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Cardinal says mistrust, polemics doomed Holocaust Commission

A top Vatican official said on Friday a joint committee of Catholic and Jewish scholars studying the history of the Church during the Holocaust was suspended because of "feelings of mistrust" and "divergences of interpretation".

Catholic World News reports that Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Commission for Relations with Judaism, said in a statement issued by the Vatican that the study group, which had announced the suspension of its work on 24 July, was not ready to begin again.

The team of three Jews and three Catholics had been formed on October 18, 1999 to review the "Acts and documents of the Holy See relating to the Second World War", a summary of documents which was published between 1965 and 1981 at the request of Pope Paul VI, and representing the entirety of the Vatican files on the subject.

The study of these 12 volumes -- answering a Jewish request to study Pope Pius XII's and the Church's activities during the war -- was expected to jointly address the questions which Jewish groups said deserved more clarification on behalf of the Holy See.

"You have to note the impossibility of overcoming the divergences of interpretations regarding the duties and objectives of the study group," said Cardinal Kasper.

He specified moreover that "indiscretions and polemical writings on behalf of the Jewish members contributed to cause a feeling of mistrust, making it practically impossible to continue joint research."

In line with the statements of his predecessor -- Cardinal Edward Cassidy -- who had already affirmed on several occasions the practical impossibility of opening the files, Cardinal Kasper said that "never, at any time, was it implied that the six historians could have access to the documents in Vatican archives after 1922." The Vatican has said that unfettered access could not be allowed because of the sensitive, sacramental nature of some of the documents.