Should Pope Pius XII be canonised? Examining the evidence surrounding Pope Pius XII's canonisation

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Kessler, Edward [et al.]

Stati Uniti d'America       21/10/2008

Sir, As scholars committed to the Christian-Jewish dialogue, we express our concern about any imminent beatification/canonisation of the wartime Pius XII (Pope 1939-58). His pontificate has stirred considerable controversy, with some claiming that he knew much and did little of importance while others argue that he did all he could under very difficult circumstances.


As Pope he condemned the effects of the war on its innocent victims, but did not single out the persecution of Jews, either during or after the Holocaust. Pius XII made some diplomatic interventions regarding Jewish safety but lived during a time, before Vatican II, when anti-Jewish prejudice was common in Christianity. The Vatican has yet to release much archival material that should be opened up with deliberate speed and examined by scholars. We are also deeply concerned about the impact of beatification/canonisation on the remaining survivors of the Holocaust, making the rush to canonisation seem inappropriate.

The evidence released thus far does not satisfactorily respond to whether Pius XII acted soon enough and decisively enough. A more extensive study is still required, one that would draw in the best available scholars in the field. The Vatican will not achieve credibility on the question of Pius XII’s wartime record by relying solely on the work of defenders of Pius XII. We therefore respectfully urge Catholic authorities to continue to hold on a consideration of his canonisation until all relevant archival material is made available and scrutinised and a wider scholarly consensus is achieved regarding his response to the Holocaust.
Until then, it will remain uncertain whether the Pope did all he could and whether he did it soon enough.

Dr Edward Kessler
Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations, Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths, Cambridge

The Rev Professor John T. Pawlikowski, OSM
Cardinal Bernadin Centre, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago

Dr Michael Berenbaum
American Jewish University, Los Angeles

Professor Mary Boys, NDS
Union Theological Seminary, New York

Dr Hans Hermann Henrix
Bischofliche Akadmie des Bistums Aachen, Aachen

Rabbi Professor Dr Ruth Langer
Centre for Christian-Jewish Learning, Boston College

Professor Michael R. Marrus
University of Toronto

Professor Didier Pollefeyt
University of Leuven

Dr Kevin P. Spicer, CSC
University of Notre Dame

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