Pope Benedict XVI, speaking at the interfaith group meeting (Pave the Way Foundation at Castel Gandolfo) has defended the actions of his predecessor, Pious XII, during World War Two and the Nazi’s annihilation of European Jewry. The speech has been heralded as the strongest Vatican defense of Pius’s role during the holocaust. The Pontiff from 1939-1958 has been widely and strongly criticized, in particular by Jewish groups, for his lack of action in the face of Nazi atrocities.
As the Catholic Church is preparing his beatification, there is a renewed focus from the Vatican in surmounting ‘prejudice’ against Pius. Pope Benedict has hailed the WWII pontiff as courageous and dedicated, contending that he intervened directly and indirectly to save the greatest numbers of Jews; but often acting secretly or silently to avoid the worst, ‘given the concrete situation of that difficult historical moment’.
Pius XII (1876–1958)
From The Blackwell Dictionary of Judaica