(JTA) – Catholic scholars from three countries have asked Pope Benedict XVI in a private letter to delay the proposed sainthood of World War II Pope Pius XII.
The 18 scholars from the United States, Germany and Australia said that Catholic-Jewish relations could be irreparably harmed if Pius achieves sainthood before the historical record of his actions on behalf of Jews during World War II is cleared up, Reuters reported Wednesday. The news agency saw a copy of the letter.
"Holy Father, we implore you, acting on your wisdom as a renowned scholar, professor and teacher, to be patient with the cause of Pius XII," the letter reportedly said.
Critics have long accused Pius of having ignored Jewish suffering during the Holocaust. The Vatican and other supporters of Pius say the wartime pope worked behind the scenes to save Jews.
"Currently, existing research leads us to the view that Pope Pius XII did not issue a clearly worded statement, unconditionally condemning the wholesale slaughter and murder of European Jews," read the scholar’s letter, according to Reuters.
Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, in a statement issued Wednesday said, "This powerful and moving letter has suffused the Catholic-Jewish dialogue with renewed vigor and purpose. It is the proper response to those who are silent or indifferent where principles and conscience are at stake."
"The silence of Pius during the Holocaust was an abject moral failure; today’s letter by Catholic scholars is an affirmation of the power and majesty of truth," the statement concluded.