Vatican WW II Archives to go Online

Published: February 15th 2010

Pope Pius XII
Pic: wikimedia commons


Part of the Vatican archives dating from World War II will soon be available online, stated the Holy See's l'Osservatore Romano daily this week.


However, the 8,000 pages of documents will not feature any records on Pius XII, the controversial wartime pope who has long been accused of silence in the face of the Holocaust.


Jewish groups have said for years that a release of all wartime documents relating to the tenure of Pius would finally resolve the issue of what Pius did or did not do during the Holocaust.


The documents are not new. They were first published after an order from Pope Paul VI in 1964. This is the first time the documents will appear in digital form on the Internet. The archive will be accessible for free.


Monsignor Sergio Pagano, the head of the Vatican secret archives, said last July that records specific to Pius will not be publicly available for at least five years.


The digital archive's lack of documentation on the wartime actions of Pius is significant because of a move in December by current Pope Benedict XVI to bestow the title of "venerable" onto Pius – a first step toward sainthood.


At the time, the move drew criticism from Jewish groups worldwide. Canadian Jewish Congress said that they were concerned about the many unresolved questions surrounding Pius's failure to speak out as the Nazis murdered millions of Jews.


“We hope our ongoing concerns about Pius’s silence during the Holocaust will not be met with ongoing silence by Vatican authorities today. We reiterate our request for the secret Archives to be fully opened so that historians may have unfettered access to the documentary record of Pius’s actions,” said CJC President Mark J. Freiman.


In an interview with Canwest, CJC CEO Bernie Farber said that he was unsure why the Vatican seemed to be stalling, instead of releasing all wartime documents. He questioned the wisdom of putting Pius on the road to sainthood with so many questions unaswered.


“The archives will tell the story. The fact that there seems to be been strong resistance in doing that leaves us puzzled and concerned,” Farber said. “The position we have taken is that really, until the archives are open and independent historians can get in there and do a full assessment, it would seem improper to move forward on this. Opening the archives may very well may prove Pius deserves beatification. On the other hand, it may prove that he doesn’t."


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