Israeli President Shimon Peres urged Pope Benedict XVI not to put off a visit to Israel over a disagreement about Pope Pius XII.
A Catholic official was quoted Saturday by the Italian media as saying that the pope would not come as long as a photo caption at theYad Vashem Holocaust memorial alleging that Pius XII did not act to save Jews from the Nazis remains on display.
The pope has expressed interest in visiting Israel, and Israel recently extended an official invitation.
Peres said the Pius issue should not be a barrier.
“The visit to the holy country has nothing to do with anger or disputes,” he told reporters in Jerusalem. “It’s holy all the time, it’s holy for all of us.”
Benedict said last week that he hoped Pius XII, who served from 1939 to 1958, would be beatified, the first step toward sainthood, without controversy.
Pius’ role during the war has long been under heated debate, and Vatican archives documenting the period have yet to be made public.
“Any visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Israel would be a political matter, and therefore Yad Vashem is not a part of this matter, as has been clarified by the Vaticanâ€™s spokesperson,” Yad Vashem said in a statement released Sunday.
The statement went on to say that the presentation on Pius’ actions during World War II in the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem “is based on the best research regarding this topic. Yad Vashemâ€™s historians are attentive to any research developments and new relevant documentation, and continue to delve into every aspect of the period. Yad Vashem is certain that the opening of Vatican Archives on the relevant period would help further research on the subject, which would clarify this historical issue.”
Meanwhile, the French Jewish umbrella group CRIF said Oct. 17 that Pope Pius XII should not be made a saint because he remained silent during the genocide of Europe’s Jews during and after World War II.
The project to beatify Pius XII “would deliver a severe blow to relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish world,” read the statement by the largest politically oriented Jewish body in France.
Though Pius did hide a number of Jews from the Nazis, he “worried about burning bridges with Germany,” and “never proclaimed a clear statement denouncing the specifically monstrous extermination of millions of Jews,” according to CRIF.