Pope Francis has reiterated his pledge to open Vatican archives to researchers allowing them to finally know the extent of Pope Pius XII and the Catholic Church’s collaboration with Hitler and the Nazis in World War II.
Known as “Hitler’s Pope” Pope Pius XII did not do enough to try to save the doomed Jews of Europe. Following the war Bishop Hudal, a German, helped Nazi war criminals escape to South America. Their escape, called “rat lines,” were set up in Rome.
Speaking to the Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronot, Pope Francis I said there was “an agreement between the Vatican and Italy from 1929 that prevents us from opening the archives to researchers at this point in time. But because of the time that has passed since World War Two, I see no problem with opening the archives the moment we sort out the legal and bureaucratic matters.”
The Pope also said he was concern of the current image painted of Pope Pius XII which he feels may be unfair.
He told the paper “One thing worries me – the image of Pope Pius XII. Pope Pius XII has been accused of all sorts of things, including having been aware of the extermination of the Jews and doing nothing. I’m not saying he didn’t make mistakes. He made a few. I get things wrong often too.
“During the Holocaust, Pius gave refuge to many Jews in monasteries in Italy. In the pope’s bed at Castel Gandolfo, 42 children were born to couples who found refuge there from the Nazis. These are things that people don’t know.
“When Pius XII died, [former Israeli premier] Golda Meir sent a letter that read: ‘We share in the pain of humanity. When the Holocaust befell our people, the pope spoke out for the victims.’”
During the war Pius seemed, to the public, to be indifferent to the atrocities being committed. He refused pleas for help but he made statements condemning injustices.
Privately he did shelter a number of Jews and spoke with select officials about helping the Jewish people.
Pope Francis claims that a 1963 play portrayed Pope Pius as a Nazi sympathizer and this is where this image came from.
He said “When you interpret history, you need to do so from the way of thinking of the time in question. I can’t judge historical events in modern-day terms. It doesn’t work. I’ll never get to the truth like that.
“Did Pius XII remain silent in the face of the extermination of the Jews? Did he say all he should have said? We will have to open the archives to know exactly what happened. But to judge the actions, we will also need to understand the circumstances under which he was acting.
“Perhaps it was better for him to remain silent because had he spoken, more Jews would have been murdered? Or maybe the other way around? I don’t want to sound petty, but it really gets my goat when I see that everyone is against the Church, against Pius XII – all those detractors.
“And what about the Allies during the war? After all, they were well aware of what was going on in the death camps and they were very familiar with the railroad tracks that led Jews to Auschwitz. They had aerial photographs. And they didn’t bomb those tracks. I’ll leave that question hanging in the air, and say only that one needs to be very fair in these things.”
Scholars believe that by the end of 1942 the Vatican was one of the best informed institutions in Europe with regards to the Holocaust.
Although Pope Francis believes that opening the archives would exonerate the Catholic Church he also believes revelations could further harm the reputation of the church following the child sexual abuse cover-ups scandals.