The Vatican Ambassador to Israel is refusing to go to Shoah memorial services at Yad Vashem because there is picture of Pope Pius XII that questions whether he did enough to save Jews from Hitler’s final solution. To be honest this is not a “slam dunk” either way, there is evidence to prove and disprove the contention that the Pope could have done much more.
The reason why it is still a controversy falls squarely in the lap of the Vatican. They appointed a committee to investigate the Vatican’s reaction to th Holocaust, the International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission was appointed by the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews in 1999. With three Jewish and three Catholic historians, the goal of the group was to study the way the Church reacted to the Holocaust. In October of 2000, the group issued a preliminary report raising a number of questions about existing data, in their introduction to their report, they stated:
Many scholars, from the 1960s to the present, have taken seriously the mandate for historical objectivity and have written balanced accounts (albeit in many cases still critical of the Holy See). Others appear to have simply assumed that a particular allegation, if deemed to be damaging to Pius XII’s reputation, must therefore be true. Still others, reacting to the charges against the Pope, have developed apologetical defenses, some of which are highly polemical. As a result, there have developed over the years increasingly contentious portraits, both condemnatory and adulatory, of a man whose office, the papacy, is revered by many as a sacred institution.
The ICJHC raised a list of 47 questions about the way the Church dealt with the Holocaust, requested documents that had not been publicly released in order to continue their work, and, not receiving permission, they disbanded in July of 2001, having never issued a final report. Unsatisfied with the findings, Dr. Michael Marrus, one of the three Jewish members of the Commission, said the commission “ran up against a brick wall…. It would have been really helpful to have had support from the Holy See on this issue.”Now six years later, the Vatican has ratcheted up the controversy by refusing to attend tomorrow’s ceremony at Yad Vashem. The ADL has called their action insulting and as asked the Vatican to release the documents so the controversy could be put to bed once and for all.
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New York, NY, April 13, 2007 … Calling the decision by the Vatican ambassador to Israel to boycott the Holocaust memorial services at Yad Vashem “inappropriate and insulting,” the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today repeated its longstanding call for the Vatican to open its wartime archives so that the facts concerning the wartime actions of Pope Pius XII may finally be brought to light. Archbishop Antonio Franco, the Vatican’s ambassador to Israel, has made the unprecedented announcement that he will boycott the April 16 memorial events at Yad Vashem, Israel’s national memorial to the Holocaust, in protest of a photo caption in an exhibit that seemingly charges Pope Pius XII with failing to save Jews during the Holocaust. “While we understand Archbishop Franco’s displeasure about the photo caption, his decision to boycott the entire Holocaust Memorial Day ceremonies is unnecessarily insulting and unbecoming,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor. “The photo caption may be inappropriate and too judgmental, but it does not justify the Vatican’s refusal to participate in Israel’s national observation of Holocaust Memorial Day.” Mr. Foxman said the episode served as yet another reminder of the need for the Vatican to declassify all archival materials covering the period of the rise of the Third Reich in Germany and World War II, “so that legitimate independent scholars and historians can study and analyze them and help us to finally learn the facts concerning Pope Pius XII and his actions vis-à-vis Jews during the Holocaust. “Without the public release and analysis of the Vatican’s wartime archives, the questions about Pope Pius XII will remain unresolved,” said Mr. Foxman. “These records have special significance for Holocaust survivors and their families. We strongly urge the Vatican to make public access to the archives their highest priority.”