The opening year of Pope Francis' reign has been notable for his attempts to bring people together, both within the greater Christian community and in Christian relations with Jewish and Muslim people. The pontiff broke tradition and invited the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to meet in the Vatican City for a prayer summit in which Catholic, Jewish and Muslim prayers would be offered - something which has never been done before. Pope Francis, who is widely regarded as a friend of the Jewish people, called the prayer summit despite significant initial opposition from Vatican officials, according to a report in the New York Post. Shortly thereafter, Pope Francis made comments that suggests he believes that Allied forces did not do all they should have to end the Holocaust during World War II.
Pope Francis, in an interview granted to Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia shortly after the recent Catholic-Israeli-Palestinian prayer summit in the Vatican City, suggested that the Allied forces did not do all the could to end the Holocaust during World War II and that his predecessor, Pope Pius XII, does not deserve some of the criticism he has received from Jewish and other sources for failing to speak out against the Third Reich. A related article published in Inquisitr delves into the criticisms against Pope Pius XII.
An English translation of the full La Vanguardia interview with Pope Francis, which covers many issues, with a relatively minor part of the interview dedicated to Pope Francis' comments about Pius XII and the Allied Powers, can be found here. Those who can read Spanish can read the full interview in the original language here.
Pope Francis' comments that suggested that the Allies failed to do what they could to prevent the Holocaust came in relation to a discussion about opening up the Vatican's archives from the World War II era, during the reign of Pius XII. Those records have been largely kept from the general public and historians. The interviewer asks Pope Francis the question, "Does it worry you that something could be discovered (when the archives are opened)?"
Pope Francis' response was:
"What worries me regarding this subject is the figure of Pius XII, the Pope that led the Church during World War II. They have said all sorts of things about poor Pius XII.
"But we need to remember that before he was seen as the great defender of the Jews. He hid many in convents in Rome and in other Italian cities, and also in the residence of Castel Gandolfo. Forty-two babies, children of Jews and other persecuted who sought refuge there were born there, in the Pope's room, in his own bed.
"I don't want to say that Pius XII did not make any mistakes – I myself make many – but one needs to see his role in the context of the time. For example, was it better for him not to speak so that more Jews would not be killed or for him to speak? I also want to say that sometimes I get 'existential hives' when I see that everyone takes it out against the Church and Pius XII, and they forget the great powers.
"Did you know that they (the Allied Powers) knew the rail network of the Nazis perfectly well to take the Jews to concentration camps? They had the pictures. But they did not bomb those railroad tracks. Why? It would be best if we spoke a bit about everything."
These comments are being made at a time when - according to a report from the Catholic News Agency- Pope Francis is considering putting Pius XII on the fast track to sainthood, bypassing a typical step that requires a verified miracle attributed to those who have been beatified before they can be recognized as saints by the Roman Catholic Church. According to Catholic tradition, the pope - and only the pope - has the authority to canonize a person (that is, to declare someone a saint) without a verification process which involves proving that miracles can be attributed to the proposed saint's intercession.
It's worth noting that Pope Francis' comments, both about Pope Pius XII and about the Allies efforts in World War II were not in any way spoken ex cathedra, meaning that he was stating his own opinion rather than speaking officially for the Roman Catholic Church and that Catholics - like anyone else - are free to disagree with the comments.
What do you think? Should Pope Francis canonize Pius XII or should greater scrutiny be given to his predecessor's actions and speech in relation to the Holocaust? Do you agree with Pope Francis that the Allied Powers failed to do all they could to stop the Holocaust?