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Catholic World News News Feature

Strong defense of Pius XII by Cardinal Bertone June 06, 2007

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone offered an extended defense of Pope Pius XII on Tuesday evening, June 5, at a conference announcing the publication of a new book on the life of the World War II Pontiff.

The Vatican Secretary of State charged that Pius XII has become the victim of a "black legend," which has "become so firmly established that even to scratch it is an arduous task."

Pope Pius XII has been "falsely portrayed as indulgent toward Nazism and insensitive to the fate of victims" of the Hitler regime, Cardinal Bertone said. That portrait endures, he added, in spite of "documentation and witnesses that have abundantly proven it is nonsense." In light of that evidence, he said, the continuing criticism of the wartime Pope has become "an attack on good sense and on rationality."

The "intense polemics" surrounding the Pope's attitude toward the Holocaust threaten to "reduce his entire pontificate to the question of his supposed silence," Cardinal Bertone said. He pointed out that Pius XII left an impressive record of accomplishments in other fields, including the dramatic progress in Biblical scholarship and in the status of women during the years of his pontificate, from 1939 to 1958.

The Secretary of State acknowledged that Pius XII had been "cautious" in his public statements denouncing the Nazi regime. But he argued that if the Pope had been more outspoken, the Nazi response might have entailed a stepped-up campaign of genocide. In practice, the cardinal observed, Pope Pius worked quietly to save thousands of Jews from the Holocaust.

Cardinal Bertone praised Andrea Tornielli for his new biography of the late Pontiff: Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli: A Man on the Throne of Peter. The cardinal said that Tornielli had produced a balanced and lively portrait of a great Church leader.

Informed sources at the Vatican have disclosed that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has found evidence of "heroic virtue" in the life of Pope Pius XII. If Pope Benedict XVI approves a decree attesting to that heroic virtue, the certification of a miracle attributed to the intercession of Pius XII would be to only remaining requirement for his beatification. The Italian ANSA news agency reports that Vatican officials say there is "no shortage of documentation" for miracles of Pius XII.

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