Pius XII Archives Need Time for Cataloguing

Aide: Organizing 16 Million Documents Will Take 6-7 Years

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 31, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Though many want the Vatican Secret Archives from the pontificate of Pius XII to reveal that Pope's efforts to save Jews, a Vatican spokesman says the documents could not be opened for another six of seven years.



Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi affirmed this in a note Thursday explaining that the 16 million documents from the 1939-1958 pontificate, with current resources, would take more than a half decade to catalogue. His note responded to requests made to the Holy See, particularly from Jewish representatives and historians.

"Putting aside the discussion as to whether it could offer relevant novelties to the historical knowledge of the pontificate of Pius XII, the petition is in itself understandable and justifiable from the perspective of the methodology of historical studies," he said. Nevertheless, "it must be understood what this implies in regard to preparatory work."

The opening of the Vatican Secret Archives was a decision made by Pope Leo XIII in 1881 and his successors have continued the tradition.

"The principle that has generally been followed has been that of opening to experts the documents pontificate by pontificate, and not based on a range of dates, for example, 50, 70 or 90 years, as happens with other archives," Father Lombardi said. "This is because the [Vatican] archives are not structured chronologically, but precisely by pontificates."

Till now, the archives have been opened through the pontificate of Pope Pius XI, that is, through 1939. Those documents have been available since 2006.

Father Lombardi said that the archives for the pontificate of Pius XII, 16 million documents, need the preparation of 15,430 folders and 2,500 dossiers.

He reported that "the prefect of the Secret Archives, Bishop Sergio Pagano, recently affirmed that with the current resources, at least six or seven years will be needed."

"Before then, it is not realistic to think that there will be an opening of the archives to experts," Father Lombardi said. "Naturally, once the work of cataloguing has finished, given that the Secret Archives is the archive of the Pope, the final decision about opening it corresponds to the Holy Father himself."