BY SARAH DELANEY IN ROME
DEFENDERS OF Pope Pius XII have gathered in Rome to answer a list of questions about his actions in the face of Nazi persecution of Jews in Europe during the Second World War,.
Gary Krupp, founder of the Pave the Way Foundation, a non-denominational organisation that seeks to improve interfaith relations, said a panel of five experts on the wartime period met to answer 47 questions about the role of the Church that had been posed but never officially answered by a Catholic-Jewish commission disbanded 10 years ago.
The experts included Jesuit Fr Peter Gumpel, a promoter of the Cause of Pope Pius; Ronald Rychlak, professor of law and associate dean at the University of Mississippi, and the author of two books on Pope Pius’s wartime role; Matteo Luigi Napolitano, an Italian associate history professor at the University of Molise and a Pius biographer, Andrea Tornielli, who covers the Vatican for Il Giornale and is a Pius biographer, and Michael Hesemann, a German author of several books about the Church, including one defending Pope Pius’s wartime record.
Mr Krupp, an American Jew, has maintained that Pope Pius has been unfairly judged by people who say that he did not speak out forcefully to try to stop Adolf Hitler’s persecution of Jews. He said the pope did all he could behind the scenes to try to save lives and that a direct confrontation would have provoked worse reprisals against Jews.
Mr Krupp supports Pope Pius’s Cause. Pope Benedict XVI has declared the wartime pope Venerable, one of the first steps toward canonisation, a move that has angered some Jewish groups who say his role remains ambiguous and that it should be studied before the cause goes further.
The questions addressed by the panel originated with a joint commission of scholars formed in 1999 by the Vatican and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultation to study the issue of Pope Pius and the Jews during the war. After examining published materials for a year the commission suspended its work amid controversy over access to still-closed Vatican archives from that period.
Mr Krupp said he would make the nine hours of recorded material available on DVD and on his foundation’s website.
He and four other Jewish figures who had been present during the taping of the panel’s discussions spoke briefly with Pope Benedict at the end of a papal audience.
They also met German Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. They discussed an interfaith effort to promote a tradition of families eating together on Friday night, he said.