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  • “The Church is not afraid of history,

    “The Church is not afraid of history," Pope Francis said from the Vatican. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 March 2019

The initiative “will enable objective and open research on issues related to the conduct of the Vatican and the Holocaust," many say.

A host of confidential, World-War-II-era archives will be released from the Vatican in 2020, Pope Francis announced Monday in a push for further transparency in the Catholic Church and of previous administrations during the Holocaust.

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"I decided that the opening of the Vatican Archives for the pontificate of Pius XII would take place on March 2, 2020," the pope said.

“The Church is not afraid of history. On the contrary, she loves it, and desires to love it more and better, as God loves it,” he said, noting that it’s important that the world knows the works of the church during “one of the saddest and darkest times of the 20th century."

Jerusalem’s World Holocaust Remembrance Center commended the pontiff’s decision, voicing their hopes that researchers will have full access to the archive’s documents. The initiative “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," spokesman Yad Vashem said.

Twenty years worth of letters, cables, and speeches from 1939 to 1958 will provide insight into the Catholic Church’s role during World War II.

"I am sure that the serious and objective historical research will know how to evaluate it in the right light,” Francis said.

Pope Pius XII has been largely criticized and investigated for the allegedly passive role displayed as Jews were being evacuated from Rome’s ghettos to concentration camps across the country.

However, Francis said these allegations were both “prejudice and exaggerated” and completely disregard Pius XII’s efforts executed clandestinely during the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany and are illustrated more clearly in the archives.

"In the sad, no terrible, scenario before the war, during its tragic unfolding as well as afterward, the great figure of Pius XII stands out," Pagano said.

"He was superficially criticized and judged for some aspects of his pontificate and now, thanks to the opening faithfully desired by Pope Francis, I think historians who know how to investigate, without prejudice, but with the help of new documents, can find its richness and realistic importance."

Prefect of the Secret Archives, Bishop Sergio Pagano, told reporters that Vatican personnel have been commissioned to gather the documents from various offices the Secret Archives, the Secretariat of State, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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