Cardinal: Vatican Has Nothing to Hide in Archives

Says Pius XII Documents Will Be Ready in 5 Years

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LIVERPOOL, England, JUNE 2, 2010 ( The Vatican is working diligently to prepare the archives from the World War II years for public access, and it has nothing to hide, says the president of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

Cardinal Walter Kasper affirmed this in a May 24 address at Liverpool Hope University, in which he reported on recent developments in Jewish-Christian relations, reported The Times newspaper.

The day before, the cardinal, also president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, spoke at the “Two Cathedrals Service” in Liverpool on the Feast of Pentecost. In that city, the Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals are separated by just a half mile along a road called Hope Street. Pope John Paul II processed up that street in 1982, and since that time the Pentecost service has become a tradition.

Speaking at the university, the only ecumenical university in Europe, which at its founding was acknowledged as a “sign of hope” by both Catholic and Anglican leaders, Cardinal Kasper noted the “complex and difficult” history of Jewish-Christian relations.

He spoke about the work being done to clear up the role of the Catholic Church, and Pope Pius XII in particular, in the “brutal — historically without comparison — crimes of the Shoah, the state-sponsored organized murder of approximately six million European Jews, which is the absolute low point in this history.”

The prelate continued: “The Holocaust cannot be attributed to Christianity as such, since it also had clear anti-Christian features.

“However, centuries-old Christian theological anti-Judaism contributed as well, encouraging a widespread antipathy for Jews, so that ideologically and racially motivated anti-Semitism could prevail in this terrible way, and the resistance against the outrageous inhuman brutality did not achieve the breadth and clarity that one should have expected.”


The cardinal noted that “Pius XII was Pope (1938–58) during one of the most difficult times of the papacy during the Second World War while Rome was under the heel of Mussolini and later occupied by Germany.”

He observed that although Pius XII did many things to help the Jews during those years, in more recent times there has been widespread disagreement about whether this was enough, and whether the Pontiff was too silent about the crimes.

The prelate explained: “The serious recent historical research is differentiated.

“There are still today Jews who defend Pius XII, and on the other side there are Catholic authors who are critical about his attitude. So there is no clear frontline between Jews and Catholics, though the majority of Jews, especially in Israel, are still critical.”

“The main problem is access to the sources,” he acknowledged. “The request for the opening of the Vatican Archives is a legitimate request.”

“The material which is already accessible now proves that Pius XII was at no time ‘Hitler’s Pope,'” Cardinal Kasper asserted. “On the contrary, he was the closest cooperator of Pope Pius XI in the publication of the encyclical ‘Mit Brennender Sorge’ (‘It Is With Deep Anxiety,’ 1937), which was a fervent condemnation of Nazi race ideology.”

He noted that “11 volumes with documents of the Holy See have already been made public and recently many other sources have become available.”

However, the prelate affirmed, “knowing the facts is one aspect, for history is not only a question of facts, but also of the historical interpretation of facts, in this case facts which happened more than half a century ago in a context which is not only politically but also mentally radically different from ours, and only difficult to understand for a generation which can call itself fortunate not to have undergone a similar experience.”

He added that the Vatican Archives “are now working under intense pressure on the project to prepare access to the Pontificate of Pius XII.”

“The registration and preparation of millions of documents in a due professional way needs time and will be completed in about five or six years, after which general access for scholars will be granted,” the cardinal predicted.

He added, “It is our belief that we have nothing to hide and that we do not need to fear the truth.”

Cardinal Kasper acknowledged that “even after the opening of the archives,” perhaps “the discussion will be open till the end of times,” for “who can dare to say the last word about such an outrageous event as the Holocaust?”

“The only adequate answer can be shame and repentance, that Catholics did not react more forcefully,” he affirmed, “and then metanoia,” in other words, “a new thinking and a new behavior today in order to build up new relations with the Jewish people.”

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