Church 'not afraid of history': Pope Francis to open secret Pius XII archives

Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Saying the “Church is not afraid of history”, Pope Francis announced on Monday he plans to open fully the Vatican’s secret archives on the wartime pontificate of Pope Pius XII, a historic move that Jews have sought for decades.

Breaking news this morning. Maybe we will see new details, maybe very little. I do think this transparency is good.


This was going to happen sometime, as from what I have read it is a necessary step if they are ever going to canonize him.
I hope the archives fully clear up all the negative allegations about him. I believe he was a holy man who suffered a lot and I would like to see him become an official saint.


Absolutely! Tis,
Though I’m sure the media will give it the usual treatment.


Do people still think Pope Pius XII was “Hitler’s Pope”? Even after knowing of the atrocities committed against Catholic Poland? Clergy murdered, churches burned down etc


I certainly do not and I’ve also read defenses of the Holy Father, Pope Pius XII, he had some tree planted for him in a special part of Israel.

But muckrakers are going to do their thing in this day and age and that’s why it is important to read up and not just take what one source says.


What took so long? This has been a focus of controversy for decades.

It often takes some time to get things done. I was reading an article (BBC) where requests for these archive documents were made 30 years ago. I’d want to be careful that documents could also be read and misinterpreted.

Well, it took some 50 years or so to start releasing the last of the classified (allegedly) documents on the JFK assassination. Those have not seem to have been very helpful, that is also a topic in itself.

This is a good step in the right direction.

Here is a thread from 2005:
Jews Sue-Where is the Spirit of Ecumenism???? and another from 2010 where the archivist thought they would be done within 5 years:.
Secret Archives from Pius XII's time to be organized by 2015 [CNA]

Some Jews and various other critics of the Church have used this as a cudgel for such a long time. Jews that I know take it as fact that Pius collaborated with the Nazis to save his own skin, to the detriment of Jews in Rome and throughout the Reich and occupied territory.

It should have been made a greater priority by John Paul, or Benedict, or Francis.

The criticism from the media will be what took so long? And to be honest it’s a little bit like if a spouse asked to see their partners phone and the partner gave them access 4 hours later…

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It has been explained…
In the last 10 years about a dozen persons , under the direction of Sergio Pagano, Prefect of Secret Archive, have taken care of putting in order 16 million documents, more than 15,000 envelopes and 2,500 archives.

That is why Pope Francis gives thanks and says what he says when he addresses those persons who have worked for years patiently to get everything ready.

( I ve got the source in Spanish, but I do not mind posting a translation if anyone is interested)


My guess is that it took so long because the Vatican was waiting for all, or the vast majority of, people that are perhaps named in the archive documents to be deceased.
Archives often remain closed while the people named in them are likely to be still alive.

How do you know it wasn’t “a priority” for them? There are reasons why it takes time to open an archive, many of them legal or political, and it’s usually not because the people in charge are ignoring the issue.

The media would criticize anything the Church did. Who cares? I’m glad the Church isn’t the puppet of the media, who for the most part have ceased to contribute anything constructive to the world these days IMHO and simply sow division and misinformation while they struggle to stay relevant in a world where we all share information without them.

As for the delay, historical archives don’t open on a dime, and it’s not uncommon to have crucial archives sealed for decades, as shown by this Smithsonian article.

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Pope Pius XII was the greatest Pope of the 20th Century, followed closely by St John Paul II. He saved millions of innocent people from the gas chambers and helped to undermine the Axis Powers during the War (even to the point of being party to conspiracies to kill Hitler). After his death Golda Meir and Albert Einstein praised him for his efforts to save the lives of Jews during the Holocaust.

I pray he will be canonized one day in my lifetime.

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As usual the media will likely try to put its own spin on whatever the archives reveal. My biggest fear is that they will try to judge the Holy Father’s actions by the standards of today, not the standards of his time.

My guess also that there’s a huge quantity of material to sift through, and it will be difficult for outsiders to put things into their proper context as many documents are likely interdependent and cannot be properly interpreted in isolation, or outside of a timeline where an idea or thought is developed and evolves into something not even close to the original thought.

And as such, it risks descending into another bout of Church-bashing if the Vatican does not keep a proper control on the release of information.

Once the archives are opened, whatever the media is fed should be put into proper context by reputable scholars, perhaps even scholars approved by the Vatican to release the info to the public. Not necessarily all Catholic, but instead chosen for their reputation and objectivity.

It will be a long process, I hope to live long enough to see Pope Pius XII publicly vindicated!

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He actually welcomed Jewish refugees into the Vatican…


There is a lot of inaccurate negative press about Pius XII. I am hopeful that the release of these documents will quiet some of that.


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