Vatican boycotts Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day
That is the single word to cause the Vatican offence. It does not say that Pope Pius was ‘responsible’; it does not say he ‘turned a blind eye’; it does not say his non-intervention was ‘cowardly’: simply that his decision to maintain silence while millions were being incinerated, which is a matter of historical fact, was ‘controversial’. This seems to Cranmer to be the least offensive way of putting it, but the ambassador responded: ‘I will attend any ceremony on the victims of World War Two, but I do not feel at ease at Yad Vashem when the Pope is presented in this way.’
The Yad Vashem presentation says of Pius XII: ‘In 1933, when he was Secretary of the Vatican State, he was active in obtaining a Concordat with the German regime to preserve the Church's rights in Germany, even if this meant recognizing the Nazi racist regime.’ Again, this is historical fact, but the Vatican has been making a concerted effort to have this changed, effectively using diplomatic pressures to have history re-written.
Until it is changed, the ambassador does not ‘feel comfortable’ attending the Holocaust Memorial Day, but insists that his decision to boycott this official state ceremony is a ‘personal’ one. This is nonsense. In no sense can such a high-profile boycott by a serving ambassador be ‘personal’. He is his office; he represents the government of the Vatican; he is the vice-pope of the Holy Land. Cranmer is certain that the endorsement of such a contentious decision would have gone straight to the top. So the German Pope, who was once a member of the Hitler Youth because he could not avoid the compulsion of the regime, is defending the conduct and reputation of Hitler’s Pope, who most certainly was under no compulsion to sign his concordat with the Third Reich.
And yes, Cranmer is perfectly aware that refusal to do so would almost certainly have brought persecution upon the Roman Catholic Church, but that is precisely what Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor has said just this week that the Church needs. Such levity is a little irritating to Cranmer, knowing truly what persecution is like. The Cardinal ought to try living in China, Burma, Iran or Iraq, instead of just pontificating from the comfort of his armchair about how a little persecution works wonders.
If Pope Pius XII collaborated with the Nazis, the truth should be told. If he made a sound judgement, let us hear the evidence. If history is to judge him fairly, the Vatican archives should be opened up. Obfuscation and secrecy simply breed confusion and conspiracy.
But then, maybe the Vatican has something quite unpalatable to hide…