By Melissa Butz
Secrets surrounding the controversial papacy of Pius the XII are being revealed to the world from the Vatican’s archives.
Church historians are expecting a clear understanding of the pope’s work to protect the Jewish people against the Nazi Holocaust.
The 52 miles contained in the Vatican’s Apostolic Archives have opened, for scholars and researchers to study the documents on Pope Pius XII from March 1939 to October 1958.
The goal is to better understand the Holy Father’s role during World War II. Critics claim he didn’t do enough, but the record shows Pope Pius XII not only confronted the Nazis, but hid people of Jewish faith in Rome.
“The person itself of Pius XII will come out in a different way, of course, because there are answers to questions that are open today,” explained Dr. Johan Ickx, head of Vatican secretary of state archives.
The archives were scheduled to open in 2028, 70 years after his papacy, as is Vatican policy. But Pope Francis moved it up eight years, due to prejudice surrounding the persona of Pope Pius XII.
“With a serene and confident mind, sure that serious and objective historical research will be able to evaluate, in the proper light and with appropriate criticism, the praiseworthy moments of the Pontiff. Without any doubt, also moments of serious difficulties,” said Pope Francis.
For 14 years, 20 scholars have been classifying the documents, preparing for the opening. More than 3,000 boxes contain millions of documents on Pope Pius XII.
The researchers are eager to dive into the documents, including correspondences with ambassadors and letters informing him of Nazi concentration camps.
Pope Francis has said “the Church is not afraid of history” and hopes this glance into the past will display the Holy See’s humanitarian, religious and political efforts during World War II.
In 2009, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI declared Pope Pius XII venerable, advancing his cause for sainthood.
But the cause has not moved forward, since Pope Pius XII lacks the two miracles needed for beatification and canonization.
After these archives are examined, perhaps something could be found for his cause.