PARIS (EJP)---The umbrella representative group of Jewish organizations in France said the Vatican’s plan to beatify wartime pope Pius XII "would deal a severe blow to relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish world."
In a statement issued on Friday, CRIF regretted that the Vatican "refuses to open its archives on the WWII period" to historians and stressed that “a majority of independent historians did not agree with the position that Pius worked ceaselessly to save Jews.”
The warning from CRIF, which is the public representative and voice for the 600,000-strong French Jewish community, the largest in western Europe, came as the Vatican is mounting a campaign to refute accusations Pius did not do enough to try to stop the extermination of 6 million Jews during WWII.
CRIF said: "It is out of question to deny that Pius did help to hide "a certain number of Jews" in Rome during the German occupation and to underestimate "the magnificent role played individually by some clergy, notably in France, to save Jews."
The Jewish group deplored that "Pope Pius XII, worried about burning his bridges with Germany, never made a clear statement denouncing the singular monstrosity of the extermination of millions of Jews. Moreover, he did not do so after the war either, which is profoundly shocking.”
Pius XII was pope between 1939 and 1958.
CRIF argued that in the face of Nazi crimes, Pius XII should have played the role of "a prophet rather than a prudent diplomat."
"As long as no new documents indisputably change the historical view of this era -- and none have yet been provided -- Jewish survivors of the Shoah will suffer a profound hurt if the silence of the magisterium in the face of the genocide of the Jews is presented as a model behavior," the statement said.
While relations between Catholics and Jews have greatly improved over the last decades, Vatican’s plan to go ahead with the beatification of Pius XII – the first step towards sainthood- was felt negatively by the Jewish institutions across the world.
The CRIF statement came after Pope Benedict XII celebrated a Mass on October 9 to mark the anniversary of Pius' death and lauded what he called "secret" efforts by the pontiff to save Jews.
"He often acted in a secret and silent way precisely because, given the real situations of that complex moment in history, he realized that only in this manner could the worst be avoided and greatest number of Jews be saved," Benedict said.
The Vatican’s newspaper ‘L'Osservatore Romano’ dedicated an entire page to praising Pius, including a tribute from the Holy See's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
"It was precisely by means of a prudent approach that Pius XII protected Jews and refugees," Bertone wrote. "If he had made a public intervention, he would have endangered the lives of thousands of Jews who, upon his directive, were hidden, in 155 convents and monasteries in Rome alone."
Earlier this month, an Israeli rabbi who made an unprecedented address to the synod of Catholic bishops in the Vatican added his voice to Jewish opposition to the beatification of Nazi-era pope Pius XII.
"We oppose the beatification of Pius XII. We cannot forget his silence on the Holocaust," Shear-Yashuv Cohen, the chief rabbi of the Israeli city of Haifa and a member of Israel’s chief rabbinate's commission for relations with the Vatican, said.
"He should not be seen as a model and he should not be beatified because he did not raise his voice against the Holocaust. He didn't speak because he was afraid or for other personal reasons," the rabbi said.