ROME (Reuters) – Holocaust survivors and their families will ask Rome’s rabbi to tell Pope Benedict of their pain at his advancement of the case for declaring Pope Pius XII a saint when the pontiff visits Rome’s synagogue this weekend.

“The decision by Pope Benedict to advance the candidacy of Pius to sainthood sent shockwaves throughout the dwindling worldwide community of Holocaust survivors,” the group plans to say in a message to chief rabbi Riccardo Di Segni.

Excerpts from the message from the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants were made available to Reuters Monday. The group will send it Wednesday to Di Segni, who will address the pope at the synagogue Sunday.

“(The group) appeals to you to convey our pain and emotion to Pope Benedict when he is received by you at the main synagogue Sunday,” the message says.

Jewish groups reacted angrily last month when Benedict approved a decree recognising the “heroic virtues” of Pius, accused by some Jews of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust.

The two remaining steps to sainthood are beatification and canonisation, which could take many years. Jewish groups were upset because they had wanted a freeze on the process until more Vatican archives were made available to scholars.

“We believe that the pope should be received with a loving heart and open arms. In that spirit however, fidelity to truth and memory must be vigorously affirmed,” the message says.


“The historical record of Pius’ silence during the period of Nazi barbarism against the Jewish people is a signal of moral failure. Our repeated pleas that Vatican assertions that Pius acted to save Jewish lives be documented through the opening of relevant Vatican archives have been met with silence,” it says.

Some Jews have accused Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, of not doing enough to help Jews, a charge the Vatican denies.

The Vatican maintains that Pius worked quietly behind the scenes because direct interventions might have worsened the situation for both Jews and Catholics in Europe. Many Jews have rejected this position.

The statement by the group, which represents 80,000 families of survivors, says:

“There were those who courageously aided and spoke out on behalf of the innocent Jewish victims – including much of the Italian nation and individual Catholic institutions. Alas, the Vatican has produced no documents to show Pius was among them.”

The Vatican says the archives show Pius did much to help Jews during the war but that it will be several more years before they can be opened completely to scholars because of the massive number of documents involved.

There is great anticipation over what Di Segni, who has been outspoken in the past, will tell the pope. The late Pope John Paul visited the synagogue in 1986.

After the pope decided to advance Pius’ sainthood procedure, the Vatican tried to assure Jews that the decision was a recognition of his Christian faith and not a definitive historical judgement on his papacy.

The Vatican has said Pius’ intention was “to do the best possible” and that his “concern for the fate of Jews … was documented and recognized by many Jews” after the war.