Pope Benedict XVI has been speaking about his predecessor, Pope Pius XII in very favorable terms lately, specifically at the world Synod of Bishops, when he explicitly mentioned Pius’s response to the Holocaust. All this has raised expectations that his beatification may be imminent. It is a move that has concerned many Jewish groups since his canonization was first proposed. Pope Pius, said Benedict, "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." Jeff Israely of Time has a good overview of the story here. Others have suggested that Pius remained intentionally silent, while encouraging others in the clergy and religious orders to hide Jews in Italy, knowing while this approach could save many Jews, it would also damage his posthumous reputation: this approach has been called Pius’s "martyrdom of silence." At the same time, as John Allen in NCR, and others have reported, Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen, the first rabbi ever to address the synod, indirectly criticized Pius, saying, “We cannot forget the sad and painful fact of how many, including great religious leaders, didn’t raise a voice in the effort to save our brethren, but chose to keep silent and help secretly,” This comes on the heels of a critique by a rabbi in last week’s London Tablet (not available online). Robert Mickens covers the "red faces" at the synod over the rabbi’s statements in this week’s Tablet. Finally, a new book by one of Pius’s strongest defenders, Sister Marguerita Marchione, author of several books on Pius, has hits the stands in Italy. It’s called "Pius XII: The Truth Will Set You Free." In the foreward, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone called Pius "neither silent nor anti-semitic," but "prudent." All this, and certainly his beatification, is bound to anger some, please some, and increase demands, from nearly everyone, on the Vatican to open up more of its files on the man who seems destined to become Blessed Pius XII.
James Martin, SJ