Vatican to Open Archives Tied to a Key Era in Germany

In Response to Historians and Jewish Leaders

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2002 ( From the start of 2003, the Vatican will open its secret archives on the activities of the apostolic nuncio in Germany, Archbishop Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII.

Cardinal Jorge María Mejía, archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church, told a press conference today that the first documents that will be made public are those relating to the nunciature in Germany during Pius XI’s pontificate (1922-1939). Gradually, all the documents of that pontificate will be opened.

Archbishop Pacelli was appointed nuncio to the new Weimar Republic in 1920, while he continued to be nuncio in Bavaria (an assignment he received in 1917). He left the nunciature in 1929, and the next year was appointed Vatican secretary of state by Pius XI, whom he succeeded in the papacy.

Cardinal Mejía also reported that the Vatican Archives has proposed to the State Secretariat the publication of six CD-ROMs, as well as an introductory volume and six books of all the archives of the Office of the State Secretariat.

Pius XII established the office in 1940 for the sake of prisoners of war. The office investigated and gave information on requests received by the Vatican State Secretariat from relatives and friends who wished to have information on their loved ones. The office remained in operation until 1946.

The office compiled 3.5 million forms, many of them with information on Jews. To gather information on the fate of these people, the office used the special channels of the Church, such as apostolic nunciatures, bishops and religious communities.

The latest initiatives are the Vatican’s response to historians and Jewish leaders who asked for the opening of the secret archives relating to that period, especially those referring to Pope Pius XII.

The Holy See’s policy is to wait for a prudent period before opening its secret archives to experts and historians, because its documents may touch on questions of conscience or on compromising matters. Out of respect for those involved, it considers it appropriate to wait for some time after their death.

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