PopeWatch: Pius XII

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.- Pope Francis announced Monday that the Vatican will open its archives on the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. Confidential files of the pope who led the Church during World War II will be made available next year.

“Serious and objective historical research” will be able to evaluate Pius XII’s “hidden but active diplomacy” “in its proper light,” Pope Francis said March 4. The pope said that the full confidential files, called a “secret archive,” will be released March 2, 2020.

The pontificate of Pius XII has been often misunderstood. Critics have accused him of indifference to the plight of the Jewish people during the Second World War, despite several already public documents which show the pope’s systematic efforts to assist Jews in Italy.

In the late 1990s, debate over whether Pius XII did enough to counter the Nazis reached a high point with the publication of the deeply controversial book, “Hitler’s Pope,” by British journalist John Cornwell. The book was highly critical of Pius XII, charging that he was culpably silent – if not an accomplice – in the rise of Nazism.

A book published in 2015 documented how Pope Pius XII chose to resist Adolf Hitler with covert action in lieu of overt protest. Historian Mark Riebling, author of Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler, drew on wartime documents and interviews with American intelligence agents to tell how Pope Pius XII secretly provided support for three attempts to overthrow Hitler.

“The Church is not afraid of history, rather, loves it and would like to love it more and better, as God loves it!” Pope Francis said in a meeting with Vatican secret archives personnel in which he made the announcement.

The Vatican archives for the entirety of Pius XII’s pontificate March 1939 – Oct. 1958 will open on March 2, 2020. The complete catalog is expected to include approximately 16 million documents.

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One Comment

  1. Rabbi David Dalin took an interest in this controversy 20 years ago after reading a book by an academic historian (it was one of the more prominent tomes of the era) and finding the book repellent, saying everything the Pope did was reframed by her in order to impugn his motives. One interesting tidbit about that debate is that Wm. Kristol’s Weekly Standard was publishing articles by David Dalin and Midge Decter was collaborating with Fr. Richard John Neuhaus on various editorial projects while Fr. Neuhaus was publishing Ronald Rychlak. At the same time, Neil Kozodoy, the protege of Midge Decter’s husband, was approving for publication in Commentary venomous articles by Kevin Madigan and Robert Wistrich. Wistrich has since died, and that may improve the quality of public discussion on this matter.

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