A Feb. 22, 2002 cable followed up on the issue, noting the announcement of the archives’ partial opening. The cable’s author saw the move as an attempt by Pope John Paul II to “silence accusations of anti-Semitism leveled against his predecessor Pius XII” and also as a possible sign of renewed Vatican interest in beatifying the pontiff.
Pope John Paul II’s decision to sidestep standard release procedures shows that “whatever the Pope wants, does in fact happen,” concluded the cable, which was apparently signed by Nicholson.
The fourth cable dates from Oct. 16, 2009 and concerns the Holy See’s withdrawal from an agreement to become an international observer on the International Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. The Vatican Embassy cable speculated that the Vatican’s “relatively inexperienced” new deputy foreign minister Mgsr. Ettore Balestrero made the decision, but it also wondered whether the move also signaled concerns about the task force’s pressure to release records related to Pius XII’s pontificate.
Task force members, including Austrian Ambassador Ferdinand Trauttsmandorff, U.S. Professor Steve
Katz of the Elie Wiesel Center at Boston University, and Israeli academic advisor Dina Porat, expressed “considerable disappointment” about the setback. Trauttsmandorff insisted that the task force sought a relationship with the Vatican not only to access the archives but also to work jointly with Catholic leaders in many countries on anti-racism and Holocaust remembrance education.
The cables have their source in the WikiLeaks website, which acquired more than 250,000 of the documents. Its media partners, which include The Guardian and The New York Times, have helped shape the selection and the timing of the released cables and have also redacted information believed to be sensitive.
The insights into U.S. officials’ views of the investigation of Pius XII’s papacy comes just before the publication of French scholar Joël-Benoît d'Onorio’s new analysis criticizing a “myth of the archives.”
In an article excerpted in the Dec. 23 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, d’Onorio argued that the archives will never produce proof of “what doesn’t exist … proof of the voluntary weakness of Pius XII.”
D’Onorio, who is president of the federation of Catholic jurists of France, wrote a Dec. 22 response in the French newspaper La Croix to Richard Prasquier, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions.
Prasquier contended there is “no certain historic proof” that Pope Pius XII saved numerous lives during World War II. He rebuked the wartime pontiff’s alleged “silences” and “fear of speaking out.”
To this, d’Onorio replied that there are documents that already attest to Pius XII’s acts, such as 1943 records from Rome’s Augustinianum which show he ordered a monastery to open its doors to thousands. When Nazi occupiers asked Jews for 50 kilograms of gold to ransom 300 Jewish hostages, the Pope quickly ordered 15 kilograms to supply what the Jews lacked.
D’Onorio said there is “much more evidence” in Pius XII’s favor. “The valid studies are numerous and come from different sources, but they are deliberately ignored to sustain a black legend,” he charged.
(Story continues below)
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The Pope’s alleged fear of speaking out in fact hid “a grand charity in action.”