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Israeli Vatican ambassador defends Pope Benedict, says Pius XII not ‘Hitler’s Pope’

June 23, 2009

In a recent interview with the Boston Globe, Mordechay Lewy, Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See, defended Popes Benedict XVI and Pius XII against criticisms voiced inside and outside Israel.

Characterizing the Pontiff’s May visit to the Holy Land as “a success,” Ambassador Lewy said that “people who were expressing … disappointments, which to my mind were unjustified, were on second or third thought retracting them. The speeches of the pope were of enormous importance to everybody, not only to us, but to everybody . . . He has contributed a lot, and we have a friend in him.”

Ambassador Lewy added that Pope Pius XII

was neither a hero nor a villain. It is probably the right thing to think of a more balanced view of him. He didn’t make a concordat [agreement] because he was Hitler’s pope. This is a mistaken concept. He did it in order to survive, to make it happen that the church can survive a godless regime. It is wrong to look for any affinity between him and the Nazis. It is also wrong to say that he didn’t save Jews. Everybody who knows the history of those who were saved among Roman Jewry knows that they hid in the church.

At the same time, Ambassador Lewy said that Pope Pius “was very, very timid. He was a diplomat. He misread, completely, the situation. To be neutral meant for him to be quiet, to rely on quiet diplomacy. The main argument is why he was silent, not why he didn’t help. He never spoke up. He was saying . . . the church was victim of those regimes. With that mindset, there’s not much space to have a place to have another victim, if you feel yourself a victim.”


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