Saints​ and Museums



The behavior of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust remains a sore point for both Catholics and Jews. To Catholics, the wartime pope sought to protect the church from the Nazis and helped Jews when he could. But for most Jews, Pius was a moral coward who failed to speak up to save the Jews of Europe. And they wonder how the Vatican can be pushing to canonize Pius.

What Jews need to remember here is that we have no right to tell Catholics who is — or is not — a saint according to their faith. The religious beliefs of our neighbors are none of our business, just as ours are none of theirs. But, by the same token, the Church cannot dictate to Jewish institutions what they must think about Pius.

It is in that context that we must view the Vatican's recent declaration that the current pope will not visit Israel until the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem removes a reference to Pius' questionable behavior and silence.

In the decades since Pius XII, the Church has come a long way in condemning anti-Semitism and discontinuing the teaching of contempt for Judaism; it also has recognized the State of Israel. The relationship between the Church and the Jews has never been better and must be cherished. But, even if it means that the pope will stay in Rome, Yad Vashem must not be pressured to change its exhibit.

Today, the church is our friend, not our foe. But it must not ask us to choose between historical truth and its good will. 



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