VATICAN CITY - The Vatican denied assertions Saturday that a caption displayed at Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust museum alleging Pius XII didn't do enough to save Jews during World War II would keep Pope Benedict XVI from visiting Israel.
But Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi urged museum officials to make "a new, objective and in-depth review" of the caption, which says Pius did not protest the Nazi genocide of Jews during the war and maintained a largely "neutral" position.
Lombardi weighed in after a Catholic official promoting the cause which could lead to sainthood for Pius gave interviews Saturday in which he said the caption was the main reason the pope cannot go to Israel.
The Rev. Peter Gumpel called the caption flap "the most burning" reason why a pilgrimage by Benedict to Israel hasn't taken shape.
"How can he go there knowing these captions are absolutely historically untrue?" Gumpel asked rhetorically in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
"Catholics would be mortally offended," said Gumpel, a German Jesuit who has been spearheading efforts for Pius' beatification, the last formal step before possible sainthood.
Benedict paid tribute to Pius earlier this month at a Mass to mark the 50th anniversary of Pius death, reiterating the contention Pius, who became pontiff in 1939, shortly before the war started, quietly worked behind the scenes to save as many Jews as possible.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yossi Levy told The Associated Press in Jerusalem that Benedict "will be a welcome guest under any circumstances."
But as long as Vatican archives on Pius' papacy remain closed to researchers "the debate over Pope Pius XII's actions or inaction in that horrendous period remains an open and painful one," Levy said.
Earlier this decade, the Vatican opened its secret archives to researchers to include the period just before Pius was elected pontiff. It says the archives spanning the 1939-1958 papacy of Pius will be opened later.
Benedict has a long-standing invitation from Israel for a visit. The Holy See and Israel established diplomatic relations in the early 1990s, but last year, the Vatican ruled out a trip saying the two sides must settle long-standing differences over expropriated church property, tax exemptions for the Church and permits for Arab Christian clergy traveling to and around the West Bank.
Lombardi, however, denied the caption was an obstacle to a possible future trip by Benedict.
"Nevertheless, this fact cannot be considered a determining factor for a decision on any visit by the Holy Father to the Holy Land, a trip, which, as it is known, is among the pope's desires, but for now hasn't seen concrete planning," said Lombardi said in a statement.
The statement also said Benedict is reflecting on a vast dossier of documentation on Pius before declaring that his predecessor exhibited heroic virtues, a necessary finding for the beatification process to go forward.