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Pope Francis praises Pius XII for taking ‘risks’ to save Jews

Pope Pius XII makes a radio broadcast from the Vatican in 1947 (AP)

Pope Francis has praised Pius XII for sheltering Jews during the Holocaust.

Speaking during Mass on Monday, the Pope used the wartime pontiff as an example of people who took risks in order to be merciful.

“How many, beginning with Pius XII, took risks to hide Jews so that they wouldn’t be killed, so that they wouldn’t be deported!” Pope Francis said.

Pius XII has been much maligned for supposed silence in the face of the Nazis, especially in John Cornwell’s book, which labels him “Hitler’s Pope”. Cornwell has since backed down on some of his claims.

The Holy See under Pius XII helped Jews to travel safely out of Eastern Europe through its diplomatic network. It also issued baptismal certificates to Hungarian Jews, while thousands of Jews were also sheltered in the Vatican itself.

In December 2016, the BBC issued an apology after a news report accused the Catholic Church of “silence” during the Holocaust.

During Pope Francis’s trip to Auschwitz last July, a BBC One News at Six report claimed: “Silence was the response of the Catholic Church when Nazi Germany demonised Jewish people and then attempted to eradicate Jews from Europe.”

The BBC’s editorial complaints unit later concluded the item was unfair, and that the reporter “did not give due weight to public statements by successive popes or the efforts made on the instructions of Pius XII to rescue Jews from Nazi persecution, and perpetuated a view which is at odds with the balance of evidence.”