Benedict XVI Opens Archives on Pius XI

Covering the Years 1922-1939

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI has authorized the opening of the Vatican archives for the pontificate of Pope Pius XI.



The pontificate, which ran from 1922 to 1939, includes the events leading into World War II, including the rise to power of Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin.

In a communiqué released Friday, the Holy See said that researchers will be able to consult all the documents of the period "kept in the different series of archives of the Holy See, primarily in the Vatican Secret Archives and the Archive of the Second Section of the Secretariat of State (formerly the Congregation of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs)."

The announcement was signed by Jesuit Father Marcel Chappin, director of the Historical Archive of the Secretariat of State, and Father Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives.

The opening of the archives has been long-awaited as Pius XI's pontificate witnessed some of the most dramatic events of the 20th century, characterized by the communist, Nazi and fascist totalitarianisms.

The archives will shed light on the Pope's attitude to these totalitarianisms, which led to the publication of some of his most important documents.

New light

In particular, the relationship between the Church and Benito Mussolini's Fascism will be clarified. In the 1931 encyclical "Non Abbiamo Bisogno," Pius XI defined fascism as a "totalitarian doctrine," "authentic 'estatolatria'" (worship of the state).

Moreover, a more accurate analysis will be possible of the relationship between the Church and Nazism's advent to power in Germany. In March 1937, the Pope published the encyclical "Mit Brennender Sorge" against Nazism and, in particular, against its exaltation of race.

In addition, the relationship between the Church and communism will be illustrated in greater detail. Pius XI called communism "intrinsically perverse" in the 1937 encyclical "Divini Redemptoris."

Another dossier of those years is the relationship of the Church to the religious persecution in Mexico.

The archives will shed new light on the relationship of the Holy See with Spain before and during the Spanish Civil War, and General Francisco Franco's rise to power.