Father Peter Gumpel, the priest in charge of the beatification dossier, suggested that Pope Benedict XVI did not want to sign the beatification decree for Pius for fear of compromising relations with the Jews. Gumpel's statement has already provoked a sharp response from the Vatican. The former pope, previously known as Eugenio Pacelli, has been accused of staying silent and doing too little to resist the Nazi genocide of the Jews during World War II. Speaking at a conference in Rome Friday, Gumpel said
Pope Benedict "is absolutely not" against Pius XII, whom he "admires and esteems, particularly for what he did for the Jews." The pope "wants to do the maximum to improve relations with the Jews" said Gumpel, who holds the role of predicator, which means he is responsible for the beatification file on Pius.Gumpel said Benedict had been impressed by the stand taken by the Jewish community over the issue of Pius's beatification. "Representatives of Jewish organisations explained to him clearly that if he did something in favour of Pope Pacelli relations between the Catholic Church and the Jews would be permanently and definitively compromised," he added. Following Gumpel's comments, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi issued a statement insisting that the pope had to be "left completely free in his evaluations and decisions." It added: "If the pope thinks that the study and the reflection on the cause of Pius XII must be further prolonged, this position must be respected without interfering with unjustified and inopportune interventions." Only the pope had the power to sign the beatification decree, added Lombardi.
The process of the beatification of Pius XII -- which is the first stage on the path to being granted sainthood -- opened in October 1967. The Vatican has already, on several occasions, called on Gumpel not to put pressure on the pope over the matter. Several historians and members of the Jewish community believe Pius kept silent during the Nazi Holocaust. But Benedict XVI has regularly spoken out in defence of his predecessor. The Vatican has pointed to the fact the pope saved many Jews by having them hidden religious institutions in Rome and abroad.They say his silence was born out of a wish to avoiding aggravating their situation. But the dossier for Pius' beatification cannot advance further without the pope's signature. In April, the Vatican granted selected US researchers access to the archives of Father Robert Graham, a former Vatican specialist on the Pius's wartime role.
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