Jewish Delegate to Vatican: Pope Ignored Request to Freeze Pius XII Sainthood

Delegation leader says pope 'seriously considering' waiting until Vatican archives can be opened.

A member of the Jewish delegation to the Vatican told Haaretz on that Thursday's meeting with Pope Benedict dedicated to freezing the sainthood process of Nazi-era pope Pius XII was "very disappointing."

Seymour Reich, a New York attorney and a Jewish leader, said that the pope "completely ignored" the issue and did not even speak about declassifying archives that might shed light on Pius XII's conduct during the Holocaust.

Some Jews have accused Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust. The Vatican says he worked behind the scenes and helped save many Jews from certain death during World War Two.

Reich said that when he shook the pope's hand, he told him that he hoped he would not declare Pius XII a saint. The pope allegedly said that he would take that into account.

Rabbi David Rosen, the leader of the delegation, said that Pope Benedict is "seriously considering" freezing the sainthood process until historical archives can be opened.

Rosen said the subject came up in conversations after formal speeches were delivered.

"One member of our delegation told the pope 'please do not move ahead with beatification of Pius XII before the Vatican archives can be made accessible for objective historical analysis' and the pope said 'I am looking into it, I am considering it seriously'," Rosen told reporters.

The Vatican, however, has so far rejected Jewish groups' requests for the immediate opening of its secret archives on Pius XII's papacy.

It says it will take at least six more years before scholars can consult the archives, which historians and Jewish groups have been clamoring to study.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the requests to see the wartime archives were understandable.

But he said Thursday that cataloguing some 16 million documents is expected to take another six or seven years.

Beatification is the last step before sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church. Some Jews have asked the pope to hold off on beatifying Pius until more information on his papacy can be studied.