VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Among the thousands who crammed into St. Peter's Basilica for a Mass commemorating Pope Pius XII, many were hoping for an announcement about his beatification, a step toward sainthood. That didn't happen. Pope Benedict XVI strongly praised Pope Pius and prayed that his sainthood cause would make progress, but he made no promises and set no dates. He did not declare Pope Pius "venerable," the step that would have advanced the cause and, no doubt, would have prompted much applause in the basilica. To make sure that no one got the wrong idea, the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, told reporters not to expect the pope to go off and sign such a decree immediately after the Mass. The pope was demonstrating his "spiritual union" with those hoping for canonization, but gave no indication about future steps, Father Lombardi said.
I agree with Pope Benedict and others who have defended Pope Pius XII from inaccurate and unfair attacks about the vigor of his intervention to save as many Jews as possible during World War II.
But I also agree with Pope Benedict going slowly about Pope Pius' sainthood cause. I do not see a linkage even though many will draw that obvious conclusion.
I think it is obvious that Pope Benedict is wisely slowing down the Vatican "saint factory" in general, and that Pope Pius will be part of that slower and more discerning process.
People, I know that everyone "wants" to see "their own" modern day saints declared. Everyone wants someone from their gender, culture, ethnic group, profession, age group, you name it, people seem to want saints declared that reflect their own image in the mirror. That is human and very understandable, but is actually an expression of weakness of faith rather than strength of faith.
We have people today who want "modern" and "representative" saints declared, but who actually know very little of the bona fide saints who have been declared through the ages, and do little to follow the lessons of their sanctity. Jesus himself cautioned that the Jews did not listen to Moses or Elijah, when he told the story of the rich man in hell who ignored the poor starving man Lazarus. This is an example of how the saints and prophets are to remain alive in their lessons and sanctity today, and not a constant rush to find a "representative, modern example of saint so that someone can 'believe more.'" If you need a saint the same color, ethnicity, age or gender as you to believe, then you aren't believing all that strongly in the first place.
Having said that, I share the joy when a saint is declared, such as the first female Asian Indian saint. But those glories and honors have been diluted by the recent several decades "frenzy" to push "representative" saints through the pipeline, whether they were actual saints or simply the good and pious believers that they undoubtedly were.
Pope Pius XII would be the last person who would want the honor of being a saint, as he already has received his reward in heaven, and he was a very humble man. This is not to say that he should not receive that declaration, should the facts and miracles be authentic and bear out in investigation. But I am saying that all real saints would be horrified to know their earthly advocates feel that they "must be declared saints" in order to "strengthen the faith" (by those who imply "modern 'inclusiveness'" is important).
All these holy people would ask why the Apostles, the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and all the "traditional" and lesser known saints are not more than enough proof and model for current day "faith" and role models of sanctity.