Vatican to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII

Vatican City,June 21. 2008 - Vatican officials this week announced plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII, describing the controversial World War II pontiff as a "great pope" who spoke out when necessary.

The Vatican has often defended Pius from charges that he remained largely silent in the face of the Holocaust.

Officials said that a convention to discuss Pius' teaching and influence on the church will be held in November in Rome.

The Vatican also plans a photo exhibit this fall in the colonnade of St. Peter's Square covering highlights of Pius' 19-year pontificate. He assumed the papacy in 1939 and died in 1958.

"It is our hope that this solemn commemoration of such a great pope can give rise to further in-depth research, free of prejudices concerning his actions," said Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historic Sciences.

Jewish groups and others say Pius should have done more to save European Jews from Nazi persecution. But his defenders say that any bolder public moves would have only angered the Axis powers, accelerating the extermination of Jews while endangering the Vatican.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella said that Pius "never failed to make his voice heard in a clear and explicit way, in different circumstances when it was needed, and when there was exact information about the facts and onecould see the consequences."

In May 2007, the Vatican recognized Pius' "heroic virtues," a step toward possible beatification.

But the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said any beatification was still "in the realm of the future."

AP

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