Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Catholic World News News Feature

Disappointment for historians: no early opening of Pius XII archives April 24, 2009

The Vatican has moved quickly to quash expectations that files from the pontificate of Pius XII might be made public.

After Italian media outlets reported that the Society of Jesus had authorized the release of files collected by the late Father Robert Graham, SJ-- a leading expert on the wartime Pope-- the Vatican press office released a denial on April 24. "Such authorization has never been given," the statement stressed. "The documents will be catalogued but not published. A possible future publication can only happen after the Holy See opens its archives regarding the pontificate of Pope Pius XII."

Father Graham had amassed more than 25,000 documents in his years of research into the pontificate of Pius XII before his death in 1997. The prospect of an early release of that material had elated scholars who are hoping for more evidence to rebut the charges that Pope Pius XII was silent in the face of the Holocaust.

On of those delighted by the report that the Graham files would be opened was Gary Krupp, the head of the US-based Pave the Way Foundation. Krupp, who is Jewish, set up the foundation to encourage inter-religious dialogue, and took on the project of correcting misinformation about the historical record involving Pius XII. In a conversation with Catholic News Agency, Krupp said that his own research into available archival material left him with no doubt that Pope Pius XII was a mortal enemy of the Nazi regime. "This man hated Hitler, despised him," he said; "and Hitler felt the same way about him."

Krupp went on to tell Catholic News Agency that he was shocked and angered when he realized how badly the historical record had been skewed, because "I trust historians to report history correctly."

Early reports about the release of the Graham archives had indicated that the Pave the Way Foundation would have had access to the 25,000 newly released documents. The Jesuit order now reports that the documents will be sorted and rendered into digital form, so that they will be easily accessible when the Vatican opens its own archives for the pontificate of Pius XII.

Like most governments, the Vatican keeps official archives secret for at least 50 years, to protect the confidentiality of any living people mentioned in the documents. The Vatican has resisted public pressure for an early opening of the secret archives involving the reign of Pius XII, who died in 1958. Church spokesmen have indicated that the extraordinary volume of wartime documentation has complicated the task of sorting the material. The best current estimates suggest that the archives for Pius XII could be released in 3-4 years.