Pope Francis announced on Monday that he has decided to open fully the Vatican’s secret archives on the wartime pontificate of Pope Pius XII, something which Jews have been seeking for decades.
Some Jews have accused Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust during World War Two by not speaking out forcefully. The Vatican has said Pius worked quietly behind the scenes to save Jews and so as to not worsen the situation for many, including for Catholics in parts of Nazi-occupied Europe.
The archives will open on March 2, 2020, Francis announced in a speech to members of the Vatican’s Secret Archives. He said “the Church is not afraid of history”, adding that Pius’ legacy had been treated with “some prejudice and exaggeration”
The American Jewish Committee (AJC), one of the world’s leading Jewish groups, welcomed the move.
“For more than 30 years, the AJC has called for the full opening the Holy See&rsquo;s Secret Archives from the period of World War Two,” said Rabbi David Rosen, the AJC’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs.
“It is particularly important that experts from the leading Holocaust memorial institutes in Israel and the U.S. objectively evaluate as best as possible the historical record of that most terrible of times, to acknowledge both the failures as well as the valiant efforts made during the period of the Shoah,” Rosen told Reuters in an email, using the Hebrew word for the Holocaust.