Pius XII may soon be a saint

Pope Benedict is expected to announce the beatification of controversial wartime pope Pius XII within the next year.

Conservative Catholic groups have been pressuring the Vatican to canonise Pius for decades, but major Jewish organisations have tried to oppose such a move since he has been accused of remaining silent over the extermination of the Jews.

In 2000, then Pope John Paul II conferred the title of Venerable on Pius, the first major step towards sainthood. His successor has yet to proceed with the next stage, beatification, after which all that is needed for canonisation is evidence of two miracles connected with the candidate.

The controversy over Pius's conduct during the Second World War is far from being resolved. Some historians believe that his hatred for Communism turned him into a silent collaborator with the Nazis, while others maintain that in his quiet way, the pope helped save thousands of Jews.

Pope Benedict did not use the opportunity of a special mass on the 50th anniversary of Pius' death, to announce his beatification, but he did say that "he acted frequently, secretly and silently, due to the complex situation, he felt that only in these ways could he avert the worst of all and save a large number of Jews."

Vatican insiders believe that with statements like these, Benedict is paving the way to beatification.

 

    Last updated: 10:38am, October 16 2008