Pope Pius XII and his teachings represent for the church an “exceptional gift for which we must all be grateful,” said Pope Benedict XVI during an audience on Nov. 8 with participants of a congress titled “The Heritage of the Magisterium of Pius XII.” Excessive attention to Pope Pius XII’s role during World War II has overlooked the rich and “precious heritage” he left to the church and Christians today, the pope said.
Pope Pius, who led the Catholic Church from 1939 to 1958, has been criticized by some Jewish groups, who have said he did little to mobilize the church in defense of Jews during the period of the Second World War. Other experts have gathered evidence to show that he worked quietly but effectively to save the lives of thousands of Jews and others during World War II and the Holocaust. The International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee, holding its 20th conference in Budapest on Nov. 11, has expressed its deep regret over certain polemical and intemperate statements that have been made over the controversy.
The matter is one of great concern in the discussion of Jewish-Christian relations. Cardinal Walter Kasper and Rabbi David Rosen, co-chairs of the I.L.C., the convened body of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the I.C.J.L.C, declared: “We reiterate our commitment to a relationship based on mutual respect and sensitivity. Disagreements between us, which inevitably occur from time to time, must always be expressed in a manner that reflects this spirit and not in language that only exacerbates tension.”
Cardinal Kasper noted that the concerns of the Jewish community have been clearly conveyed to the Holy See at the highest level. Ten days ago, the request was made by the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations at a papal audience with Pope Benedict XVI that all archival material be made available for independent scholarly review before any far-reaching decisions are made by the Holy See concerning persons and policies during the period of the Second World War.
Organized by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences and Rome’s pontifical Lateran and Gregorian universities, the Nov. 6-7 congress commemorated the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius’s death by highlighting his teachings and influence on the Second Vatican Council, which began four years after he died in October 1958.Armed Men Kidnap Two Nuns in Kenya
Two Italian nuns were kidnapped Nov. 10 in northeastern Kenya near the border with Somalia, the Vatican newspaper reported. L’Osservatore Romano identified the nuns as Sister Caterina Giraudo, 67, and Sister Maria Teresa Oliviero, 61, both from Cuneo, Italy, where their religious order, the Contemplative Missionary Movement of Father Charles de Foucauld, is based. The newspaper said the women had been working for years with Somali refugees in Kenya. Members of the Kenya Red Cross Society told authorities the nuns were taken by a group of armed men, who also stole three vehicles. Father Pino Isoardi, head of the Contemplative Missionary Movement, told Vatican Radio that the nuns, like all the members of the group, “share their lives with the poor. We don’t have any big structures. We welcome into our homes the sick, the aged, people who are starving.” As of midafternoon Nov. 12, the kidnappers had not been in contact with the congregation, he said.Pope Condemns Trafficking in Human Organs
While organ donation is a generous act of love, the sale and trafficking of organs is abominable and must be condemned, said Pope Benedict XVI. “Tissue and organ transplants represent a great advance of medical science and are certainly a sign of hope for the many people who suffer from serious and sometimes critical medical conditions,” he said. But the low number of vital organs available for transplant is “dramatically real” as seen by the long waiting lists of people whose only hope for survival is “linked to meager supplies which do not correspond to actual needs,” he said Nov. 7 in a private audience with some 500 participants attending a Vatican-sponsored gathering on organ donation. The Nov. 6-8 congress, titled “A Gift for Life: Considerations on Organ Donation,” was sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life, the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and Italy’s National Transplant Center.Continued Pain Over Kristallnacht
Pope Benedict XVI said he still feels “pain for what happened” in his homeland in 1938 when Nazi mobs went on the rampage against Jews, an event that became known as Kristallnacht. The pope was 11 years old when, on the night of Nov. 9, 1938, “the Nazi fury against the Jews was unleashed in Germany,” he said. Marking the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht—“Night of Broken Glass”—the pope asked Catholics to pray for the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and he condemned all forms of anti-Semitism. Pope Benedict spoke about the anniversary during his midday Angelus address on Nov. 9 at the Vatican.
During Kristallnacht, throughout Germany “stores, offices, homes and synagogues were attacked and numerous people were killed, initiating the systematic and violent persecution of German Jews that concluded with the Shoah,” or Holocaust, the pope said. “I still feel pain for what happened in that tragic circumstance, whose memory must serve to ensure that similar horrors are never repeated again and that we commit ourselves, at every level, to fighting anti-Semitism and discrimination, especially by educating the younger generations in respect and mutual acceptance.”Christians, Muslims Call for Religious Freedom and Tolerance
Christians and Muslims must work together to protect religious freedom, they must learn more about each other and they must witness to the world the reality of God, said members of the Catholic-Muslim Forum, which was held in Rome to discuss their faiths’ understanding of the obligation to love God and to love one’s neighbor.
The final statement said both Christians and Muslims recognize the dignity and sacredness of human life because each person is “created by a loving God.” Christianity and Islam teach that love for God and genuine faith lead to love for one’s neighbor, it said, and “genuine love of neighbor implies respect of the person and her or his choices in matters of conscience and religion.” Religious minorities deserve protection, they have a right to their own places of worship and their sacred figures and symbols “should not be subject to any form of mockery or ridicule,” the leaders said. In an increasingly secularized and materialistic world, forum participants called on Catholics and Muslims to give witness to “the transcendent dimension of life.”
The forum participants, 28 Muslim and 28 Catholic representatives, met at the Vatican on Nov. 4-6 .Role of Religion in Presidential Election
The leader of the Knights of Columbus said one reason why Barack Obama won the presidential election may be that he was more forthright than John McCain concerning his religious beliefs. “Senator Obama gives every impression of being serious about his religion, that religion is important to him, that Christianity changed his life,” Carl A. Anderson said Nov. 6 at a news conference preceding a speech in Columbus. “Perhaps he made a stronger case for that than John Kerry or Al Gore [the losing candidates in the preceding two presidential elections] did. I don’t believe Sen. McCain made quite the same case as President [George W.] Bush did in his two elections and President Reagan did earlier,” said Anderson, supreme knight of the 1.75-million-member international organization of Catholic men. Anderson, who was a presidential assistant during the Reagan administration, said this does not mean the Democratic senator from Illinois is a better Christian than his Republican opponent, but that Obama made a stronger public presentation of his faith, while “McCain was more reticent about it.”