Yad Vashem, Catholics to examine Pope Pius record

ROME (JTA) — Yad Vashem will cooperate with a Catholic study institute to evaluate research on Pope Pius XII’s role during the Holocaust.

Scholars from Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research will meet Sunday and Monday with scholars from the Jerusalem-based Studium Theologicum Salesianum to evaluate the controversial pope’s wartime record.

The meeting "is being held to understand the present state of research on the man and the topic, and is an opportunity for an exchange of updated knowledge and a sharing of scholarly opinions," a statement from Yad Vashem said. "In the last few years, several important books and articles have been published, and new material has come to light, and therefore there is a need to summarize what information is known to scholars, to see whether there is any new information not previously known, as well as any information that needs re-evaluating."

Many Jewish and historians have accused Pius of turning a blind eye to Jewish suffering during the Holocaust, while the Vatican and other historians assert that Pius worked behind the scenes to save Jews. Yad Vashem in particular has come under criticism for an exhibit caption that ascribes "silence and the absence of guidelines" during the Holocaust to Pius.

The Catholic news agency Zenit.org quoted Rev. Francesco De Ruvo as saying that, at the meeting, "historians will come together who will share the results of their investigations to respond to a series of questions that affect the current controversy." He said, "a climate of cordial and respectful listening has been maintained till now among the institutions involved in this initiative, which, as everyone hopes, will lead to an understanding of the current text that can be seen in the Yad Vashem."

The meeting comes amid preparations for a visit to Israel in May by Pope Benedict XVI that will include a stop at Yad Vashem. It also comes amid an ongoing process promoting the beatification of Pius.

Yad Vashem and Zenit.org said the scholars meeting would focus on the period before Pius XII’s papacy, Vatican relations with German bishops at the time, Pius XII and the Holocaust, the situation of Italy during the Holocaust and the aftermath of the Holocaust.

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