World War II archives to be opened next month

Pope Pius XII (CNS/Vatican Media)

The Holy See will seek to set the record straight on Pope Pius XII when the Vatican opens its archives to researchers who will scrutinise documents related to the World War II-era pope. Source: Crux.

By Elise Allen, Crux

The documents, texts and letters relating to Pius XII’s pontificate, up to his death, will be made available on March 2, the 80th anniversary of Eugenio Pacelli’s election to the papacy.

When announcing his decision to open the archives a year ago, Pope Francis declared that “the Church is not afraid of history but, rather, she loves it, and would like to love it more and better, as God loves it!”

At the time, Francis voiced his confidence that “serious and objective historical research will succeed in evaluating in its proper light, with appropriate criticism, the praiseworthy moments of that pontiff and, no doubt also the moments of grave difficulty, of anguished decisions, of human and Christian prudence”.

Though appearing “reticent” to some, Francis insisted that Pius XII’s actions were “human and hard-fought attempts to keep alive, in periods of intense darkness and cruelty, the flame of humanitarian initiatives, of hidden but active diplomacy, of hope in the possible favourable opening of hearts.”

Elected March 2, 1939, just six months before World War II erupted in Europe, Pius XII had often been lauded by the international community for his actions during the war.

However, when Rolf Hochhuth wrote the play The Deputy, in 1963, in which he accused the Pope of being complicit by his silence in the face of the Holocaust, international opinion began to change.

Although beginning in 1964 – as a reaction to the accusations made in The Deputy – the Vatican had published around 12 volumes of archival material from the World War II period, there was a growing clamour for the full archives on Pius XII to be opened to scholars.

Typically, the Vatican waits 70 years after the end of a pontificate to allow full access to the related documents in the Vatican archives. Yet in the case of Pius XII, who died on October 9, 1958, Francis opted to open the archives early.


Pius XII faces moment of truth as opening of Vatican archives nears (Crux

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