By David Iaconangelo, Apr 19, 2013 04:49 PM EDT
(PHOTO CREDIT: Reuters) Pope Francis takes part in his inaugural mass in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican.
A close friend of Pope Francis told the Telegraph that he thought Pius' legacy ought to be "investigated thoroughly", according to the paper. Rabbi Abraham Skorka, recent co-author of a book of interviews with the pope, has known Francis -- formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio -- for about 20 years.
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"It's a terribly sensitive issue, but he says that it must be investigated thoroughly," said the rabbi. "I have no doubt that he will move to open the archives."
Pius XII was pope from 1939 to 1958. The extent to which he collaborated with Nazis and the Fascists of Mussolini's Italy has come under intense scrutiny in recent decades.
In 1999, the British journalist John Cornwell published a book entitled "Hitler's Pope" claiming that Pius was anti-Semitic and that as pope he had put the interests of papal power above the position's moral callings in maintaining a passive silence. Many of the claims in Cornwell's book have been disputed in other works, including in a book by law professor Ronald J. Rychlak, for which Rychlak was given exclusive access to the Church's closed archives. There is evidence that Pius may have helped arrange for 200,000 Jews to escape Germany in the 1930. He also is known to have written to archbishops around the world in an attempt to secure visas for "non-Aryan Catholics" and Jewish converts to Christianity for travel abroad.
Rabbi Skorka first became close friends with Francis while he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires. The two attended each other's services during that time. The Telegraph opined that their friendship "paved the way for a closer relationship between Catholics and Jews in Argentina". About a quarter of a million Jews currently live in Argentina, the large majority of them Ashkenazi.
In the rabbi's book of interviews with Francis, the friends discussed Pius' attitude about the actions of the Nazis during the war but conclude that it would be impossible to draw definite conclusions about the man. Francis has signaled his support for opening Church archives on Pius XII before, telling the Jewish Times last month that he believed it would be necessary to investigate the late pope.
Pope Francis has widely been seen as a potential reformer in a Church which has recently taken a number of impacts to its image.
"On matters of customs, protocol, flamboyance, luxury, as well as in his approach to the poor, he is a revolutionary," said the rabbi.