Vatican City – The first Jewish holy man to address the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Synod on Monday caused possible embarrassment to his Vatican hosts when in his speech he appeared to criticize the conduct of controversial wartime pope Pius XII.
Referring to the World War II Nazi massacre of the Jews, the Holocaust, Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen said: “We remember those religious leaders who did not raise their voice to save our brethren. We cannot forgive and forget.”
Some Jews say Pius did not do enough to save Jews, and should have used his position as pontiff to openly condemn the Nazi persecutions and murders.
The Vatican commemorates the 50th anniversary of Pius’ death this week with a Mass presided by Pope Benedict XVI who last month said Pius “spared no effort” on behalf of Jews during World War II.
Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Israel was invited by the Vatican as a representative of the Jewish faith and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, to talk on the importance of the Torah, or Old Testament to members of the Jewish faith.
Reporters were handed out copies of Cohen’s speech as he began to deliver it, with the text including an obvious reference to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s most recent attacks on Israel and his questioning of the historical existence of the Holocaust.
Cohen, near the end of his speech said he felt compelled express “deep shock at the terrible and vicious words of the president of a certain state of the Middle East, in his speech last month at the United Nations General Assembly.”
But then the rabbi departed from the text distributed by the Vatican, and went on to make the remarks apparently criticizing Pius.
He then urged the Roman Catholic clerics assembled at the Synod and the “entire free world to protect, defend and save Israel the one and only sovereign state of the “People of the Book” from the hands of its enemies,” before ending his speech with a prayer. (dpa)