Pope Francis announces Vatican will open Holocaust-era archives

March 5, 2019 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Pope Francis has announced that the Vatican archive surrounding the Holocaust when Pope Pius XII, who has been criticized for doing little to save Jews and for being silent during the atrocities, led the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis I. Credit: Tânia Rêgo/ABr via Wikimedia Commons

Since becoming pope, Francis has promised to open the records.

Francis said on Monday that the archive would be open to researchers starting March 2, 2020—81 years after Pius became pope, which was six months prior to World War II. Pius died on Oct. 9, 1958.

Although the Holy See waits seven decades after the conclusion of a pontificate to open up the related archives, it has been under pressure from the Jewish world to make the documentation available.

In 2014, Francis condemned antisemitism but appeared to defend Pius’s role during the Shoah.

“I don’t want to say that Pius XII did not make any mistakes—I myself make many—but he has to be seen in the context of that era,” he told the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia. “For example, was it better for him not to speak out so that more Jews were not killed, or that he speak out?”

Acknowledge the failures and the efforts made

Nonetheless, Jewish groups applauded Francis’s announcement on Monday.

“Yad Vashem commends the Vatican’s decision to open the Pius XII Archives, covering the years 1939-1958,” said Israel’s Holocaust museum in a statement. “For years, Yad Vashem has called for the opening of these archives, which will enable objective and open research, as well as comprehensive discourse on issues related to the conduct of the Vatican in particular, and the Catholic Church in general, during the Holocaust.”

Added the museum, “Yad Vashem expects that researchers will be granted full access to all documents stored in the archives.”

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin commented: “The brave and welcome decision by my friend Pope Francis, to authorize the opening of the Vatican archives for the period of the Holocaust, will allow free and unmediated access to records of the darkest period in human history. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. This step is particularly important in these days of ongoing antisemitic attacks, the rewriting of history and attempts to deny the Holocaust.”

The Co-CEO of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry Peter Wertheim told J-Wire: “The announcement is welcome, although it would be preferable if the documents were released immediately rather than next year.

There have been several false dawns in the past when it was expected that scholars would be given complete access to all of the archives from the period, only to find that access was not granted to some of the documents.  We trust that all of the archives, intact, will finally be released, and that many unresolved questions from the period will be able to be answered.

The New Zealand Jewish Council president Stephen Goodman commented: “The NZJC is pleased that Pope Francis is opening the Vatican records surrounding the Holocaust.  We hope that this will help clarify the historical role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and allow the relationship between Catholic and Jewish people to continue to move forward openly, constructively and respectfully.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder has thanked Pope Francis for his “principled decision” to fully open the Vatican’s archives on Pope Pius XII.

In a letter to the Pope, Lauder wrote: “The World Jewish Congress has long urged the Vatican to make such a vitally important move, in order to clarify the many questions and concerns that have prevailed for decades regarding what the Holy See did and did not do during World War II. It is critical, for the sake of history, that historians have full access to these essential documents.

“Your agreement to make public potentially sensitive information relating to Pope Pius’ legacy is a true demonstration of your dedication to the remembrance of the Shoah, and a testament to your commitment to strong and open relations between Catholics and Jews.

“I am truly grateful that under your papacy, the ties fostered between the Catholic Church and Jews over the past few decades have continued to flourish and thrive and appreciate that you are always a willing partner for dialogue with the global Jewish community.

“We look forward to many more years of friendship and cooperation,” he wrote.



One Response to “Pope Francis announces Vatican will open Holocaust-era archives”
  1. Lynne Newington says:

    Would you really trust them…copies of copies, redactions and more copy’s….. …..I think the receiver of a Papal Knighthood is a little premature.
    Trusting instincts and experience is what I’ve been taught.

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