ROME (CNS): Thousands of Vatican documents demonstrate that Pope Pius XII worked quietly but effectively to help Jews and others during World War II, a top Vatican official said.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, said on June 5 that the documentation of papal charity is the most convincing response to the “black legend” that has depicted the late pope as indifferent toward the victims of Nazism.
The cardinal said a fair reading of history must recognise “the enormous work of charity that the pope promoted, by opening the doors of seminaries and religious institutes, welcoming refugees and the persecuted, and helping all”.
Cardinal Bertone made the comments in Rome at the presentation of the book, “Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli: A Man on the Throne of Peter”, by Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli.
The cardinal’s lengthy talk came four weeks after the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes declared that the late pope heroically lived the Christian virtues and recommended Pope Benedict XVI advance Pope Pius’ sainthood cause.
On several occasions, the pope did denounce Nazi persecutions, the cardinal said.
But the pope measured his words carefully and prudently, Cardinal Bertone said, because he was convinced that speaking more bluntly would end up causing greater harm to Jews and other groups.
Cardinal Bertone said the legend about Pope Pius’ supposed “silence” during the war had its roots in the postwar period, specifically 1946-48, a time when the state of Israel was being formed and when the pope was calling for respect and justice for Palestinian residents of the Holy Land.
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