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Vatican to open secret archives on Pope Pius XII

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Pope Francis said the Church is 'not afraid of history' as he announced the opening of the archive on the wartime pontiff

The Vatican will open the secret archives on Pope Pius XII, Pope Francis has announced.

Pope Pius led the Church through the Second World War, but has faced criticism for not speaking out more forcefully against the Nazis. Supporters say Pius worked behind the scenes to save Jews, and that ending the Holy See’s neutrality would have jeopardised that work.

Pope Francis said the Vatican will open the archives on March 2, 2020. “The Church is not afraid of history,” he said, adding that Pius’s legacy was subject to “some prejudice and exaggeration”.

His papacy included “moments of grave difficulties, tormented decisions of human and Christian prudence, that to some could appear as reticence,” Pope Francis said. Instead, his decisions could be seen as attempts “to keep lit, in the darkest and cruellest periods, the flame of humanitarian initiatives, of hidden but active diplomacy”. The American Jewish Committee welcomed the move.

Rabbi David Rosen, the group’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs, told Reuters: “It is particularly important that experts from the leading Holocaust memorial institutes in Israel and the US objectively evaluate as best as possible the historical record of that most terrible of times, to acknowledge both the failures as well as the valiant efforts made during the period of the Shoah.”