Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum and memorial, has changed the wording of an exhibit on Pope Pius XII’s actions during World War II to soften its criticism of the pope over a subject that has long divided Jews and the Vatican, reports the New York Times.
Critics of Pius XII, who was pope from 1939 to 1958, have said he could have done more to stop the deportation of Jews during the war, while his defenders say his cautious diplomacy was intended to save lives.
The new museum panel, changed on Sunday, is titled “The Vatican” instead of “Pope Pius XII,” and reduces somewhat the pontiff’s role in negotiating the agreement to recognise the Nazi regime and preserve the Roman Catholic Church’s rights in Germany, by noting that it was reached under his predecessor, Pope Pius XI, while Pius XII was the Vatican’s secretary of state.
The old text said that Pius XII “did not intervene” when Jews were deported from Rome; the new one says that he “did not publicly protest.”
Both versions say that the pope “abstained from signing the Allied declaration condemning the extermination of the Jews,” in December 1942. But the new text notes that in Pius XII’s Christmas radio address that year he spoke about hundreds of thousands of people who “have been consigned to death or to a slow decline” because of their ethnicity. It points out, as well, that “Jews were not explicitly mentioned.”
A spokeswoman for Yad Vashem said the revisions were the result of new research, in part based on the opening of the archive of Pius XI, and not pressure from the Vatican, which has long maintained that Pius XII did intervene in the deportation of Rome’s Jews to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
FULL STORY Israel's Holocaust Museum softens criticism of Pius XII (NYT)