Vatican Secret Archives Documents (1939-1945) Going Online
The initiatives is partially in response to a petition from Pave the Way Foundation, an organization dedicated to bridging gaps between religions.
The foundation proposed making digital files of, and later publicizing, some 5125 descriptions and copies of documents from the closed section of the Vatican archives, from the period of March 1939 to May 1945.
Gary Krupp, the foundation's president and founder, told ZENIT that "the 'Actes et Documents du Saint Siège relatifs a la Seconde Guerre Mondiale [Acts and Documents of the Holy See relative to the Second World War],'" which were "previously published and mostly ignored," will "shortly be available for worldwide scrutiny and study online, free of charge."
He explained that these documents will be available on the Web site of his foundation as well as that of the Vatican.
This project is part of the mission of the foundation, a non-sectarian organization that works to remove obstacles between religions, foster cooperation and to end the misuse of religion for private agendas.
The organization's president, who is from New York but of Jewish decent, stated, "In the furtherance of our mission we have recognized the papacy of the war time Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli) as a source of friction impacting over one billion people."
"Controversy abounds on whether he did enough to prevent the slaughter of Jews at the hands of the Nazis," Krupp affirmed.
He continued: "Our research has revealed that five years after Pius XII's death, the KGB hatched a plot to discredit their enemy, the Roman Catholic Church, called 'Seat 12.'
"A dirty trick, which condemned Pope Pius XII for his 'silence' during the Holocaust in the form of Rolf Hochhuth's fictitious 1963 play 'The Deputy.' The result was the worst character assassination of the twentieth century."
Based on his foundation's research, Krupp stated that in 1964, Pope Paul VI asked a team of three Jesuit historians, Father Pierre Blet, Father Burkhart Schneider, and Father Angelo Martini, to "conduct intensive research to identify relevant documents from the war years from the closed section of the Vatican Secret Archives."
He added: "A few years later Father Robert Graham joined the group. The first volume was published in 1965, the last in 1981."
Krupp explained that in 1999, Cardinal Edward Cassidy, at that time the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, called for a special commission of Jewish and Catholic scholars to come together to study these documents.
"This positive advance unfortunately ended July 21, 2001 in failure," he added, "partly because the scholars simply did not read the languages of the collection."
"They issued a list of 47 questions and demanded the opening of the yet un-catalogued archives" from the 1939-1958 period, the foundation president said.
He stated that his foundation "sought to gain permission to digitize this collection, making it broadly available for study" so as to further "our mission to publicly disclose as many documents as possible to help to move this obstacle between Jews and Catholics into the light of documented truth."
Krupp explained that "this effort is simply to show clear evidence of Pope Pius XII's efforts to mitigate suffering during the war and that the 'black legend,' which besmirched his name, is simply not true."
He added that this initiative is "not meant to be a substitute for the full access" to the archives, "but will absolutely show the unique efforts of Pope Pius XII and the dangers he was forced to operate under a direct threat from the Nazi regime."
"Ironically," he said "the Vatican Secret Archives [from the period prior] to 1939 were opened over two years ago," and they showed that "65% of Pacelli's ministry has simply been ignored by the critics who call for the war years to be opened."
On behalf of the foundation, the president expressed gratitude to the Pope's Secretary of State and the Libreria Editrice Vaticana "for their confidence in us by allowing us this unprecedented privilege."
He continued: "We sincerely hope that international historians will carefully scrutinize these records. We expect the digitization process of over 9000 pages will take about four weeks to complete [at which time] we will announce their posting on Internet."
In the meantime, the foundation already has thousands of documents and eyewitness videos available on their Web site for study.
Krupp concluded by requesting that "French, Italian and German scholars consider helping us by translating documents into English and forward this work to Pave the Way Foundation so that we can make the information available to more scholars for research."
He added, "We also would like to receive any comments, positive or negative, relative to the content of these documents."
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