Catholic scholars ask Pope Benedict XVI to slow Pius XII's path to sainthood

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In a letter to the Pope, the scholars said that making Pius XII a saint could do grave damage to relations between the Catholic Church and Jews and that he had become a de facto "symbol of Christian anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism".

Jewish groups have long claimed that Pius turned a blind eye to the Holocaust, but this is thought to be the first time that a group of Catholic theologians have issued such a strongly worded appeal to the Pope.

They endorsed demands made by Jewish groups that Vatican archives covering Pius's papacy, from 1939 to 1958, must be opened up before the Church decides whether his predecessor is worthy of being made a saint. They are believed to contain details of his efforts to save Jews from the Holocaust.

The Vatican recently said that there were so many files for its archivists to trawl through that the archives will not be made available until 2015.

The 18 Catholic scholars from Australia, Germany and the United States used the word "implore" twice in the letter, saying that if Pius was made a saint before the historical record was cleared up, it could irreparably harm Catholic-Jewish relations....

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