December 18, 2007 / 4:38 PM / 10 years ago

Pope slows down Pius XII sainthood process - report

Pope Benedict XVI is seen at the Vatican in this October 27, 2007 file photo. Moves to make wartime Pope Pius XII a saint have been delayed because Pope Benedict wants more study of documents, an Italian newspaper reported on Tuesday.Osservatore Romano

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Moves to make wartime Pope Pius XII a saint have been delayed because Pope Benedict wants more study of documents, an Italian newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Il Giornale reported that Benedict has decided to set up a committee in his Secretariat of State, the Vatican's diplomatic section, to review old documents from the World War Two period and study new ones that have come to light.

Some Jews have accused Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, of being indifferent to the Holocaust and not speaking out against Hitler. His supporters consider him a holy man who worked behind the scenes to help Jews throughout Europe.

Last May, the Vatican's saint-making department voted in favour of a decree recognising Pius's "heroic virtues", a major hurdle in a long process toward sainthood that began in 1967.

But Benedict has so far not approved the decree, meaning that the process is effectively stalled and that Pius cannot move on to beatification, or the last step before sainthood.

Il Giornale reporter Andrea Tornielli, who has written four books about Pius, said the Vatican was not questioning his holiness but was concerned about the wider ramifications of making him a saint too soon.

A Vatican spokesman said he could not confirm that the Pope had set up an internal committee.

Vatican sources say top cardinals have advised Benedict to go slow on Pius's sainthood process because of the repercussions it could have on relations with Jews and Israel.

The Vatican maintains Pius did not speak out more forcefully against the Holocaust because he was afraid of provoking Nazi reprisals and worsening the fate of Catholics and Jews.

Supporters say Pius ordered churches and convents in Rome to take in Jews after the Germans occupied the city in 1943.

Various Jewish groups, foremost among them the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League, have often asked the Vatican to suspend the entire sainthood process until the Vatican declassifies all of its World War Two-era archives.

Editing by Charles Dick

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