ROME (CNS): A top proponent of the beatification of Pope Pius XII said Pope Benedict XVI has not moved the cause forward because Jewish groups have warned it would permanently damage Catholic-Jewish relations.
Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel said Pope Benedict has not given the green light to proceed with the controversial beatification, a major step toward sainthood, because he was concerned about the warnings by the World Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups.
After Fr Gumpel spoke, the Vatican swiftly issued a statement saying that the pope alone is in a position to determine the progress of the cause and that any interference was “unjustified and inopportune.”
Speaking at a Vatican bookstore in Rome June 19, Fr Gumpel said Pope Benedict has not signed the decree recognizing the heroic virtues of Pope Pius XII because representatives of several Jewish groups have told him “loud and clear” that “if you do the least thing in favor of the cause of Pius XII, relations between the Catholic Church and the Jews are definitively and permanently compromised.”
Pope Pius has been criticized by many Jews and some historians who say he did not speak out forcefully enough against Nazi Germany and the deportation and extermination of millions of European Jews in World War II.
Defenders say Pope Pius did all he could by encouraging Catholic institutions to hide Jews from Nazi persecution, and that an open clash with the Germans under Adolf Hitler would have resulted in many more deaths.
Distancing the Vatican from Fr Gumpel’s declarations, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said late June 19 that “signing the decrees regarding beatifications are the exclusive competence of the pope, who must be left totally free in his evaluations and decisions.”
“If the pope thinks that more study and reflection on the cause of Pius XII is required,” the statement continued, “this position must be respected without unjustified and inopportune interference.”
Statements by Fr Gumpel, a German who said that as a boy he knew the future Pope Pius when he served as papal nuncio to Germany and who has worked enthusiastically on the sainthood cause for decades, have prompted clarification by the Vatican in the past.
Fr Gumpel said all the necessary documents for the beatification of Pope Pius had been gathered by the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes by 2004.
Verification of a miracle attributed to Pope Pius cannot go ahead until the signing of the decree recognizing the pope lived the Christian virtues heroically, he said, adding that there are a number of allegedly miraculous healings waiting to be evaluated by medical authorities.
In October 2008, Father Lombardi issued a statement requesting a halt to all pressure on Pope Benedict regarding Pope Pius, whether for or against the sainthood cause.