On a visit to the Papal Library and the Vatican’s Secret Archives this morning, Pope Benedict came to the defense of those whose work involves the case of Pope Pius XII. Accusations have been made by critics of the World War II era pope, in particular by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, that the archivists have withheld incriminating documents.
The charges frequently leveled against Pope Pius XII include anti-Semitism and having aided Hitler. However, none of the charges has ever been substantiated.
The critics of the pontiff requested that Pope John Paul II open the secret archives from the reign of Pius XII before the normal period of secrecy ended so that they could prove their case. The late Holy Father granted permission to open the archives early.
A joint committee of Catholic and Jewish scholars was formed to study the secret records, but upon finding no evidence condemning Pius XII, some claimed that the Vatican was still hiding documents.
Benedict, fully aware of the situation, rose to the defense of the archivists today during his visit. He praised the work of the secret archive saying that it provides “disinterested and impartial service," which "steer[s] clear of sterile and often weak partisan historical viewpoints and give[s] researchers, without hindrance or prejudice, the documents in its possession, cataloged with seriousness and competency."
He also added that, "In your diverse activities, you make use of the most advanced techniques in computers, cataloging, restoration, photography and, more generally, in everything that concerns the protection and usage of the immense heritage you preserve."
The Holy Father noted that both the Library and the Archives receive "expressions of appreciation and respect from cultural institutes and individual scholars from various countries." "To me, this seems the best recognition to which the two institutions can aspire," he added.
The Pope left the archivists with the following words, "always to consider your work as a real mission to be undertaken passionately and patiently, with courtesy and a spirit of faith. Let it be your concern always to offer a welcoming image of the Apostolic See, aware that the evangelical message also passes through your own coherent Christian witness."