Vatican To Open Secret Archives On Pope Pius XII

Tags: Currents Catholic Education, Pope Francis

Currents News Staff

The historical interpretation of Pope Pius XII’s pontificate changed after the theater play “The Vicar” by the German Rolf Hochhuth. In it he accused the then-pope of having remained silent during the Holocaust.

The reality is that Pope Pius XII secretly authorized the opening of the convents in Rome and Italy to receive Jews escaping from the Nazis.

Yad Vashem is Israel’s official Holocaust memorial institute. The center has for years asked for the archives to be open to explain Pope Pius XII’s role during those years. Pope Francis has listened.

“I have decided the opening of Vatican archives regarding Pope Pius XII will be March 2, 2020,” said Pope Francis.

It is Vatican policy to release internal documents relating to a pontiff 70 years after his papacy. In this case Pope Francis has authorized that the archives be opened eight years ahead of schedule.

He announced this during a meeting with employees of the Vatican Archives, better known as the “Vatican Secret Archives.” He said the documents soon to be available to scholars, range from March 1939 to October 1958.

The pope lamented that the image of Pope Pius XII is a victim of prejudice and exaggerations. He said he hopes the documents will shed the necessary light to explain the role of his predecessor.

“I have assumed this decision after hearing the opinion of my closest collaborators. 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, of tormented decisions, of human and Christian prudence,” said Francis.

In fact, the process of canonization of Pope Pius XII is underway. In 2009, he was declared venerable.

Experts such as Dominiek Oversteyns, whom Rome Reports interviewed in 2014, stress that the silent help Pope Pius XII offered the Jews was very effective.

“On June 4, 1944, there were about 9,930 Jews, out of which 6,300 received help. That’s almost two-thirds,” said Oversteyns.

The decision to open the archives to scholars has also been welcomed by sectors critical of Pope Pius XII. They are satisfied at hearing the news because they say it could help shed light on one of the most difficult periods in history.