The pope at issue is Pius IX, the last Roman Catholic pontiff toreign over the papal states of central Italy. He is expected to bebeatified, the final step before sainthood, along with Pope John XXIIIon Sept. 3.
During his 32 years as temporal as well as spiritual leader, Pius IXordered Jews back into the Rome ghetto, the last in Europe, and barredthem from owning property, having careers in the arts or sciences,teaching in schools or receiving public assistance and medical care.
Pius IX also was a central figure in the notorious case of a youngboy who was kidnapped from his Jewish parents and brought up as aCatholic because a domestic servant had had him secretly baptized.
"The beatification of Pius IX exalts a symbol that for Italian Jewsstill represents a wound," Amos Luzzatto, president of the Union ofItalian Jewish Communities, told a news conference March 8.
The Rev. Georges Cottier, a Dominican priest who serves astheologian to the pope, dismissed the protest, saying it "did not makeinterreligious dialogue between Catholics and Jews easier."
Cottier said prelates considering the case for sainthood did nottake Pius IX's political actions into consideration, only hissaintliness. "If you want to make a study of the historical events, goahead, but that cannot block the cause of beatification," the theologiansaid.
Luzzatto voiced the protest one day after the Vatican issued adocument explaining John Paul's decision to celebrate a "Day of Pardon"on the first Sunday of the penitential season of Lent, askingforgiveness for sins committed during the first two millenniums ofChristianity.
The document, "Memory and Reconciliation: the Church and the Faultsof the Past," expressed "profound remorse" for the "tormented" relationsbetween Jews and Christians throughout the 2,000 years of Christianity. It reiterated the regret the Vatican expressed in 1998 over thefailure of many to come to the aid of Jews during the Holocaust of WorldWar II.
The International Theological Commission, which wrote the document,also lists as faults of Christians the schism between the Catholic andOrthodox churches, the Protestant Reformation, the "use of force in theservice of truth" and such "evils of today" as atheism, relativism andabortion.
Luzzatto expressed disappointment over the document.
"I was expecting more. This document basically says nothing new onthe responsibility of the Christians for the Holocaust," he said. "Tospeak generically of responsibility of some Christians without makingfurther clarification at length can only be dangerous. I was expectingmore. More courage is needed and, above all, clarity."
Luzzatto said the document spoke only in theological terms, failingto take the church's political and social relations with Jews intoconsideration.
"Relations between the church and the Jewish world have never beenonly of a theological nature but have been also political," he said. "Itis enough to think of the decrees with which the ghettos were institutedor the restrictive laws that opened the way to social discrimination.But these are not spoken of."
Luzzatto said the Vatican has halted proceedings on thebeatification of another controversial pope, Pius XII, attacked by manyJews for his silence on the Nazi death camps. The Vatican has deniedshelving the pope's beatification.
Pius IX forced Jews back into Rome's medieval ghetto in 1848, twoyears after he became pope. He introduced laws depriving Jews of theircivil rights in 1849.
Sandro Di Castro, head of the Rome Jewish Community, said Pius IX'slaws can be considered the "antecedents and, in a way, the inspiration"for the racial laws that Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini instituted in1938.
In an affair that caused an international uproar in 1858, the SwissGuard kidnapped young Edgardo Mortara from the home of his Jewish familyin Bologna and brought him to Rome to be raised as a Catholic because ofhis secret baptism. The Emperor Napoleon II was among the leading figures of the day who appealed for the boy to be returned to his family, but the pope rejected the pleas and adopted the boy.
Mortara, educated in Catholic schools, became a priest and died inBelgium in 1940, three months before the Nazis invaded the country.
Pius IX fled the Vatican in 1870 when the army of Victor Emmanuel IIdefeated the papal forces, but he continued to reign until 1878, longerthan any other pope since St. Peter.