03/02/2020, 12.43
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From today the Vatican archives of Pius XII pontificate are open

It is now possible to see documents and notes from a period that spans the years of World War II and those subsequent to the communist "threat". Particular attention can be expected on the relationship that the Catholic Church had with the Nazi and fascist regimes, especially for the controversial question of the "silence" of Pius XII on the Holocaust.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - From today the Vatican Apostolic Archive and other archives of the Holy See are open for consultation of the documents of the pontificate of Pius XII (1939-1958). It is a world-wide event for scholars in general and for historians in particular, since the pontificate of Pope Eugene Pacelli embraces the years of World War II and those following the communist "threat".

In particular, great attention is expected to focus on the relationship that the Catholic Church had with the Nazi and fascist regimes, especially for the controversial question of Pius XII’s "silence" on the Holocaust.

Two sides debate this issue. On the one hand, those who claim that Pope Pacelli did everything possible to save the lives of the Jews, on the other, those who argue that he should have publicly condemned the persecution and those who carried it forward.

In this regard, the then cardinal Pacelli, who became Secretary of State, is accused of having signed the agreement with Germany on 20 July 1933 in which, just a few months after Hitler had come to power (30 January 1933) and which, therefore, was a recognition for Nazism.

From the Vatican view point, however, this agreement restored the rights that had been suppressed by Germany at the time of Vatican Council I to the Church and the German Catholics.

Moreover, his election to the Papal Throne on March 2, 1939, was commented in a decidedly negative way by the Nazi German press or those close to the regime.

In the same year, a few days before the invasion of Poland, which started World War II (September 1, 1939) he gave one of his radio messages urging all involved not to resort to weapons stating that "Nothing is lost with peace; everything can be lost through war."

Since then the question of  Pius XII "silences" on the Holocaust have been a source of controversy.

During the war and in the years immediately following, personalities of Jewish backgrounds expressed public and private gratitude for what the Holy See was doing or had done for the Jews. They range from Albert Einstein to Alex Easterman, British representative of the Jewish World Congress, from the great rabbi of Jerusalem Isaac Erzog to the future Israeli premier Chiam Weiwmann, from the chief rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli to the secretary general of the Jewish World Congress, Leon Kubowitzky. And on October 10, 1958, at the death of Pius XII, Golda Meir, Israel's foreign minister, said: “During the decade of Nazi terror, our people suffered a terrible martyrdom. The Pope's voice rose to condemn the persecutors and to invoke pity for the victims. "

The few discordant voices gathered in 1963 around the work of the German playwright Rolf Hochhuth "Der Stellvertetrer", (the vicar), who accuses Pius XII of complicity with Nazism in the extermination of the Jews.


Since then the "silences" of Pope Pacelli have become a topic of discussion.

Only some remember that on July 20, 1942, when the Dutch bishops published a pastoral letter that openly condemned the Nazi deportations of the Jews, the Nazis responded by sending 40,000 Catholics of Jewish origin to concentration camps. Among them the future saint Edith Stein.

From today, therefore, it will be possible to find documents and notes resulting from a work of over fourteen years and which involves, in addition to the Vatican Archive, the historical Archive of the Section for relations with the States of the Secretariat of State, the Archive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Historical Archive of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (de Propaganda Fide), the Historical Archive of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, the Archive of the Apostolic Penitentiary and the General Historical Archive of the Fabrica of S. Pietro.

To give an idea of ​​the vastness of the documentation made available, in the Vatican Archive, as regards the pontificate of Pope Pacelli, 73 archives of pontifical representations, 15 series of the Secretariat of State, 21 from the Roman Congregations and curial offices and palatine will be consulted, 3 from Vatican City State and 8 other foundations.

Overall, therefore, 120 between collections and series, for a complex of about 20 thousand archival units. Only one of these series, certainly the largest, that of the General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, includes almost 5,000 boxes that have been reordered, numbered and described by a group of 15 archivists who produced an inventory of about 15 thousand pages, which can be consulted in digital form, and which reflects twenty-years in the life of the Church and society. (FP)

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See also
Pope: Pius XII spared no effort, including secret ones, to save Jews
The pope in Rome's synagogue: Praise the Lord for the gift of coming together
Pius XII tried to stop the war, saved as many Jews as he could, anticipated the Council, Pope says
Holocaust, a permanent stain on the history of humanity, says the Pope
New Holocaust Museum opens at Yad Vashem


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