Thursday, July 2, 2009

Yad Vashem Honor Sought for Pius XII

Foundation Announces Plan to Initiate Process

NEW YORK, JULY 2, 2009 ( A foundation announced plans to nominate Pope Pius XII for the "Righteous Among the Nations" honor, traditionally given to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

Gary Krupp, president of the New York-based Pave the Way Foundation, an organization that promotes interreligious dialogue, affirmed this Wednesday in a statement to ZENIT.

He reported that the foundation has the nomination guidelines from the Righteous Among the Nations Department of the Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and will open the case soon.

Krupp stated that the foundation has "devoted years to gathering original documentation and video testimony on this controversial papacy and we believe we have uncovered enough pertinent material to now begin to seek the notarized written testimonies to officially begin this judicial procedure [with] Yad Vashem."

The president, himself a Jew, explained, "In most cases of those who have been honored as Righteous Among the Nations, the honoree has directly acted to save individual lives all while risking his or her own life to do so."

He continued: "The actions of Eugenio Pacelli [Pope Pius XII] do not fit this general description. However, we can establish the direct intercession of the Pope to act resulting in saving hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives.

"But obviously because of the nature of the high office he held, Pacelli would almost never have been in direct contact with those he saved."

Krupp reported one exception, when the Pontiff personally interceded "on behalf of his best friend Dr. Guido Mendes, an Orthodox Jewish boyhood friend," sending the family to Palestine in 1938.

The president added, "We can also establish that the life-saving actions of Pacelli were carried out under the threat of death."

He reported: "In an emergency meeting called by Pope Pius XII with the cardinals on Sept. 6, 1943, he informed [them] that he signed a letter of resignation placed in his desk and that he expected to be kidnapped at any time.

"The cardinals were to be packed and ready to instantly leave the Vatican for a neutral government where they were to elect a new Pope.

"This emergency meeting was a month before the Jews of Rome were rounded up and the Pope interceded immediately to save them. This actual document is not yet available, but we know it exists."

Krupp added that the foundation recently obtained from Germany "the affidavit from General Karl Wolff, deputy to Himmler and Commandant in Italy, that he was ordered by Hitler to plan the seizure of the Vatican and to kidnap the Pope."

Seeking truth

The statement expressed the hope that by initiating the case for honoring the Pontiff, Yad Vashem will begin its own investigation, "which is an internationally respected judicial process and will help to bring the historical truth to light."

The president noted that the foundation will be seeking "notarized original testimonies of individuals who, in many cases, were never aware that it was Pacelli who acted to save their lives."

He explained: "An example of this is the acceptance and transport of Jews into the Dominican Republic.

"We have the video testimony of 97-year-old Monsignor Giovanni Ferrofino, secretary to the nuncio in Port Au Prince, Haiti, during the war who, together with the nuncio, personally acted on the direct orders of Pius XII twice a year to obtain visas for Jews arriving from Portugal to the Dominican Republic.

"Monsignor Ferrofino traveled with the nuncio, [Archbishop Maurilio] Silvani, to get 800 visas per boat load twice a year from 1939-1945 and appealed directly to General Rafael Trujillo in the name of Pius XII."

"This action," Krupp noted, "saved over 10,000 Jews who were then routed into America with the help of Monsignor Ferrofino through Cuba, Mexico and Canada."

He expressed the hope that Yad Vashem "will act to verify the information we will be sending."

"The job is now locating many of these survivors or their relatives to get signed notarized statements," Krupp affirmed.

He stated that "we have located thousands of documents and could not locate one negative document in our search."

This "private investigative project" has been carried out in accordance with the foundation's mission, the president affirmed, with the hope of breaking "the 46-year-old academic log jam" and of eliminating "this obstacle which impacts over one billion people."

Over 22,000 men and women from 45 countries have been awarded this title by the State of Israel, representing over 10,000 confirmed rescue stories.

Only a Jewish party can initiate a nomination, and must prove that the nominee gave assistance that was repeated or substantial, and without any expectation of compensation.

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