Holy See Press Office comment on Decree of heroic virtues of Ven. Pius XII

From the Vatican Press Office comes this, with my emphases and comments:


VATICAN CITY, 23 DEC 2009 (VIS) – Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. today issued the following note concerning the signing of the recent decree on the heroic virtues of Servant of God Pope Pius XII.

  "The Pope’s signing of the decree ‘on the heroic virtues’ of Pius XII has elicited a certain number of reactions in the Jewish world; perhaps because the meaning of such a signature is clear in the area of the Catholic Church and of specialists in the field, but may merit certain explanation for the larger public, in particular the Jewish public who are understandably very sensitive to all things concerning the historical period of World War II and the Holocaust.

  "When the Pope signs a decree ‘on the heroic virtues’ of a Servant of God – i.e., of a person for whom a cause for beatification has been introduced – he confirms the positive evaluation already voted by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. … Naturally, such evaluation takes account of the circumstances in which the person lived, and hence it is necessary to examine the question from a historical standpoint, but the evaluation essentially concerns the witness of Christian life that the person showed (his intense relationship with God and continuous search for evangelical perfection) … and not the historical impact of all his operative decisions".

  "At the beatification of Pope John XXIII and of Pope Pius IX, John Paul II said: ‘holiness lives in history and no saint has escaped the limits and conditioning which are part of our human nature. In beatifying one of her sons, the Church does not celebrate the specific historical decisions he may have made, but rather points to him as someone to be imitated and venerated because of his virtues, in praise of the divine grace which shines resplendently in them’.

  "There is, then, no intention in any way to limit discussion concerning the concrete choices made by Pius XII in the situation in which he lived. For her part, the Church affirms that these choices were made with the pure intention of carrying out the Pontiff’s service of exalted and dramatic responsibility to the best of his abilities. In any case, Pius XII’s attention to and concern for the fate of the Jews – something which is certainly relevant in the evaluation of his virtues – are widely testified and recognised, also by many Jews. [I am glad that he at least added that.]

  "The field for research and evaluation by historians, working in their specific area, thus remains open, also for the future. In this specific case it is comprehensible that there should be a request to have open access to all possibilities of research on the documents. … Yet for the complete opening of the archives – as has been said on a number of occasions in the past – it is necessary to organise and catalogue an enormous mass of documentation, something which still requires a number of years’ work.

  "As for the fact that the decree on the heroic virtues of Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius XII were promulgated on the same day, this does not mean that from now on the two causes will be ‘paired’. They are completely independent of one another and each will follow its own course. There is, then, no reason to imagine that any future beatification will take place together".

  "It is, then, clear that the recent signing of the decree is in no way to be read as a hostile act towards the Jewish people, and it is to be hoped that it will not be considered as an obstacle on the path of dialogue between Judaism and the Catholic Church. Rather we trust that the Pope’s forthcoming visit to the Synagogue of Rome [That is probably what this is all about.] will be an opportunity for the cordial reiteration and reinforcement of ties of friendship and respect".

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  1. Thank you for keeping us informed, Father. Father Gumpel, S.J., who is the expert on Pius XII stated a short time ago that the delay in this matter was political.

  2. luiz says:

    Pope in the Synagogue of Rome… Why not: jews in St. Peter’s?

  3. scohop says:

    “…and not the historical impact of all his operative decisions”.

    I have to wonder if this shouldn’t also be taken as a comment on JPII’s decree?

    By that I mean, we can all emulate the previous Holy Father’s many virtues without getting too bent out of shape about things that happened “on his watch”.


  4. mibethda says:

    As in many of his press statements, Fr. Lombardi seems to take a regretfully defensive position on the actions of the Holy See.

  5. Theodorus says:

    I have never understood the purpose of the “dialogue between Judaism and the Catholic Church”.

  6. Theodoricvs says:

    I find this statement of the Holy See very weak. If they dont defend Ven.Pius XII who will??? Pius XII was the greatest pope of the last 400 years. He saved 800.000 Jews from the Nazi’s. The Vatican knows this….why are they silent about this????

  7. DavidJ says:


    What’s wrong with people understanding each other better? What’s wrong with establishing common ground? From a purely evangelical standpoint, it’s easier for someone to cross the Tiber if they have something in common with us.

  8. ssoldie says:

    Pope Pius XII actions, during the second world war spoke louder then any words, his concerns for his jewish brethren, have been well documented.

  9. Tominellay says:

    It’s a reasoned statement, and I hope it wards off some of the “pile on” after the inevitable flak attacks.

  10. DarkKnight says:

    Pope Pius XII’s actions were larger, more widespread and effective than anything the international Jewish community mounted.

    Perhaps the Jews specialized understanding of history precludes them from realizing that the Underground did not make it a practice to announce the blowing up of a bridge – they quietly did it. To do otherwise would preclude the end objective.

    Who would be daft enough to argue that the same couldn’t apply to Pius?

  11. Theodorus says:


    There is nothing wrong with people understanding each other better, and it is surely wonderful to establish common ground. But even after you have apologized again and again for the past harms and changed ancient prayers to satisfy others’ demands, and yet some groups are still not satisfied and even try to interfere Catholic Church’s internal affairs, and that becomes a problem. The “dialog” so far seems to be a mainly “one-sided” dialog.

  12. Roland de Chanson says:

    This papal obsequiousness to the more obstreperous Jewish organizations is unconscionable.

    O Sedes Apostolica! Quam ignara tu! Quam et ignava tu! Ubi est robur tuum? Quos vereris? Catholicos tui pudet. Conditorem istum tuum tui pudet. Petrus modo ter negabat: tu decies, immo centies istius Conditoris successorem negasti cuius Corpus ac Sanguis indubium invictum irrevocabile Testamentum est. Pro pudor! Pudor infandus!

    Oremus et pro Papa: ut Deus et Dominus noster auferat velamen de corde eius.

    Flectamus genua.

    O Apostolic See! How ignorant you are! And how cowardly! Where is your backbone? Whom do you fear? You shame the Catholic people. You shame your Founder. Peter but thrice denied; you ten, nay a hundred times have denied that successor of your Founder whose Body and Blood is the indubitable, invincible, irrevocable Covenant. For shame! Unspeakable shame!

    Let us also pray for the Pope: that God and Our Lord will remove the veil from his heart.

    Let us kneel.

  13. Bruce says:

    “You shame the Catholic people. You shame your Founder.”
    “For shame! Unspeakable shame!”

    Roland, with all do respect I think you are overreacting.

  14. Bornacatholic says:

    Lord. The bowing, scraping, and groveling is sickening. I long for the day (but I know I will never see it) when the Church simply ignores her critics or tells the Jews to mind their own business.

    When is the Holy See going to begin to demand Jews apologise for their indefensible objections to decisions we take?

    Letting the Jews set the terms of dialogue is to always adopt the inferior position.

    How about acting like adults and telling the Jews to mind their own business when, as it is in this instance, it is none of their business.

  15. boko fittleworth says:

    Great point, scohop@12:03. I read the release and immediately thought of Assisi and the Koran-kissing incident. I found the information helpful and think I understand the process better now, the embarrassing dhimmi obsequiousness notwithstanding. There’s something a little “anti-semitic,” as the term is used, about all this. The groveling only makes sense if the conspiracy theories about the Jews are true.

  16. I think this was a pretty good statement by the Vatican, especially considering the recent frenzy over Pius XII. It is unfortunate, though, that too often we must take the defensive approach with the media and other religious communities.

  17. idatom says:

    Fr. z.

    Can’t our Jewish brothers Google?
    Please see what Albert Einstein had to say, and read what the NY Times printed about Pious XII during the war years etc..
    The Pope of my formative years saved the lives of 800,000 Italian Jews.
    Which other civilian can make this claim?
    There must be an agenda here.

    Tom Lanter

  18. Grabski says:

    Since when are the Jews given a veto on who’s a saint?

  19. idatom says:

    Fr. Z.

    It’s about time for the Jews to put small stones on Pious XII’s grave and to name him “Righteous among the Nations” as they have for Oskar Shindler.

    Tom Lanter

  20. Sedgwick says:

    I agree with Roland and others who observe that this is not only a tepid defense at best, but a scandal that the Church should have to defend herself to anti-Catholic (i.e. Zionist) groups for her selection of saints. This is what happens when “aggiornamento” opens the door to geopolitics: every Church matter is now seen as a political matter, and thus an opportunity for political sniping.

    As for “dialog,” please tell me what fruits this ridiculous process has developed for the Church.

  21. Jack Hughes says:

    I don’t want to sound anti-semetic but the jews have to grow up big time! the fact that hitler gassed 6 million jews half a century ago does not give them free reign to demand that we kowtow to them when cannonizing saints.

    I am also inclined to agree with St Augastine that there is a reason why the jews have been scattered to the four winds and with Bl Pius IX when he said “of these dogs, there are too many of them at present in Rome, and we hear them howling in the streets, and they are disturbing us in all places.”

    Also their whining over the Good Friday prayer is a bit rich coming from people who I’m told pray to God (who no longer anwers their prayers) and ‘thank him’ for not being born a gentile three times a day.

  22. Sacristymaiden says:

    Grabski: My thought exactly!

  23. RichardR says:

    I am with Theodorus and Roland de Chanson: the perfidious Jews must be stopped, condemned, eradicated. We need pogroms, inquisitions, what ever it takes. And let’s start with that 1st century Jew who said “Love thy neighbor”- what crap. Oops, my bad.

  24. Two items: In the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel there is a portrait of Pius XII with some very derogatory statements about him on the wall next to it. I am reminded of Bp. Fellay (head of the SSPX)who printed a twenty-five page tract titled: “From Ecumenism to Silent Apostasy”. He explains that regardless of our intentions when the ecumenical discussion is begun, we tend to give up the core of our beliefs in order to achieve “peace”. This also appplies to our own Catholics who vote for abortion and who support pervert marriage. Why our own Ted Kennedy had two cardinals bury him and he was a great proponent of abortion and pervert marriage. We have been told that the word Catholic comes from the Greek word meaning “universal”. I hope it has not come to mean “punching bag”.

  25. Hidden One says:

    Let us each thank God that none of us commenters were in the position to be writing that statement. After all, were it better for one or more of us to be doing it, would it not be so? Who among us can write with full authority that he or she would have done better? I thank God that the statement gets the message across.

  26. Theodorus says:


    Do not put your own words in my mouth, and your sarcasm is not appreciated. If you insist the current one-way communication is the true dialog that will establish common ground and increase mutual understanding, then, good luck. But, please, stop misinterpreting my words.

  27. Roland de Chanson says:


    I completely disassociate myself from your call for violence against Jews.

    I am ashamed of the craven stance of the Papacy under Benedict and JP2. I think that if a Pope, successor of Peter and disciple of Paul, should choose to sit in a synagogue, he should there preach the Faith as Paul did, as Peter did, as James did, in other words, as the Jews’ own people did.

    You misconstrue my meaning with your “agreement”. Pacelli was a saviour of the Jews. He has some 800,000 miracles of lives spared to his credit. Let him be sanctified without delay. And may his defenders among the Jewish people not fear to exalt his name even as their predecessors did at the time of his obsequies.

    “Salvation is from the Jews”, as the Wisest of Rabbis once said. Believe that and retract your villainous and vitriolic vituperation.

  28. RichardR,
    Do us a favor and jump in the lake and stop hyperventilating about the subject matter at hand here.

  29. “Dialogue” is a two-way street.
    There is a division within the Jewish community about what exactly their particular religion means. How does the Catholic Church dialogue with Judaism in all its different manifestations?
    Friendship is about sharing “something”; what that is has to be determined among the persons involved.
    The Venerable Pope Pius XII loved the Jewish people because he was a Christian, a Catholic, a follower of Jesus Christ. He loved them by putting his own life on the line, it seems from present historical data.
    That is the kind of love we are to imitate for our brethren, no matter who they are.
    But “dialogue” is another matter. We cannot communicate with others unless there is a common ground.
    This is what has to be worked out. Not compromise and “let’s all just get along”. But what is it that we are actually talking about?

  30. Norah says:

    Jewish interest groups succeeded in getting the Good Friday prayers changed. “Perfideous” simply means without [Catholic] Faith – a true statement.

    Jewish interest groups succeeded in getting the USCCB to amend their amendment to the document “Reflection on Covenant and Mission.”

    Consider these successes why should Jewish interest groups not think that they should have a say in whom the Catholic Church canonises?

  31. Here is another point which I think adds fuel to the criticism of the Vatican: the Vatican puts forth two names for consideration: one is a pre-conciliar pope and the other a conciliar pope. It suggests that JP II was mentioned to take the “sting” out of naming Pius. Both are Venerable. The next step is Beatification. The danger here is that the process itself becomes suspect. That is why the necessity of a miracle (Divine intervention) becomes so critical.

  32. John Fannon says:

    Proper historians like Sir Martin Gilbert, who himself is Jewish, has praised Pius XII’s efforts to save Jews and says that Pius personally saved more Jews in Rome (percentagewise) than was saved in any other capital city under the Nazis, except Budapest, which was also a Papal initiative.

    The interview with Sir Martin Gilbert can be accessed here. It’s a long interview but worth listening to carefully. It is very rewarding to hear the measured tones of an expert in his field, without polemic.

    He also mentions the role of the Polish nation and the number of Catholics who were executed by the Nazis for their Jewish compatriots.

    Sir Martin says that Nations continually rewrite history to fit in with their current fears and perspectives, but there is such a thing as true history.

    Some critics say that the Pope didn’t speak out enough against the Nazi persecution of the Jews. This criticism sits well with today’s exhibitionist-moralists, whose idea of protest is to wear a band on their wrists to protest against slavery to show how nice they are, or to march in democratic countries dressed up as polar bears. Their other comfort gesture is to apologise for something for which they had no responsibility and which happened a long time ago. They are stuffed with cant and hypocrisy.

    So what did they expect would have happened if the Pope spoke out against Nazi atrocities? An appearance on a Berlin chat show to be interviewed by a Nazi equivalent of Jeremy Paxman?

    The Pope had to be very careful about when to speak out. He saw that every time there was a protest, the Nazis adopted even harsher measures. So what would protest achieve? The safety of Catholics under the Nazi heel was his responsibility. Far better to work below the radar and provide practical help, for which we have many examples.

  33. John Fannon says:

    Sorry word missed out

    “He also mentions the role of the Polish nation and the number of Catholics who were executed by the Nazis for assisting their Jewish compatriots.”

  34. asperges says:

    We need a far more robust attitude by the Holy See in its presentation of matters Catholic, of which this is one. I am equally uncomfortable with some of the comments above, although I understand them.

    The Catholic Faith is not answerable to any other group or religion. Whereas rampant mediaeval-style triumphalism, tactlessness or the desire or effect of hurting others should be avoided as far as possible, there is far too much PC all round and much apparent timidity.

    This is very much a secular habit: it was the bane of working in government circles. It can turn meanings upside down or degrade statements to meaningless committee-speak. Sir Humphrey (of “Yes Minister”) did it with great aplomb and humour, but there is a time and place… this is not it.

    Let the Church speak firmly and clearly when it needs to. The matter of Pius XII should not be diluted for the sake of anyone else.

  35. Penguins Fan says:

    My own humble opinion is that the Holy See should stop concerning itself with complaints from Jews – or anyone else – about the possible canonization of Pius XII. Pius XII was a holy man dedicated to God and his fellow man. Whining and crying from Jews or anyone else does not change history and I’m tired of revisionists blasting Pius XII.

    Yesterday, I did something that should merit Confession before Christmas – I clicked on ncr.org and read John Allen’s whining piece about Pius XII.

    I’m sick of that bunch, too.

  36. Clinton says:

    It’s in the interests of organizations like the Anti-Defamation League to see vicious anti-semites under every bed, for it is by
    whipping up paranoia amongst their supporters that they guarantee continued donations. Such people are probably not interested
    in any facts that might disturb their narrative that Ven. Pius XII was some sort of crypto-nazi sympathizer. That story, however
    false and ridiculous, is simply too convenient to resist. Trying to dialogue with them will be futile, but it will serve to give them the
    appearance of credibility.

    There is a group within the Jewish community that will always cling to the odious fable that Ven. Pius XII was “Hitler’s Pope”.
    It is for exactly the same reason that there are anti-semites that cling to the ridiculous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. To me,
    they are the two sides of the same coin. Neither group is interested in truth, only in narratives that perpetuate their status as

    Of course, if a group truly had reasonable questions about the cause for the canonization of a controversial person they would
    relay those concerns to the appropriate Congregation. It would be irresponsible and unhelpful to their goal if they simply issued
    intemperate public statements and demands. Since that is exactly what groups like the ADL are doing, I can be forgiven for
    assuming that it isn’t actually understanding and reconciliation that they seek.

  37. The Synagogue of Rome is “friendly territory” for the Holy Father, IIRC. They know perfectly well that they owe Pius XII bigtime. (Although they probably would have preferred him not to convert their chief rabbi!)

    As for the rest of it, you know that most of the people kvetching are the kind of secular Jews who just use their heritage as an excuse to say silly things and be anti-Semitic against their own. It’s silly to take them seriously, and even sillier to take them as an example of Jewish opinion. Getting all anti-Semitic over them is a waste of hate. (If you’re going to commit the Deadly Sin of Wrath, at least pick a better target. You’d hate to go to Hell over nothing.)

  38. Rob F. says:

    Thank you, Suburbanbanshee, for stating what seems to be missing from these comments. Most Jews who know anything at all about Pius XII know what a friend he was to their people during a most difficult time. Most Jews who know little or nothing about him still know enough not to trust the whining of professional victims. The cause of Pius XII has the support of most of those Jews who care enough about matters catholic to follow its progress.

  39. Clinton says:

    Well put, Suburbanbanshee and Rob F. .

    A real historian, such as Sir Martin Gilbert whom John Fannon mentions above, would give no credence to the slander perpetuated
    against Pius XII. The tripe written by the likes of James Carroll, Garry Wills and John Cornwell will never be approvingly cited in a
    responsible, scholarly history of that pontificate.

    Sadly, there are all too many instances of persecution of Jews in the world’s history. Why then do some vocal groups within the
    community cling to a false narrative of anti-semitism when so many other actual examples exist? My guess is that there are groups
    within the Jewish community that are the equivalent of our Call to Action/Catholics for a Free Choice-types. Where we have
    CINOs, they have JINOs. The agenda of some of these folks may be better served by fostering distrust and paranoia rather than
    understanding and reconciliation. I wish that our Jewish brothers and sisters–for I believe that the majority regard the Church
    with goodwill–would voice their disagreement with those groups. It would be a mitzvah.

  40. Vetdoctor says:

    n. pl. per·fi·dies
    1. Deliberate breach of faith; calculated violation of trust; treachery: “the fink, whose perfidy was equaled only by his gall” (Gilbert Millstein).
    2. The act or an instance of treachery.

    Not a neutral word.

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