Rabbi Lau Asks Pope To Halt Pius’ Beatification


rav-lauPope Benedict XVI should be welcomed when he visits Rome’s main shul, but he should halt moves to beatify wartime pontiff Pius XII, criticized for not doing enough to stop the Holocaust, former chief rabbi of Israel Rav Yisroel Meir Lau said this week.

Rav Lau, a Holocaust survivor and now chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, said Benedict’s shul visit Sunday would be “appreciated and blessed.” But in an interview with Italy’s Sky TG24 television, he said he was “surprised” by Benedict’s decision last month to move the controversial World War II-era pope closer to sainthood.

Benedict sparked outrage among some Jewish groups by signing a decree on Pius’ heroic virtues, paving the way for him to be beatified once a miracle attributed to his intercession is confirmed.

Some Jews and historians have argued that Pius, pope from 1939-1958, was largely silent on the Holocaust and should have done more to prevent the deaths of 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators.

The Vatican insists Pius used quiet diplomacy to try to save Jews and that speaking out more forcefully would have resulted in more deaths.

It said last month the decree on his heroic virtues wasn’t so much a historical assessment of his pontificate as a confirmation that he had led a deeply Christian life.

In the past, Jewish leaders had asked the pope to put the beatification on hold until archives on Pius’ pontificate are opened to outside scholars. The Vatican has said those archives won’t be catalogued and ready until 2014 at the earliest.

In the interview broadcast Tuesday, Rav Lau said Benedict should halt the process for this generation, saying that beatifying Pius would offend Holocaust survivors.

Rav Lau urged the pope “not to take the next step for the beatification of Pius XII, not in this generation,” adding this would “hurt the feelings of those Holocaust survivors who are still alive.”

Rav Lau spoke in Hebrew and his words were mostly covered by an Italian translation.

Asked by Sky’s reporter how Jews compared Benedict to his predecessor, the Polish-born Pope John Paul II, Rav Lau said the biggest contrast was in their wartime record.

“John Paul II spent the Holocaust on the side of the victims, while Benedict XVI spent World War II on the other side of the barricade, and this can be a big difference,” he said.

John Paul experienced the Nazi occupation of his country. The German-born Benedict was forced to join the Hitler Youth and then served in the army before deserting near the end of the war.

{The  Sun News/Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. As a person interested in, and having experience in historical research, years ago I hypothesized about the strange story of Rome’s chief rabbi of the WWII era, Israel Zolli, who immediately after the war became a Meshumad. His conversion is shrouded in controversy and mystery. He claimed that he helped save Jews in Rome during the war. Others accused him of saving himself at the expense of Rome’s Jews. He was very close to Pope Pius XII, and even took on his first name, Eugenio, after converting. It is also known that Pius XII did save some of the Jews of Rome; the complaint against him is that he could have saved millions more. My theory is: Pius was indeed a Rasha Gamur and wouldn’t have saved a single Jew if not for one factor. When the Nazis took over Rome, Zolli went to him and begged him to save the Jews. Here I will hypothesize the conversation between them.
    Zolli: Your Eminence, please, you must do something for the Jews of Rome. Our community has lived here for 1900 years and despite the friction between our religions, the Popes have protected us.
    Pope: True, but this time, it seems, our lord has lost patients with the Jews and he has sent this monster, Hitler, to pay them back for their intransigence to accept him as lord.
    Zolli: What do you want them to do? Convert en masse? Then you would save them? Hitler doesn’t care about religion; he wants to exterminate our “race”.
    Pope: If they convert, I will stand up. I don’t think it would be worthwhile for the monster to start up with all the Catholics of Italy just to save a few thousand former Jews.
    Zolli: In that case, there is nothing I can do, for the Jews will never convert en mass. They would rather die sanctifying G-d’s Name.
    Pope: Perhaps there is something you can do. I will save as many as I can secretly, but not publicly, if you alone convert!
    Zolli: I don’t mean to question your sincerity, but how can I be assured that you will really save those Jews from the grip of the monster; he may win the war and depose you.
    Pope: I will do must best to save and protect those Jews until the end of the war. Assuming Hitler loses and the Jews can emerge safely from their concealment, you will keep your end of the bargain and accept the church in your heart.
    Zolli: I accept.

    If Pius XII requires a miracle to be beatified, perhaps this is it. Is there any other example in the history of the world where an Orthodox chief rabbi of a city was cajoled into converting to Christianity? Of course, from our perspective, despite having saved a few hundred Jews, he is nothing but a Rasha Merusha, Yoresh Gehinom.