A new look at an old story

A new look at an old story

A tale of two popes

There’s a lingering controversy over the possible canonization of Pope Pius XII (1876-1958). Some Jews believe that he did not do enough to protect Jews from the Holocaust. Perhaps unfairly, he has even been called “Hitler’s Pope.”

Many Jews also opposed the canonization of Pope Pius IX (1792-1878), in part because of his role in the abduction of Edgardo Mortara and his refusal to deliver him back to his parents.

Pius IX had a mixed record when it came to Jews. He started out as a liberal, opening the ghetto in Rome; later he closed the ghetto. And in a speech in 1871 he called the Jews of Rome “dogs” and said “of these dogs, there are too many of them at present in Rome, and we hear them howling in the streets, and they are disturbing us in all places.”

Edgardo Mortara himself always praised the pope, and strongly favored his canonization – which occurred in 2000.

Elena Mortara, a great-great-granddaughter of one of Edgardo’s sisters and a professor of literature in Rome, campaigned for an apology from the for Edgardo’s abduction and against the canonization of Pius IX.

She has said she is “appalled at the idea that the Catholic Church wants to make a saint out of a pope who perpetuated such an act of unacceptable intolerance and abuse of power.”

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