Rabbi at Synod says Pius XII shouldn’t be beatified



The Synod still has me scratching my head.  I know everyone is going to say that it is wonderful to talk about, read and use Scripture, but… I think we know that already.

Other curiosities puzzle me as well.

I picked up from the intrepid Andrea Tornielli that the rabbi invited to speak at the Synod, Shear-Yashuv Cohen, Chief Rabbi in Haifa, launched an attack on the President of Iran, Ahmadinejad.  When he was interviewed by Phil Pullela of Reuters he attacked Pius XII, saying that the Church shouldn’t beatify him and that if he had known that the Holy Father was going to celebrate a Mass in honor of Pius XII he wouldn’t have come to the Synod.

Fine with me.

The anniversary of the death of Pius XII isn’t exactly a secret, nor is is a secret that Catholics remember their Popes.

If the Rabbi would like to go home, no one is stopping him.  Otherwise, it might be a good idea to participate in the Synod according to the spirit of the invitation extended to him.

Here is the wire copy of Phil Pullela’s piece:

By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY, Oct 6 (Reuters) – The first Jew to address a
Vatican synod on Monday told the gathering that Jews "cannot
forgive and forget" that some major religious leaders during
World War Two did not speak out against the Holocaust.
Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen’s words, spoken in the presence of
Pope Benedict, were a clear reference to wartime Pope Pius XII,
who many Jews say did not do enough to help them.
Cohen, the chief rabbi of Haifa in Israel, had told Reuters
in an interview hours before the address that he would add
indirect comments critical of Pius when he spoke to more than
200 Catholic bishops from around the world.
"We cannot forget the sad and painful fact of how many,
including great religious leaders, didn’t raise their voice in
the effort to save our brethren but chose to keep silent and
helped secretly. We cannot forgive and forget it and we hope
that you understand …" he said in unprepared remarks at the
end of his address.
Last month Pope Benedict forcefully defended Pius, saying he
"spared no effort" on behalf of Jews during World War Two.
Some Jews maintain Pius did not do enough to save Jews. The
Vatican says he worked behind the scenes to help because more
direct intervention would have worsened the situation.
Cohen also appealed to the synod to denounce Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who made another virulent
anti-Israel speech last month at the United Nations.
"I’m here also to ask you, leaders of religions, to raise
your voice and together with the help of the free world protect,
defend and save Israel … from the hands of our enemies," he
said, referring to a recent U.N. address by "a certain president
of a state in the Middle East".
"This anti-Semitic infamy brought back to us the painful
memories of the tragedy of our people, the victims of the
Holocaust which we hope and pray will never happen again," he
Cohen, 80, anticipated the contents of his address in the
interview with Reuters earlier in the day, saying that Pius, who
reigned from 1939 to 1958, should have done more to help Jews
during the Holocaust.
Cohen also told Reuters he might have stayed away if he had
known the major Church gathering coincided with ceremonies to
honour Pius on the 50th anniversary of his death.
"He (Pius) may have helped in secrecy many of the victims
and many of the refugees but the question is ‘could he have
raised his voice and would it have helped or not?’" Cohen said.
"We, as the victims, feel yes. I am not empowered by the
families of the millions of deceased to say ‘we forget, we
forgive,’" said Cohen.

Pius is one of the most difficult issues in Catholic-Jewish
relations. On Thursday the Vatican marks the 50th anniversary of
his death, Benedict celebrates a Mass in his memory and there
will be a conference and photo show on his papacy next month.
"I did not know (the anniversary commemorations) happened
during the same meeting. If I had known … I might have
refrained from coming because we feel that the pain is still
here," Cohen said.
"I have to make it very clear that we, the rabbis, the
leadership of the Jewish people, cannot as long as the survivors
still feel painful agree that this leader of the Church in a
time of crisis should be honoured now. It is not our decision.
It pains us. We are sorry it is being done," he said.
Urged by historians to open up all its archives from World
War Two, the Vatican says some are closed for organisational
reasons but that most of the significant documentation regarding
Pius is already open to scholars.
Last year, the Vatican’s saint-making department voted in
favour of a decree recognising Pius’s "heroic virtues", a major
hurdle in a long process toward possible sainthood that began in
1967. But Pope Benedict has so far not approved the decree.
Some Jewish groups say the Vatican should freeze the process
of beatification but others say it is an internal Church matter.
(Editing by Tim Pearce and Mark Trevelyan)

In the meantime, Walter Card. Kasper, President of the Council for Interreligious Dialogue made it clear that Pius XII did what he could to save Jews and that his beatification was a matter internal to the Catholic Church.

UPDATE: From Il Giornale:

Milano – Pio XII continua a far discutere. La disputa sulle parole del rabbino capo di Haifa, Shear-Yashuv Cohen, primo rabbino intervenuto a un sinodo è rimbalzata da una parte all’altra del mondo, coinvolgendo anche il blog del vaticanista del Giornale, Andrea Tornielli, autore di quattro libri su Papa Pacelli.

Le dichiarazioni del rabbino Cohen Il rabbino Cohen, intervistato da Phil Pullela, vaticanista della Reuters, ha detto che non è giusta la beatificazione di Pio XII, affermando che se avesse saputo che Benedetto XVI stava per celebrare il cinquantesimo anniversario della morte di Papa Pacelli avrebbe deciso di non partecipare al Sinodo.

Il commento di Tornielli Il vaticanista del Giornale sul suo blog ha commentato così le parole del rabbino: "A parte il fatto che la data di morte di Pio XII non è propriamente un segreto del Mossad, trovandosi in tutte le enciclopedie, a parte il fatto che il cinquantesimo rappresenta una scadenza importante, trovo del tutto fuori luogo che un esponente ebraico invitato a parlare ai vescovi cattolici ne approfitti per mettere in imbarazzo il Papa, per di più sulla base di leggende nere".

Reuters cita il blog del nostro giornalista Commento che non è rimasto inascoltato. Poche ore dopo, Tom Heneghan, curatore di una rubrica religiosa per Reuters, faceva eco alle parole del nostro giornalista : "Tornielli ha saputo focalizzare soprattutto l’attenzione sulla posizione del rabbino Cohen già in un’intervista rilasciata alla Reuters prima del suo discorso effettuato al Sinodo"

UPDATE: 1[]940 GMT

A friend in Rome supplied me with some commentary:

   Rabbi Cohen explained to us that he is here as the representative of the Israeli Rabbinate, and as such came to present the official hermeneutical "line" of that organization. He clearly was at pains to make it abundantly clear that he was not presenting his personal views[Interesting.]

  There may be some official reticence to recognize PPXII as a helper and friend to the Jews within the Rabbinate, and perhaps he was embarrassed and caught off guard, or, more likely, found himself placed in a position in which his answer to a question, phrased "just so" by a journalist with whom he had agreed to speak, might have blurred the lines between his personal and official views. In such a case, he might have decided to play it cautiously, and give the "party line" re. PXII.

  I really wonder whether "attacks PXII" is an accurate description of the substance, intention and effect of the Rabbi’s naked statements. I can’t be 100% sure, but I have "la netta impressione" that we are witnessing a sort of "Nixon in China" moment, in which some hard words or declarations ought not be allowed to overshadow the significance of the visit, itself.
  Please feel free to publish these speculations, indicating them as such. [Good observations.  I’ll think about the title of the entry.]



The rabbi later clarified to Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio (transcript):


I am here, not as an individual, presenting my own approach. I represent the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the official organization that leads the Jewish religion in Israel, in a way, in the Jewish world, so I would say the majority is with me here. There are those who feel that it’s more than a dialogue, and are suspicious that it’s an attempt, in a way, to blur the differences – just another kind of the same religion – which it’s not. There are some  basic elements in the articles of faith that we believe in, and that Christians believe in, and we cannot ignore it. I think that [dialogue] is not meant to change us. We should try to understand each other and live together, for those principles and for those ideas that join us.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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