If a scientifically inexplicable miracle is subsequently attributed to their post-mortem intercession, the second step of "beatification" takes place, followed by eventual canonization if a second miracle is proven. Two popes were among the new "venerables." The first was Benedict's still-mega-popular predecessor, John Paul II. The other, however, has doubts swirling around his legacy more than half-a-century after his passing. The inclusion of Pope Piux XII among the venerables brought howls of protest from Jewish groups across Europe and the world.

There are long-standing accusations from some Holocaust scholars and Jewish leaders that Pius did little to try to stop the Nazi extermination of some six million Jews, and other ethnic minorities as well as homosexuals and the disabled. Pius defenders say he quietly worked to provide shelter for some Jews in Rome, and avoided public denunciations of Hitler's Final Solution because it would have prompted a Nazi backlash. After the German-born Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger rose to the chair of St. Peter, he initially decided to shelve Pius' candidacy for sainthood for further study and an examination of documents in the Vatican archive. With debate still heated about the historical facts — and with Benedict, a German of that era, in the papacy — many observers believed it might just be better for his successors to make the call on Pius' virtues. So what changed?