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VATICAN-PIUSXII Jun-17-2008 (600 words) xxxi

Vatican plans photo exhibit, conference on Pope Pius XII

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican announced plans for commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII with a photographic exhibition of his life and a conference discussing his teachings and influence on the Second Vatican Council.

However, the two events are not connected with furthering the late pope's sainthood cause, which Pope Benedict XVI put on hold late last year, said the head of the Vatican press office, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.

A congress dedicated to "the relationship between Pope Pius XII's magisterium and the Second Vatican Council is a whole other subject that has nothing to do with the person's holiness," he said during a June 17 press conference at the Vatican.

Father Lombardi and others presented plans to commemorate Pope Pius' October 1958 death with a Nov. 6-7 conference on "The Heritage of the Magisterium of Pius XII" and an Oct. 21-Jan. 6 photographic exhibit at the Vatican.

The exhibit was to document the late pope's youth, his career as a Vatican diplomat and his papacy -- a time frame that includes some of the most difficult moments in modern European history with the run-up and aftermath of two world wars and the Cold War.

Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, rector of Rome's Pontifical Lateran University, said the "complex and dramatic period" in which Pope Pius lived "renders not only the exact historical interpretation of the facts difficult, but compels one to consider a comprehensive evaluation that takes into account every aspect (of his work and pontificate) from the historic to ecclesial and from the doctrinal to the spiritual."

For that reason, congress organizers -- including the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, Lateran University and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome -- narrowed the conference program to topics that have gotten less attention.

The pope's political role before and during his pontificate has been studied and discussed extensively, the archbishop said, therefore, "what is left, what appears in many ways to still be unrecognized is the influence Pius XII had on the unfolding of the Second Vatican Council," which began four years after his death.

Pope Pius led the Catholic Church from 1939 to 1958; immediately before his election as pope, then-Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli was the Vatican secretary of state.

For years, controversy has raged over whether Pope Pius did and said enough in defense of the Jews and other victims of the Nazis.

Members of the Congregation for Saints' Causes voted in May 2007 to recommend Pope Benedict formally declare him venerable, a step on the path to sainthood.

Instead, the pope established a commission to study new archival material about Pius' papacy and to examine how his possible beatification would impact Catholic-Jewish and Vatican-Israeli relations.

Archbishop Fisichella said the continued condemnations and questions concerning Pope Pius' wartime role represent "a collective inertia" that has trouble accepting evidence showing how the pope did help Jews and others during World War II and how he condemned Nazism's anti-Semitic policies.

"I think this collective inertia will continue for a long time despite" continued documentation, research and study, he said.

Father Lombardi said while the Vatican's November conference was not meant to discuss Pope Pius' political role other initiatives planned for this fall would.

He said the Pave the Way Foundation was hosting a Sept. 15-17 event in Rome that would bring "a good number of Jews" to contribute their research and testimony regarding the pope's role during World War II and that a similar unspecified event was planned for the fall in Jerusalem.

END


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