Vatican's secret archives now open to scholars

Over sixty researchers visited the Vatican's secret pre-World War II archives yesterday asking to consult more than 30,000 documents dating from the 1922-1939 papacy of Pius XI which were opened for examination this week.

According to a Vatican spokesperson, the opening of the archives will lead to an overturning of "unjust opinions" concerning relations of the Church with Jews in the period leading up to World War II, the Washington Post reports.

Although the archives concern the papacy of Pius XI (Achille Ratti), Jewish scholars are expected to concentrate on documents relating to his Secretary of State, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who succeeded him in 1939 as Pope Pius XII.

Pacelli who also served as ambassador in Germany from 1917 to 1929 reigned as Pope until 1958.

Critics say Cardinal Pacelli, whose views as a Vatican official being groomed for the papacy would be reflected in the files, did too little in the war to save European Jews from the Holocaust.

However, the head of the Vatican archives, Fr Sergio Pagano told L'Osservatore Romano that the material on the Vatican's view of Jews in the 17 years before the war would bring some surprises.

"In this regard, some unjust judgments expressed in a recent book will perhaps be overturned," Fr Pagano wrote, without mentioning the name of the book.

The 1922-1939 archives are believed to include hitherto secret notes for internal policy sessions of the Secretariat of State, including what Cardinal Pacelli said in strategy sessions about Jewish issues.

The documents should also show Pacelli's private views on the 1933 Concordat with Nazi Germany, relations with Fascist Italy, the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War, the Nazi annexation of Austria and Britain and France's attempt to appease Hitler with the Munich Agreement in 1938.

Pius XII toed a cautious line during the war to avoid reprisals against Catholics in Germany and Nazi-occupied countries. He was initially praised for speaking out as openly as he could and helping to save Jews in secret.


Vatican opens 1922-1939 archives (Washington Post, 18/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Vatican Secret Archives

Vatican to release Pius XI's secret archives (CathNews, 3/7/06)
Letter reveals Edith Stein asked Pope Pius XI to condemn Nazism (CathNews, 21/2/03)
Italian archives reveal Pius XI considered Hitler an Antichrist (CathNews, 8/3/01)

19 Sep 2006