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Pope Pius XII moves closer to beatification May 09, 2007

The cause for beatification of Pope Pius XII took an important step forward on May 8, when the Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted to approve a decree that the life of the late Pontiff showed "heroic virtue." The decree is subject to the approval of Pope Benedict XII.

If Pope Benedict approves the decree, certification of a miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope Pius XII would be the only other requirement necessary for his beatification.

The cause of Pope Pius XII, who led the Church from 1939 to 1958, has been the focus of keen controversy, because of accusations that Pope Pius was not vigorous in denouncing the Nazi Holocaust. Defenders of the wartime Pontiff have rejected those accusations, citing historical evidence that Pius XII sheltered thousands of Jews from the Nazis, and pointing out that Jewish leaders in Rome at the time cited the Pope as a stalwart friend.

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints gave its backing to the finding of "heroic virtue" after studying an exhaustive 3,000-page dossier on the late Pope's life and work. Father Peter Gumpel, a Jesuit historian who has been instrumental in the cause, said that the dossier provides full answers to questions about the Pope's response to the Holocaust.

The Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints was split about the cause of Pius XII, with a minority of members voting against the proposed decree. A split vote would be unusual; most decrees receive unanimous endorsement from the members of the Congregation. But a source close to the Congregtion said that the newspaper report was in error, and the 15 prelates who took part in the May 8 meeting all voted in favor of the decree.

The cause for beatification of Pope Pius XII was opened in October 1967. The process has advanced slowly, in part because of the controversy it has roused.

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