The BBC’s internal watchdog has ruled that a BBC One news bulletin was wrong to accuse the Catholic Church of “silence” over the Holocaust. After Pope Francis’s visit to Auschwitz in July, BBC News at Six carried a report which said: “Silence was the response of the Catholic Church when Nazi Germany demonised Jewish people and then attempted to eradicate Jews from Europe.”

The crossbench peer Lord Alton of Liverpool and Fr Leo Chamberlain, the former headmaster of Ampleforth, made an official complaint.

The BBC’s editorial complaints unit has now concluded that the item was unfair. According to the unit, the BBC reporter “did not give due weight to public statements by successive popes or the efforts made on the instructions of Pius XII to rescue Jews from Nazi persecution, and perpetuated a view which is at odds with the balance of evidence”.

In a blog, Lord Alton pointed out that several historians had praised Pius’s achievements in the fight against Nazism. The peer quoted Pinchas Lapide, a Jewish historian and Israeli diplomat, as saying that Pius XII “was instrumental in saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands”.

Through its diplomatic network, the Holy See under Pius XII helped Jews to travel safely out of Eastern Europe.

It also issued baptismal certificates to Hungarian Jews to help them escape. Thousands of Jews were sheltered in the Vatican.

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