The Ordeal of Pius XII
ROME – Once again, the reputation of Pope Pius XII is under scrutiny and attack. Indeed, so searching are the questions and so inflamed are discussions about the Roman Catholic Church’s pontiff during World War II that the current pope, Benedict XVI, recently announced that he may postpone Pius’s beatification until the Vatican’s archives for the war years are opened and examined.
Why is Pius XII so often accused of having been almost an accomplice of Nazi Germany when, during his papacy, the Catholic Church in Rome protected and hid thousands of Jews? This is one of the knottiest historical questions of our times.
For several years after WWII’s end, Pius XII enjoyed great popularity, even within the Jewish community. The tide turned during the 1960’s, with Rolf Hochhuth’s play The Deputy the starting point for feverish questioning of Pius’s reputation.