Who does not want the beautification of Pius XII?
Wlodzimierz Redzioch talks to Fr Peter Gumpel, SJ, relator for the cause of Pius XII.
WLODZIMIERZ REDZIOCH: - At what phase of development is the cause for Pius XII?
FR PETER GUMPEL, SJ: - The process of beautification of Pius XII is going on in the normal course of events. Meetings of historians and theologians have already been held. On 8 May, the ordinary session of cardinals and bishops, members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, took place. All the participants of that important meeting evaluated the presented documentation in a positive way. I would like to explain that at every session the above-mentioned group discussed the subject of the so-called 'positio', which has six volumes (with 3,000 pages!) and which concerns the candidate for the altars. This is a scientific work. I oversaw the preparation of the work, having many collaborators from various countries of Europe and America.
- What is the next phase of the process?
- The positive results of the above mentioned meetings will be submitted to Benedict XVI for his approval. If the Holy Father gives a positive opinion we can begin analysing the supposed miracles, which are ascribed to the intercession of Pius XII.
- In recent weeks world media have again taken up the subject of Pius XII because of the gesture of the Apostolic Nuncio to Israel Archbishop Antonio Franco who did not want to participate in the Holocaust Remembrance event in the National Museum of Yad Vashem. The reason of the ostentatious action of the Nuncio was the text under the photo of the Pope in the museum. What is the content of this inscription?
- In 2005, the Museum of Yad Vashem exhibited a large photograph of Pius XII with a text that has offensive statements and shows the Pope in a negative way. As a historian I can state that every clause of the text false and insults the Catholic Church. The Apostolic Nuncio, who had been invited to the annual ceremony commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, was right, informing the management of the museum in an unofficial way that it would be hard for him to take part in the event because of the photo of Pius XII and the negative statements in the inscription.
- It is worth adding that it was Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the former representative of the Apostolic See to Israel that asked competent Israeli authorities to change the offensive exhibit.
- That's right. But his intervention failed. Coming back to the situation I would like to say that the management of the museum was very disloyal, giving the private nuncio's letter to the press. Thus the nuncio was forced to explain publicly why it would be hard for him to participate in the ceremony held in Yad Vashem. Because of the movement of the representative of the Apostolic See the museum management wrote a letter to him, stating that they were ready to re-examine the text, and they invited him to discuss the protest letter. The letter of the management made the nuncio change his opinion. It is worth knowing that Abraham Foxman, chief of the American Jews' organisation 'Anti-Defamation League', claimed that the opinion on Pius XII expressed in the inscription placed under the photo was inappropriate and too radical and therefore, he understood the reaction of the nuncio.
- The 'defence' of the nuncio by the man who is famous for his hostile attitude towards the Church and Christianity is very significant...
- It is indeed. Foxman's attitude towards Pius XII and the Catholic Church has always been critical. It is meaningful that it was him that made such an announcement. However, Foxman is not the only person who defends the Pope. Recently the Nuncio referred to Martin Gilbert, British Jew, one of the most outstanding contemporary historians, who wrote an official biography of Winston Church, which was ordered by the government. Having made long-term studies in the Jewish archives Gilbert decidedly defends Pius XII, stating that what the Pope did was right and was the only possible thing in that situation. Thus he absolutely rejected the content of the inscription concerning Pius XII in Yad Vashem. Michael Burleigh, another famous British historian, shares the same opinion. But much earlier Robert M.W. Kempner, deputy U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials (note that he was a Jew of German background), openly claimed that any public protest of Pius XII would have evoked opposite reaction and at the same time would have made the Pope unable to help the Jews. Here, in Rome, numerous Jews' testimonies defended the Pope.
- I would like to ask a question I could not wait to get it out: What are the interests of some influential Jewish groups and the Israeli authorities to continue this ruthless slandering of Pius XII and the Catholic Church as far as their politics during World War II is concerned?
- That's right. Certain Jewish circles stubbornly reject the arguments presented by Catholic, Protestant and Jewish environments that contradict their bias theses. Unfortunately, some Jews feel aversion to the Catholic Church and Christianity in general. There are also Orthodox Jews who share our anxiety. Recently I have met one of the Orthodox Jewish leaders in the USA and Canada (representing ca. 800 rabbis) twice and he gave me a very important written declaration. It states that Orthodox Jews do not agree with the fellow believers who meddle in the internal affairs of the Catholic Church.
We must explain that the cause for Pius XII is not the only one; prejudices against the Catholic Church appeared earlier and were connected with the processes of beautification of Pius IX, Edith Stein, Cardinal Clemens August von Galen or Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac.
- The same hostile reactions were against the cause for Cardinal August Hlond...
- I think that the Catholic Church must carry out all necessary historical research and say openly what was wrong. We did our best to improve our relationships with Jews but the other party must do the same. Unfortunately, the facts, for example the offensive text under the photo of Pius XII in Yad Vashem, do not certainly help to bring better understanding.
- Is there a chance that these impartial and objective Jews you mentioned will be able to convince others to show less hostile attitudes towards the Catholic Church?
- We can notice certain change in the tendency of the public opinion in the United States. Two years ago the book entitled 'The Pius War' was published there and the book contained 12 studies by various rabbis who defended Pius XII. Rabbi David Dalin also wrote a book that is very favourable for the Pope. There are many similar facts that make the American public opinion ask the question: were we misled about the criticism of Pius XII? What is the truth? Many people phone me and ask to explain them these controversial issues. This is a good sign since for many years those who criticised Pius XII had free access to media and big advertisements whereas those who refuted the accusation could not find a publisher.
- How can you explain such an attitude of the media?
- A considerable part of international media is in hands of those who are hostile towards the Catholic Church. Therefore, we should harbour no illusions about it. We should cherish hope that at least the Catholic media and Catholics themselves will decidedly react against groundless accusation. If we cannot accuse ourselves of anything why do we keep silence? Naturally, everyone is afraid of the label 'anti-Semitic' but that should not prevent us from telling the truth! If I had found even one 'doubtful' thing concerning Pius XII during my long research I would not have written 'positio'. After long research conducted together with international scholars I have reached the conclusion that Pius XII deserves to be called blessed.