(Washington, D.C., March 4, 2019)—B’nai B’rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin have issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith commends the decision of Pope Francis, announced today during an audience with staff of the Vatican Secret Archives, to open the archives' section covering the Holocaust-era papacy of Pius XII.
Both publicly and privately, B'nai B'rith has long urged this step, in the interest of critical historical transparency and further Catholic-Jewish reconciliation. Pope Francis said that the relevant archive would be opened in early March 2020.
While some Catholics have maintained that Pius opposed the evils of Nazism, and even seek his recognition as a saint, many Holocaust survivors and others say that the wartime pontiff failed to actively and unequivocally use the church's moral authority to resist Hitler's genocide and the deep anti-Semitism in which it was rooted.
Pius was pope from 1939 until 1958.
Although the Jewish community never seeks to intervene in the internal processes of other faith groups, there must be no obfuscation of major leaders' roles during the period of the Third Reich, particularly considering the heroism of those individuals who bravely did everything possible to stand against the most systematic and documented mass murder in history.
The Catholic-Jewish friendship has made unprecedented strides in the decades since World War II – thanks in large part to the church's efforts at introspection and outreach – and we are optimistic that a full acknowledgment even of difficult aspects of the past will further contribute to this blossoming in the future.