JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israel has renewed an invitation to the pope to visit the Holy Land despite differences between Jews and Catholics on the possible beatification of Holocaust-era Pope Pius XII, Israel's envoy to the Vatican said on Sunday.
"The invitation to Pope Benedict XVI to come (to Israel) has been renewed and remains," Ambassador Motti Levy told public radio. "Our differences can be reduced, but the date of the visit has not yet been set."
Last month, Pope Benedict XVI sparked a row when he praised the memory of Pope Pius XII on the 50th anniversary of his death and said he would like to see him beatified.
Benedict is however holding off on starting the formal process of beatification out of concern for maintaining "good relations" with Jews, Father Peter Gumpel, the priest in charge of the dossier, said on Saturday.
Jewish groups and historians accuse Pius, pontiff from 1939 to 1958, of remaining silent during the Holocaust and having been passive towards the persecution of Jews, accusations the Vatican adamantly denies.
Gumpel said the Vatican was holding off on scheduling a visit to the Holy Land in protest at the caption below a portrait of Pius hanging in the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem that accuses him of ignoring the Nazi genocide.
The museum said on Sunday that "Pope Pius XII's activity during the Holocaust is an issue debated among historians around the world."
"The presentation of the subject in the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem is based on the best research regarding the topic," it said in a statement.
"Yad Vashem is certain that the opening of the Vatican archives on the relevant period would help further research on the subject."
The Vatican has said the museum's caption is not a "determining factor" in a decision on the pope's possible visit.
Father David Jaegger, the Vatican's ambassador to Israel, told public radio that Gumpel does not represent the pope and that the decision to visit the Holy Land is Benedict's alone.
The last time a pope visited Israel was in March 2000, when Pope John Paul II made a historic five-day pilgrimage to Christian sites in Jerusalem, Nazareth, and the West Bank town of Bethlehem.
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