Vatican envoy backs down over holocaust museum boycott

In a move welcomed by Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, the Holy See nuncio to Israel has reversed his decision to boycott a memorial ceremony because of his concerns over the museum's wartime photo of Pius XII.

EUX TV reports that Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial has welcomed a decision by the Vatican representative, Archbishop Antonio Franco.

Archbishop Franco had originally said he would not attend the memorial ceremony to protest a caption at Yad Vashem's museum suggesting Pope Pius XII did not do enough to stop the genocide of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II.

On Sunday it was reported he had changed his mind and would be present at the ceremony, which ushers in Israel's annual day of mourning for the victims of the Holocaust.

Archbishop Franco was quoted on Friday as saying that it "hurt" him to go to the museum "and see Pius represented in this way."

The role of Pius XII, former nuncio to Germany and a Vatican secretary of state, who headed the church from 1939 until his death in 1958, continues to divide historians.

According to the International Herald Tribune the caption next to the picture of Pius in Yad Vashem's museum reads, "even when reports about the murder of Jews reached the Vatican, the pope did not protest," refusing to sign a 1942 Allied condemnation of the massacre of Jews.

Pius "maintained his neutral position" with two exceptions, the caption says, criticising "his silence and absence of guidelines." The exceptions were appeals to the rulers of Hungary and Slovakia toward the end of the war.

The caption at the centre of the dispute states that Pius XII's role during the Holocaust is "a matter of controversy."

"When he was elected pope, in 1939, he shelved a letter against racism and anti-Semitism that his predecessor had prepared. Even when reports about the murder of Jews reached the Vatican, the pope did not protest either verbally or in writing. In December 1942, he abstained from signing the Allied declaration condemning the extermination of the Jews. When Jews were deported from Rome to Auschwitz, the pope did not intervene," the caption states.

But Matteo Luigi Napolitano, author of a book called The Pope Who Saved the Jews, argues that Pope Pius' criticisms towards Nazism and his role in helping save Jews by instructing nuns to hide them in Catholic convents is "well documented."

Yad Vashem officials in turn say they are ready to re-examine the situation, but only if the Vatican allows researchers full access to its World War II archives, "so that they can possibly learn new and different information to that which is known today."


SOURCE
Vatican agrees to attend Holocaust memorial service, backing down from threat (International Herald Tribune, 15/4/07)
Yad Vashem welcomes Vatican official's decision to attend memorial (EUX TV, 15/4/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum
Pius XII (Wikipedia)
Pius XII (Vatican)

ARCHIVE
Vatican boycotts Holocaust ceremony over "offensive" photo (CathNews, 13/4/07)
Pius XII an "enemy of Third Reich", documents show (CathNews, 4/4/07)
"Incredulity" at Israel cancellation of Vatican meeting (CathNews, 28/3/07)
Israel apologises over cancelled Vatican meeting (CathNews, 30/3/07)
KGB smear campaign against Pius XII exposed (CathNews, 30/1/07)
Vatican's secret archives now open to scholars (CathNews, 19/9/06)
Vatican to release Pius XI's secret archives (CathNews, 3/7/06)
Hitler plot to kidnap Pius XII revealed (CathNews, 17/1/05)
Catholics join latest debate on Pope Pius XII (CathNews, 7/1/05)


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