Society That Thinks Pope Pius XII Rules

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Denial

Franciscan Holy Land leader denies he criticized Pope Pius XII

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land has denied that he criticized Pope Pius XII for not doing enough to defend the Jews during World War II.

In a May 1 clarification to statements reported in the Jerusalem newspaper Ha'aretz in late April, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who is in charge of Christian sites in the Holy Land, said that in his April 25 speech at an academic conference in Tel Aviv, "No reference -- direct or indirect -- was made to Pius XII or the authorities of the Holy See.

"It was not my intention to express any historical judgment on what had happened during the war," he added in the statement, e-mailed to Catholic News Service May 1.

"The statements reported by Ha'aretz and attributed to me are, then, incorrect and false," he said.

In his clarification and in a telephone interview with CNS, Father Pizzaballa said he did not state anything that had not already been said in papal documents or in documents by European bishops.

Ha'aretz quoted Father Pizzaballa as criticizing "church leaders, including those of the highest level, who did not adopt a courageous stand in the evangelical spirit in the face of the Nazi regime."

Ha'aretz then reported: "Dr. Simcha Epstein of the Hebrew University's Vidal Sassoon Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism said the phrase 'high-level leaders,' was a veiled reference to Pope Pius XII."

Supporters of Pope Pius' sainthood cause recently gathered in Rome to hear about his virtues and denounce criticism that he did not do enough to help Jews during World War II. Some believe his cause has been delayed because of such criticism.