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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Declaring that the church “isn’t afraid of history,” Pope Francis said Monday he has decided to open up the Vatican archives on World War II-era Pope Pius XII, who has been criticized by Jews of staying silent on the Holocaust.
Francis told officials and personnel of the Vatican Secret Archives that the archive would be open to researchers starting March 2, 2020.
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Pius was elected pontiff on March 2, 1939, six months before World War II erupted in Europe. Pius died on Oct. 9, 1958, at the Vatican summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome.
The Vatican usually waits 70 years after the end of a pontificate to open up the relevant archives. But the Holy See has been under pressure to make the Pius XII documentation available sooner and while Holocaust survivors are still alive. The Catholic church has been widely criticized for not doing enough to stand up to the Nazi regime.
Archivists - Documentation - Consultation - Behest - Francis
Vatican archivists had already started preparing the documentation for consultation back in 2006, at the behest of Francis’ German-born predecessor, Benedict XVI.
The Vatican has defended Pius, saying he used behind-the-scenes diplomacy to try to save lives. Francis indicated he, too, embraced that interpretation.
Pius - Actions - Part - Efforts - Saint
Pius’ actions will be scrutinized as part of efforts underway to decide if he should be declared a saint. Francis indicated that the church was confident that the papacy would withstand the findings by historians’ studying the archives, saying Pius was “criticized, one can say, with some prejudice and exaggeration.”
In Jerusalem, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial commended the decision and expressed the expectation that “researchers will be granted full access to all the documents stored in the archives.”
Years - Opening - Archives - Research - Discourse
It noted that it had for years called for the opening of the archives, saying that will “enable objective and open research as well as comprehensive discourse...
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