updated 10/17/2008 6:49:09 PM ET 2008-10-17T22:49:09

France's main Jewish organization warned Friday that efforts to make wartime Pope Pius XII a saint would deal "a severe blow" to relations between Catholics and Jews.

The warning from an umbrella organization of French Jewish groups comes as the Vatican mounts a campaign to refute accusations that Pius did not do enough to try to stop the extermination of 6 million Jews during World War II.

"Pope Pius XII, worried about burning his bridges with Germany, never made a clear statement denouncing the singular monstrosity of the extermination of millions of Jews. Moreover, he did not do so after the war either, which is profoundly shocking," the organization, Conseil Representatif des Institutions juives de France, said in a statement.

"If carried out, the plan to beatify Pius XII, who was pope between 1939 and 1958, would deal a severe blow to relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish world," the statement said.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, had no immediate comment. But he referred to recent statements on Pius by Pope Benedict XVI and other top church officials.

Last week, Benedict celebrated a Mass to mark the anniversary of Pius' death and lauded what he called "secret" efforts by the pontiff to save Jews.

The Jewish organization said this story has been disputed by independent historians, although it was true that Pius hid several Jews in Rome during the war.

This month, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano dedicated an entire page to praising Pius, including a tribute from the Holy See's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

"It was precisely by means of a prudent approach that Pius XII protected Jews and refugees," Bertone wrote. "If he had made a public intervention, he would have endangered the lives of thousands of Jews who, upon his directive, were hidden, in 155 convents and monasteries in Rome alone."

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