Action Alert!

Historic Vatican Documents Now Online

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Mar 26, 2010

The Vatican has announced that the contents of the Acta Sanctae Sedis (Acts of the Holy See), which covers the years 1865 – 1908, and the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (Acts of the Apostolic See), which covers the years since 1909 have been made available through 2007 in PDF format on the Vatican website. These are the official Latin documents issued by the Holy See either by the popes directly or by the popes through the various congregations, including episcopal appointments. Any laws published in these sources are considered by that fact to have been promulgated.

In addition, the material in the Vatican Archives related to World War II, which was published in 12 volumes in French, is also available in PDF format on the website. These volumes cover the period from 1939 through 1943. When I say that they are in French, this refers to the editorial matter. The documents themselves appear in their original languages, whether French or Italian or whatever. These are documents relating specifically to the war, not every document in the archives.

Although the Vatican Information Service stated that all of these documents were located in the “Resource Library” section of the site, no such section exists. They are actually in the Acta Sanctae Sedis / Acta Apostolicae Sedis section. The official A.S.S. and A.A.S documents are grouped by year and load fairly quickly. The much more voluminous collection of war documents appear in more sizeable chunks, up to 25 MB each, and can take a long time to load into your PDF reader.

These are excellent resources for scholars, and a tribute to the Vatican’s growing transparency in a new era which, for better or worse, values freedom of information.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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