JERUSALEM (JTA) – Controversial World War II Pope Pius XII moved one step closer to sainthood.
The current pope, Benedict XVI, advanced the sainthood Saturday of Pius and the popular Pope John Paul II by endorsing their "heroic virtues."
Jews and other critics have accused Pius of having turned a blind eye to Jewish suffering in World War II. Benedict has said that Pius worked “secretly and silently” to help save Jews, according to The New York Times.
Another Vatican committee must ascertain that miracles attributed to them actually occurred before the two popes can be made saints.
"One day after the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz is desecrated, Holocaust survivors are shaken by the profoundly insensitive and thoughtless Vatican announcement advancing wartime Pope Pius XII on the path to sainthood," said a statement issued by the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants. "Pairing the announcement on Pius — who remained publicly silent during the Holocaust — with that on John Paul II, himself a victim of the Nazis, is a particularly disturbing and callous act."
American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris said that while the Vatican should determine its saints, "the Church’s repeated insistence that it seeks mutually respectful ties with the Jewish community also means taking our sensitivities into account on the Holocaust era.”
AJC has maintained that no steps should be taken toward the beatification of Pius XII until the Vatican’s secret archives on the World War II period are opened for objective scrutiny by scholars.