped the death trains, but he could have sent a signal, a word of extreme comfort, of human solidarity for our brothers taken off to Auschwitz,”

Meanwhile, Benedict has put Pope Pius XII on the ‘fast track’ towards sainthood and the church contends that Pius did a lot behind the scenes to save Jews including putting many up in Churches and hiding some in church institutions during the war.

On Sunday Pope Benedict did place a wreath before a plaque commemorating the round up of more than 1,000 Roman Jews by the Nazis for deportation on October 16, 1943. The Jewish community in Rome still feels that the Pope Pius XII could have done more particularly at that moment in history when Jews were literally taken in front of the Vatican itself.

Response: It is difficult for Jews to accept any ‘veneration’ of Pope Pius XII when from their perspective he was at best ‘silent’ on the Holocaust and at worse by inaction aided and abetted the mass murder of Millions.

The Vatican says that according to their records Pius did a lot behind the scenes to save Jews. That may be true but those records probably should have been released for all to see before Pope Benedict honored Pius with the title “venerable”. Jewish leaders considered it a slap in the face and several major Rabbis didn’t attend the event on Sunday.

The Israeli ambassador the Vatican did attend the event and his remarks on the day seemed to summarize the feelings of many Jews in attendance:

“Catholic anti-Judaism still exists.”

On his part, Pope Benedict seems sincere in respecting the Jewish community and overcoming divisions of the past but his actions in promoting Pius flies in the face of all of his good intentions.            *Top

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1 Response to -Pope Visits Synagogue but Holocaust still a major Dividing Issue

  1. Gabriel Wilensky

    Pacifici is right. If Pope Pius XII and his clergy, in association with leaders of the Protestant churches, had opposed antisemitism and the ongoing annihilation of the Jews consistently, vigorously and as a united front of the two churches, they may have succeeded in creating a moral revolt against genocide. The churches should have used any and all outlets available. The Pope, who during the war still ruled autocratically over an independent state with a functioning diplomatic corps, as well as over a fully operational, giant transnational organization of influential prelates and priests not subject to the ban on freedom of speech and who had global presence and reach, should have done this everywhere, loudly and plainly, and he should have done it relentlessly and through every means of communication available to the Vatican.

    Gabriel Wilensky

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