The Vatican ambassador to Israel has sparked a public row after refusing to attend this Sunday’s annual Holocaust memorial service in Jerusalem in protest at a description of the wartime role of Pope Pius XII.

Monsignor Antonio Franco, who arrived in Jerusalem last year, has called on Israel’s official Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, to change a picture caption which criticises the pope for failing to condemn the deportation and mass killing of Jews under the Nazi regime. Earlier this month he wrote to turn down a formal invitation to Sunday’s torch-lighting remembrance ceremony.

The dispute revolves around a paragraph-long picture caption of Pius XII that was installed when the newly-designed Yad Vashem museum was opened in 2005. The previous Vatican ambassador sent a letter of complaint about the text a year ago and now Monsignor Franco has complained again.

The text notes that Pius XII’s reaction to the Holocaust is controversial and states: “When he was elected Pope in 1939, he shelved a letter against racism and anti-semitism that his predecessor had prepared. Even when reports about the murder of Jews reached the Vatican, the Pope did not protest either verbally or in writing.” The description also says Pius XII chose not to sign a December 1942 Allied declaration condemning the extermination of Jews and did not intervene when Jews were being deported from Rome to Auschwitz.

The whole sordid story can be found here, but what is so surprising is that anyone could think that for a single moment the church, or Christians for that matter, were so much as interested in such a trifling matter as truth.

In other words, Christians lie: Plus ça change!