Dates: Pius 1876-1958; John 1881-1963
Status of Cause: Pius, Venerable; John XXIII, beatified
Prognosis: Pius soon to catch up with John
An Odd Couple of would-be saints, whose causes were yoked together in the cut and thrust of contemporary Vatican politics. In 1965, church progressives had staged a power play in trying to get Pope John XXIII, who had recently convened the Second Vatican Council and had hoped to "open the windows of the church", immediately canonized. John's successor, Paul VI, parried this irregular request by coupling John's cause with that of his predecessor, the more conservative Pius XII. The bond seemed to break when John was beatified in 2000, while the status of Pius, whose public silence during the Holocaust had become a greater liability with time, remained simply Venerable. But last week, Pope Benedict concluded what he had called a "period of reflection" on Pius, urging Catholics to pray that his beatification "goes forwardly smoothly". Jewish groups will certainly object, but Church conservatives who feel, as does First Things editor Richard John Neuhaus, that Pius has been "viciously slandered" regarding the Nazi era, will be gratified.
David Van Biema