Canonization of Pope Pius XII?

Dialogika Resources

Statement by the Holy See about the Accessiblity of Its Archives

From U. S. Department of State: “Proceedings of the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets. November 30 – December 3, 1998,” pp. 763-765. Hosted by the United States Department of State and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.


  1. The Holy See wants to call to mind the principles of International Legislation regarding State Archives, in which is stated that every State is autonomous in its exclusive right of regulating the conservation and the accessibility of its Archives. It is therefore an inherent attribute of the sovereign character of the Holy See, that it alone must be the judge of the pace, timing and scope of the process of making its Archives accessible for research.
  1. Ecclesiastical Archives cannot be compared with the Archives of secular governments and institutions. Because of the primarily spiritual mission of the Church, documentation in these archives mostly include discussions and correspondence on religious and spiritual matters, which also concern the "forum intermim-, the realm of conscience, on which guidance and counsel are sought and, offered for the.spiritual life of persons. This applies to Diocesan archives and those of Religious Orders, but also to the Archives of the Holy See, since no aspect of its activity, including its diplomatic one, is really separate from its primary spiritual, religious, apostolic and pastoral mission.

    The Church would be unfaithful to her mission, and indeed hindered in that same mission, if she would not maintain a scrupulous regard for the most intimate sphere of personal privacy. This respect for privacy is intrinsic and unrenounceable for the life of the Church. She has a sacrosanct duty towards the persons who entrusted her with their secrets and cannot and should not betray them, for any reason whatsoever. Pople have to be sure that their innermost secrets are safe with the Church.
  1. This fact explains that the process of making Church Archives gradually accessible for research - as the Holy See is doing for more than a century - is necessarily a slow one. A scrupulous screening has to take place, one which can only be done by those who have enough knowledge not only of civil and ecclesiastical history, but are also experts in moral theology and canon law.

    The period up until 1922 has been completed. More recent decades are being processed now.
  1. However, for the Holocaust-Era is at disposal the exhaustive information in the twelve volumes of the Actes et Documents du Saint-Siege relatifs a la Deuxieme Guerre Mondiale. Notwithstanding insinuations, the curators of this publication have in no way tried to hide documents that would incriminate the Holy See, as explained by one of them, Fr. Pierre Blet S.J., in an article in Civilta Cattolica, published March 21, 1998 (La Civilta Cattolica 1998 1531-541); an English translation is available.
  1. An attentive study of the 12 volumes will reveal the constant policy of the Holy See: trying to stop the outbreak of the war, to alleviate the suffering of its victims and to help to hide and to save as many persecuted people as possible. The same volumes as well as other published testimonies also reveal the motivation why there was not an explicit public protest. The Holy See judged that such a protest would not stop the persecutions, but only result in even more victims, while at the same time it would block the prudent but persistent efforts to save human lives through the means of diplomacy. Many statements of gratitude, also by Jewish persons, organizations and institutions, are found on the public record. They thank the Holy See for what it achieved by its persistent efforts.

    Would an open protest have saved more lives? There is no answer to this question that is and always will be hypothetical. If there is any hint at all, the contrary seems to be true. The open protest of the Dutch bishops resulted in even more victims. In any case, the Holy See rejects all accusations that it did not do its best to save as many lives as it could in the given circumstances.
  1. The Holy See is aware of the fact that the 12 volumes do not make for quick and easy reading, although is has to insist that they be taken seriously. It wants however to draw the attention to the summary prepared recently by Fr. Pierre Blet, S.J., "Pie XII et la Seconde Guerre Mondiale d'après les archives du Vatican". An English translation is soon to be published by Paulist Press.
  1. During this Conference and the preceeding one, the words "truth and ustice" have been uttered many times. The Holy See wants to insist also on "trust", if a better world is to be built. No fruitful discussion and dialogue, no real understanding and reconciliation are possible without mutual respect and trust. One has to be confident that the other is not telling lies or in any other way being deceitful or following some hidden agenda. If the Holy See is not to be trusted about what it has said or published so far, why should it expect to be trusted afterwards?

    It is essential that the respect and trust shown by the Holy See to others, are in no less measure shown by those others to the Holy See.