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 CNS Story:

PIUS XII-KRUPP Sep-28-2009 (720 words) With photo. xxxi

Foundation seeks place of honor for Pope Pius XII at Yad Vashem

By Sarah Delaney
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- An effort to add the name of Pope Pius XII to the official list of people who helped protect Jews during the Holocaust is gathering steam and is supported by Pope Benedict XVI, the project's main promoter said.

Gary Krupp, president of the Pave the Way Foundation, a nonsectarian organization that seeks to reduce religious conflict, said in a telephone interview Sept. 21 that he had gathered thousands of documents to support his proposal that the wartime pope be named as Righteous Among the Nations.

The title is conferred by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem after a scholarly exam of the life and actions of non-Jews who risked their lives to hide or in some way rescue Jews from Nazi persecution during World War II.

Krupp, an American Jew, said he did not know if the unusual idea had a chance of succeeding. He said he and his aides were trying to fulfill the strict requirements for documentation, and that he was sure the material would at least be given thorough attention.

Krupp said he had met briefly with Pope Benedict during his general audience Sept. 16 and presented him with a 3-pound, 255-page book containing the 3,000 documents he had so far unearthed to present to the Yad Vashem commission.

"The pope was very, very happy and told us to continue our work," Krupp said. "He is really thrilled with what we are doing."

Following the audience, Krupp also met with the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who strongly supports the beatification of Pope Pius and, Krupp said, his efforts in gathering documentation.

Pope Pius has long been accused of indifference with regard to the Nazi regime and the plight of European Jews. The Catholic Church has strenuously defended him, saying that he worked quietly behind the scenes and was responsible for saving the lives of many Jews. Supporters say a strong public stance against the Nazis would likely have resulted in swift reprisals against Jews.

An official process to canonize the late pope was begun in 1967 but has proceeded slowly. Some Jewish organizations have said that the beatification of Pope Pius would damage Catholic-Jewish relations.

The Vatican has asked both supporters and critics to stop pressuring Pope Benedict regarding the beatification, a major step toward sainthood.

Krupp said the overriding goal of his proposal is to "get out the truth about this man, who was truly a hero."

But Mordechay Lewy, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, said Krupp's quest was misguided.

"I think he's obsessed. I don't know why. I don't suspect ulterior motives, but he brings things to absurdity," Lewy told Catholic News Service Sept. 23.

Lewy said that "the present pope is still reflecting" about the eventual beatification and added: "I'm not sure (Krupp) is doing a service to the cause.

"He likes to be a go-between figure," Lewy said of Krupp, "but we can have contact with the Vatican by ourselves." He said Krupp should consider carefully the requirements for inclusion in the list of Righteous Among the Nations.

Those requirements include the saving of one or more Jews from the threat of death or deportation to death camps; having risked one's life to do so; acting for selfless reasons and solely to save lives; and the existence of testimony or evidence to confirm the nature of the rescue.

Krupp's project contrasts with the current image of Pope Pius at Yad Vashem. In the memorial's museum hangs a portrait of the pope with a caption that says he shelved a letter against anti-Semitism, did nothing to protest the mass murder of Jews, refused to sign a 1942 Allied condemnation of the massacre of Jews, and failed to intervene when Jews were deported from Rome to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.

Krupp said that view of the pope is all wrong and he aims to change minds with the new documentation he has gathered. Among the new material are documents that prove that German Catholic bishops had agreed that Nazis would not be allowed to take Communion, which had never come to light before.

He also said there was a project under way with a British television production company to make a documentary using the information he has amassed.

END


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