Leaders say they regret polemics over Pope Pius XII

VATICAN CITY – Members of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee expressed “deep regret over certain polemical and intemperate statements” being made about Pope Pius XII.

The dialogue committee, meeting in Budapest, Hungary, Nov. 9-12, issued a statement Nov. 11 as controversy continued over the possible beatification of Pope Pius, particularly because of his actions during World War II. Prominent Jewish leaders have expressed concern that Pope Pius did not do enough to help Jews during the war.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews, told members of the dialogue that the concerns of the Jewish community regarding Pope Pius had been conveyed to Pope Benedict XVI.

The statement, distributed by e-mail, said Cardinal Kasper and Rabbi David Rosen, the co-chairmen of the committee, reaffirmed the importance of discussing problems and controversial issues with “mutual respect and sensitivity” and “not in language that only exacerbates tensions.”

Opening the meeting in Budapest, Cardinal Kasper said Catholics and Jews have a common responsibility to fight discrimination and prejudice, to work for justice and peace, and to spread compassion “in an often cold and merciless world.”

Since the Second Vatican Council, he said, Catholic-Jewish relations have “changed irreversibly not only for our own mutual benefit, but – as is our hope and intention – for the good of all humanity.”

“I firmly trust that this growing closeness and friendship is strong enough and can help us to endure and to overcome problems, difficulties, different views and also tensions, which from time to time arise,” he said in the text, released by his office.

The common spiritual heritage of Jews and Christians obliges them to work together for the good of all people created in the image and likeness of God, the cardinal said.

“We have a common responsibility to work together for the good of humankind, refuting anti-Semitism and anti-Catholic and anti-Christian attitudes, as well as all kinds of discrimination, to work for justice, solidarity and peace, to help the needy and the weak, to spread compassion and mercy in an often cold and merciless world,” he said.

Members of the liaison committee held a special session the evening of Nov. 11 to mark the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948.

Cardinal Kasper said it is true that for decades the Vatican “was not at all content, but cautious about the idea and then with the reality of the state of Israel,” but official contacts took place from the beginning and finally bore fruit with the signing of the Fundamental Agreement in 1993 and the establishment of full diplomatic relations the following year.

Giving its “whole moral and political authority” to recognizing the right of Israel to exist and to live at peace within secure borders does not exclude the Vatican also favoring “an independent, autonomous and viable Palestinian state,” he said.

Cardinal Kasper also noted that Christians always have lived in the Holy Land, contributing to its religious and cultural life and running schools and hospitals, “so we hope and pray that Christians can stay there and feel at home.”

“As a tiny minority in Israel, Christians can perhaps facilitate conversation between Jews and Muslims and help to overcome the sad and unfortunately often-bloody tensions and conflicts,” he said.

“Only if we can overcome prejudices, misunderstandings and conflicts and foster peace between the religions will peace become possible also on other levels,” the cardinal said.

He prayed for peace for Israel, the Jewish people, “for the whole tormented region of the Near and Middle East” and for all humanity.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.