After meeting the pope Thursday, Jewish leaders said the beatification of Nazi-era Pope Pius XII likely would be postponed.
Pope Benedict’s move to make the controversial Pius XII a saint has outraged many Jews, who blame the late pope for staying silent in the face of Nazi atrocities and not doing more to help save Jews.
After their meeting Thursday with the pontiff, Jewish officials said they were left with the impression that the beatification of Pius would be postponed until the Vatican opened up its World War II-era archives.
But the pope did not say as much explicitly.
Richard Prasquier, who heads the French Jewish umbrella group CRIF, said he left with that impression from sideline discussions with Benedict’s entourage on Thursday, plus private conversations with the pope.
"It wasn’t said in an absolutely clear way. It was an impression that we had," Prasquier said. He said the pope is interested in maintaining a good relationship with world Jewry.
"The pope has no desire to be in a position of conflict," Prasquier said. "I think that the pope realized the beautification process created a conflict with the Jewish community. So I have a hard time imagining he’d start it up again in 15 days."
The leader of the Jewish delegation, Rabbi David Rosen, the director of the American Jewish Committee’s Department of Interreligious Affairs, was quoted in news reports as saying Benedict said in a conversation that he was "seriously considering" halting the sainthood process while Nazi-era archives on Pius remained closed.
Prasquier could not confirm that the Pope made such a statement.
Prasquier said most of the Vatican visit was devoted to explaining why technical difficulties stalled the opening of the 1939 to 1958 archives, which has been requested by Jewish officials.
"I told him I hoped the archives would help clarify things," Prasquier said. "If the archives show exemplary things about his personality, then we’ll change our opinion," Prasquier said of Pius.
Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman welcomed news that the Vatican’s World War II archive may be opened.
“This is an important step toward seeking the historical truth about the pontificate of Pope Pius XII and his activities regarding the Jews during World War II. We stand ready to assist in this important project for both of our faiths,” Foxman said in a statement.