Vatican Promises to Open Wartime Archives as Soon as Possible

Cardinal Says Church Will Continue Dialogue with Jews

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 27, 2001 ( The Holy See intends to open its World War II-era archives to Jewish historians as soon as it is technically possible, a cardinal says.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism, published a statement last Friday in which he confirms the Holy See´s intention to open its archives and to continue dialogue with the Jewish community.

His statement followed a decision by a panel of Jewish and Catholic historians who halted their research into Pope Pius XII´s actions during World War II and especially the Holocaust.

The commission made its decision in July, stating that the Vatican did not allow access to archives of interest.

The commission was created in 1999, at the initiative of Cardinal Edward I. Cassidy, Cardinal Kasper´s predecessor, and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations. It was entrusted with the study of the Vatican documents.

Cardinal Kasper clarified in his statement that the Vatican never mentioned the possibility of opening all the archives relating to this historical period, because they are yet to be classified. The archives comprise more than 3 million pages.

The Vatican wanted to avoid the mistake made by some countries, which promised, but then failed, to open all their archives to researchers. The work requires time and is indispensable for all scientific historical study.

Cardinal Kasper said the Vatican is making every effort to make this access possible.

According to his statement, the real problem of the commission´s work was the difficulty in agreeing on the final report, given the «impossibility of overcoming the different interpretations given by the group to the tasks and purpose.»

Moreover, he continued, «indiscretions and controversial writings on the Jewish side contributed to awaken feelings of mistrust. All this made it practically impossible to continue joint research.»

The cardinal was referring to revelations – and negative insinuations — made to the press by a Jewish member of the group without the consent of his colleagues.

«Such scientific work can only be done on the basis of uprightness, in respect and mutual trust of those who undertake it,» he wrote. «Such an indispensable condition was totally lacking because of the controversy that ensued after the suspension of the research work and of the suspected offenses that accompanied that suspension.»

Thus, the cardinal concluded, «it does not seem possible to foresee the reactivation of the common endeavor.»

He added that the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism will endeavor in the next few months «to find adequate means to reactivate the research on a new basis,» with the conviction «that the Catholic Church does not fear the historical truth.»

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