Vatican Pledge To Open Archives On Pius XII Welcomed As "A Step Toward Historical Truth"
New York, NY, October 31, 2008 … Calling it "a step toward historical truth," the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed comments by the prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives that he would accept outside help with opening the Church's Holocaust-era records to determine the role of Pope Pius XII during World War II and his activities regarding the Jews.
The prefect, Bishop Sergio Pagano, met with ADL and other Jewish organizations comprising the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) shortly before the group held an audience this week with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.
"We welcome Bishop Pagano's comments and hope this is a positive first step in bringing qualified Catholic and Jewish experts together to help make available for scholarly study some of the most important archival materials from the 20th century," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "This is an important step toward seeking the historical truth about the pontificate of Pope Pius XII and his activities regarding the Jews during World War II. We stand ready to assist in this important project for both of our faiths."
A Holocaust survivor, Mr. Foxman said that time is of the essence. "Every year that the archives are kept closed, more survivors die," he said. "It would be a significant gesture if the Vatican would open them up for the survivors."
During the papal meeting, IJCIC echoed ADL's recent call for the Vatican to open all its relevant World War II-era archival materials so that qualified independent scholars can assess Pius XII's actions and policies toward the Jewish people during the Holocaust before any official conclusions are reached.
Bishop Pagano said that only six researchers are working to classify and document thousands of boxes of files from the papacy of Pius XII, from 1939 to 1958. At that rate, he said, it will be at least another six or seven years before all the relevant files, from Pius XII, the Vatican Secretary of State, and other Vatican government offices, as well as diplomatic offices around the world, are declassified, described, numbered, and put in proper order for scholars to study.
ADL has in the past offered to help coordinate efforts to bolster the declassification efforts.
Bishop Pagano said outside funding would help his team digitize and microfilm the archives and build a new room for researchers to work in.
Rabbi Eric Greenberg, ADL Director of Interfaith Policy, who represented the League at the meeting in Rome, thanked the pope for his recent gestures in welcoming a rabbi for the first time to appear before the Synod of Bishops in Rome, and for his recent outreach to the Jewish people during trips to Washington, DC, and New York City.
Rabbi Greenberg also reaffirmed to the pope ADL's desire to continue to promote strong interfaith relations between the Catholic and Jewish communities in the United States and around the world.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.