Vatican official challenges Israel to open secret archives


Vatican, Jun. 18, 2008 - The president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences has questioned why some Jewish scholars have demanded the opening of the Vatican secret archives for World War II, when the Israel government has its own secret archives covering the same period.

At a Vatican press conference on the historical record of Pope Pius XII, Msgr. Walter Brandmuller shot back at critics of the wartime Pontiff who have demanded the opening of the Vatican archives. While most of the relevant material in the Vatican archives is now available to scholars, he pointed out, "others do not make their documents available." He referred to the Israeli government, saying that Israel has kept a number of archives closed, including some from the time of World War II.

Like most governments, the Vatican ordinarily keeps records secret for 50 years or more, opening the historical archives to scholars only well after the deaths of the people involved. Pope Pius XII was elected to Peter's Throne in 1939; he died in October 1958.

Responding to public appeals for an early opening of the secret archives from the wartime period, Pope John Paul II ordered the opening of collections from four previous pontificates: those of Leo XIII (1878- 1903), Pius X (1903- 1914), Benedict XV (1914- 1922), and Pius XI (1922- 1939). The Vatican has also released collections involving the diplomatic efforts of the Secretariat of State during World War II. In fact the director of the Vatican's secret archives has expressed disappointment that historians have not used the available documents regarding the wartime record of Pope Pius XII, at a time when less reliable sources are being used regularly by that Pope's critics.