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Vatican prepares release of confidential pre-World War II documents

As the Vatican prepared to give scholars access to its files relating to Germany before World War II, public attention focused almost exclusively on diplomatic reports contained in the Vatican's so-called "Secret Archives".

But what may prove equally significant to scholars is another set of records being opened on Friday by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which in the pre-war period compiled numerous confidential studies on Nazism, fascism and communism.

The Congregation's move is the latest in its 5-year-old "open doors" policy, which has given researchers access to documents relating to some of the most controversial and sensitive issues in church history over the last 500 years.

Not only do the files available to scholars document periods like the Inquisition but also more recent top church evaluations of 19th-century novelists and the authenticity of the 1917 Marian apparitions at Fatima, Portugal.

In an early-February interview with Catholic News Service, the doctrinal Congregation's chief archivist, Monsignor Alejandro Cifres Gimenez, said the roughly 90 new dossiers dating from 1922 to 1939 would provide essential insight into Vatican thinking in the pre-war years.

Catholic News Service

Vatican Library | Secret Archives

11 Feb 2003