The decision by Pope Benedict XVI to proceed with the beatification, made just before Christmas, has led to a spate of Jews spitting at Christians in Jerusalem.
The evidence is, in fact, considerable that Pius XII did an enormous amount to assist Jews facing Nazi persecution, both practically and prophetically -- but Jewish sceptics insist that only when the relevant Vatican archives are made available can that conclusion be reached.
Their case rests on the myth that Vatican archives are being kept "secret". The new petition for example calls on the Pope "to suspend the beatification process for Pope Pius XII until still-secret Vatican archives from World War II are declassified and made fully accessible". But they are not secret, and they do not need to be declassified. The problem is that they have not yet been catalogued -- a massive exercise which has only recently been completed for the pontificate of Pius XI.
In spite of this, and in order to satisfy Jewish demands, the Vatican fast-tracked the cataloguing of 12 volumes of Pius XII archives and made them available to a joint Catholic-Jewish panel of six historians to study. But the panel fell apart after its Jewish members complained that they weren't being given access to the "full" records. (See the statement in Osservatore Romano by the Pius XII relator, Fr Peter Gumpel SJ, here).
Pope Benedict has not been rushed into the decision to beatify Pius XII: he has studied the evidence and taken advice for two years. He knows that the archives, when they are finally catalogued and studied, will not contradict the evidence that Pius XII assisted the Jews.
But that won't stop Jewish-Catholic relations becoming more tense in 2010, with likely repercussions (because everything here is interrelated) on Vatican-Israeli relations. That may make it harder for Rome to speak out more forcefully against the Israeli strangulation of Bethlehem and the annexation of Palestinian Christian lands.
On the other hand, a little tough talking on both sides may make it easier to name a few uncomfortable truths.