In a statement promised to Jewish groups a decade ago, the Vatican on Monday expressed deep regret for the "errors and failures" of Roman Catholics during the Holocaust but strongly defended wartime Pope Pius XII.
The 12-page document said the mistakes were by unnamed and uncounted "sons and daughters of the church" and did not apologize for any failures by church leaders - something bishops in several European countries have done in recent years.The lack of specific apologies drew criticism that the Vatican was trying to evade responsibility for Pius XII's silence about the mass murder and persecution of Jews by the Nazis.
"All the responsibility is rolled onto the church's flock," Yitzhak Minervi, a former Israeli envoy to the Vatican, told Israel radio. "It is all dumped on `some Christians,' while the church and its institutions emerges spotless."
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the statement "takes very little moral and historical responsibility" for the church's contempt toward the Jews.
"This document rings hollow," he said. "It's mostly an apologia, a rationalization for Pope Pious and the church during the Shoah."
In 1987, Pope John Paul II - who has made improving relations with Jews a cornerstone of his papacy - promised a statement based on what role, if any, the church might have had in the Holocaust.
In a preface, he expressed hope that it "will indeed help to heal the wounds of past misunderstandings and injustices."
The document said John Paul has acknowledged that while some Christians were courageous, "the spiritual resistance and concrete action of other Christians was not that which might have been expected. . . .
"We cannot know how many Christians in countries occupied or ruled by the Nazi powers or their allies were horrified at the disappearance of their Jewish neighbors and yet were not strong enough to raise their voices in protest," it said.
"We deeply regret the errors and failures of those sons and daughters of the church."