ROME (JTA) — Responding to widespread Jewish criticism, the Vatican said controversial wartime Pope Pius XII would not be beatified at the same time as Pope John Paul II.
"There is no reason to forecast a dual beatification," Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement Wednesday.
John Paul made fostering Catholic-Jewish relations a priority.
On Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree that recognized the religiously defined "heroic virtues" of both late pontiffs, moving both a step closer to beatification. The green-lighting of Pius XII’s advance toward sainthood drew widespread criticism from Jewish bodies.
The fact that the decrees were promulgated on the same day, Lombardi said, "does not mean that from now on the two causes will be ‘paired.’ They are completely independent of one another and each will follow its own course."
Critics accuse Pius of not having done enough to save Jews during the Holocaust, and they have called for the opening of the Vatican’s secret archives to clarify the issue.
Lombardi said that Benedict’s move should not be seen as being hostile to Jews and said he hoped that Pius’ progress towards sainthood "will not be considered an obstacle on the path of dialogue between Judaism and the Catholic Church."
He said that the recognized "heroic virtues" concerned Pius’ "relationship with God and his Faith" and did not constitute "an assessment of the political scope of all his operational choices."
Historical research, Lombardi said, should continue, but the archive would not all be opened immediately. "In this specific case it is comprehensible that there should be a request to have open access to all possibilities of research on the documents," he said. "Yet for the complete opening of the archives — as has been said on a number of occasions in the past — it is necessary to organize and catalogue an enormous mass of documentation, something which still requires a number of years’ work."
Benedict is due to pay a visit to Rome’s main synagogue on Jan. 17. Lombardi said he hoped that visit would be "an opportunity for the cordial reiteration and reinforcement of ties of friendship and respect."