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Progress stalled on beatification of Pope Pius XII? December 19, 2007

The cause for beatification of Pope Pius XII has been sidetracked, according to a Roman news agency report.

Citing an unnamed Vatican source, the I Media agency says that Pope Benedict XVI has formed an ad hoc commission to investigate the controversy surrounding the wartime Pope's response to the Holocaust.

The report suggests that Pope Benedict is reluctant to move forward toward the beatification of Pope Pius XII, and the creation of a new commission is a means of delaying the cause.

The Vatican has not commented on the I Media report. However, the name of Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli) was conspicuously absent in a list of decrees issued this week by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, moving 14 other candidates closer to beatification.

In May 2007, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted to approve a decree affirming that Pope Pius XII had shown "heroic virtue" during his life. That decree-- which reportedly came on a split vote within the Congregation-- would have cleared the way for the beatification of Pius XII if a miracle were attributed to his intercession. But the decree required the approval of Pope Benedict XVI, and that approval was evidently not given.

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 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.