Washington D.C., Mar 15, 2020 / 11:00 am
A researcher from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum told CNA that she hopes the recent opening of the Pius XII archives in the Vatican will give historians a fuller, more transparent image of the wartime pope.
Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming, the museum’s director of international academic programs, has been unable to travel to Rome to view the archives due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but told CNA that she hopes to make the trip in April.
Brown-Fleming spoke to CNA Thursday about what she expects to find in the archives.
The Vatican officially opened the archives, which cover Venerable Pius XII’s entire pontificate -- March 1939 through October 1958 -- on March 2. It is the first time scholars have been granted access to the approximately 16 million documents they contain.
Pius XII remains a disputed figure, with some historians criticising him for not making a more explicit denunciation of Hitler and the Nazis, and others pointing to Mit brennender Sorge, his 1937 encyclical to the Church in Germany, and the limits imposed on him by the Lateran Treaty.
After examining the documents in the archives, Brown-Fleming said that historians will “definitely have a more fair reading of [Pius XII].”
“I think that on both sides of the argument there has been picking and choosing as to ‘let's show this document and interpret it this way and ignore these five documents,’ and his critics have done the same,” she said. “So I'm not sure either side has been completely fair, because there's been no access to the full documentation.”
Brown-Fleming thinks that the public opinion will likely end up “somewhere between the two polar opposites that we’re seeing now,” but that this will not happen until the archives have been fully studied.