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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 March 2019

Second World War Vatican archives to be revealed

The documents will shed light on the life of controversial Pope Pius XII

Pope Pius XII, wearing the ring of St. Peter, raises his right hand in a papal blessing at the Vatican. AP
Pope Pius XII, wearing the ring of St. Peter, raises his right hand in a papal blessing at the Vatican. AP

The Vatican announced on Monday that it will open the secret archives of Pope Pius XII, a controversial Second World War pontiff accused by some of ignoring the Holocaust.

Pope Francis told members of the Vatican Archives that the pontiff's legacy will be revealed to the world on March 2, 2020, Reuters reported.

The date coincides with the election of Pope Pius in 1939 as the six-year war was beginning.

"The Church is not afraid of history," said Pope Francis, adding that Pius's life has been treated with some "prejudice and exaggeration".

For decades Pius was accused by some Jews of staying silent on the Holocaust.

Researchers and historians will be given access to some of the documents between 1939 and 1958 in hope that more light will be shed on Pius and his role during the war.

“Archivists of the Vatican Secret Archives and their colleagues from other Vatican archives carried out patient work," said Sergio Pagano, Prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives.

The archives hold paper and electronic documents, including 538 envelopes containing information on different topics and institutions, and manuscripts by Pius from before and during his pontificate, L’Osservatore Romano reported on Monday.

Some Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Committee, have welcomed the move.

“For more than 30 years, the AJC has called for the full opening the Holy See’s Secret Archives from the period of the Second World War,” Rabbi David Rosen, the committee's international director of inter-religious affairs, told Reuters.

“It is particularly important that experts from the leading Holocaust memorial institutes in Israel and the US objectively evaluate as best as possible the historical record of that most terrible of times, to acknowledge the failures as well as the valiant efforts made."

Pius XII was born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli in Rome in 1876. He was elected pope in March 1939 and reigned until his death of heart failure at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo in 1958.

Updated: March 4, 2019 11:59 PM

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