The pope's spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the "venerable" title for Pope Pius XII did not derive from his "operative choices" but his deep piety and "witness of Christian life".
The Vatican made the response to assure Jewish communities angered by Pius XII's elevation that moving him toward sainthood "should not in any way be read as a hostile act against the Jewish people," the New York Times reports.
Among prominent Jews who slammed the move by the German pope was Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, AFP reported.
He said on Monday "there would be a great distortion of history" were Pius XII to be elevated to sainthood.
"Pius XII sat in stony silence" as the most egregious crimes against Jews took place, Hier told AFP.
The New York Times report states that Fr Lombardi said the beatification process evaluated the "Christian life" of Pius, who ruled from 1939 to 1958, and not "the historical significance of his choices."
Vatican defends honour for wartime pope (Sydney Morning Herald/AFP)
Vatican Defends Move to Sainthood for Wartime Pope (The New York Times)
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