Pius XII letters only taste of full Vatican archive

Pope Pius XII 2 CNA Vatican Catholic News 3 5 12 Pope Pius XII

The Jewish New Yorker who has made it his life’s work to clear the name of Pope Pius XII is welcoming the first public display of letters from the Vatican Archives that suggest the wartime pontiff helped many Jews escape Nazi persecution.

“This wonderful exposition is merely a tasting of what is in store for the world when the Secret Archives are fully opened,” Gary Krupp of the Pave the Way Foundation told CNA March 3.

The archived letters are featured as part of the “Lux in Arcana” exhibition, which opened last week in Rome. It showcases 100 articles from the Vatican’s Secret Archives to celebrate its 400th anniversary.

To date, documents relating to the 1939-58 papacy of Pope Pius XII have remained unpublished. In recent decades his critics have accused him of indifference to the plight of the Jewish people during the Second World War.

The new exhibition features several documents outlining his efforts to assists Jews in Italy.
They reveal that in 1941 the Pope sent a high-ranking Vatican official to inspect the welfare of Jews being held in seven internment camps in southern Italy. One year later, a rabbi who was being held in one of the camps wrote a long letter to Pope Pius thanking him for sending aid to the prisoners, including clothes for the interned children.

Finally, in 1944, former detainees wrote to express their gratitude to the Pope for his “keen and paternal interest” towards their “physical, spiritual and moral wellbeing” during their detainment.
They also credited him with saving them from deportation to Poland in 1942. “Your Holiness extended your fatherly hand to protect us and prevented the deportation of the Jews imprisoned in Italy, thereby saving us from almost certain death.”

Gary Krupp said these wartime documents merely reflect the “thousands of pages of documents from the war years that have been available for years in individual diocesan archives throughout Europe.”

Those documents, he said, show how “the Pope acted firmly and directly while the Vatican was surrounded by hostile forces, infiltrated by spies, (and) without an army to protect them.”

Krupp himself has seen letters documenting how the Vatican sent money to support Jews in Austria, Romania and France. At present, his foundation’s website has over 46,000 similar documents in support of Pope Pius XII.
“For example, we have posted on line documents proving the Pope’s direct action to stop the arrests of October 16, 1943, thereby saving an estimated 12,000 Jews in Rome,” he said.

Bishop Sergio Pagano, Prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, told the media last week that all the files relating to Pope Pius XII will likely be made available “within one or two years,” adding that “the final decision, however, depends on the Pope.”

He said that “Benedict XVI’s willingness to accelerate the opening” would also be “a way of silencing dissonant voices” and “can only benefit the Church.”
Cardinal Raffaele Farina, Archivist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church, said that the documents gave a “little preview of the archives for the period of Pius XII” which are “not yet ready” to be opened to the public in full.

“We’re still classifying these materials,” he explained.

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