Skip to content Skip to navigation




Vatican Radio

The voice of the Pope and the Church in dialogue with the World


Features \ Church History

Pope Pius XII and World War II: new archival evidence

Pius XII in 1940

Pius XII in 1940

30/09/2014 16:31

(Vatican Radio) The role played by Pius XII during World War II  has  often sparked controversy among historians. On Thursday October  2, an international conference by the title, ‘Pius XII and the Second World War: Assumptions and New Archival Evidence’, is taking place here in Rome. Organised by the ‘Università degli Studi Guglielmo Marconi’, it’s sponsored by the ‘Pave the Way Foundation’, the Knights of Columbus and the Vicariate of Rome.

Veronica Scarisbrick speaks to one of the participants, Jesuit Father Gerald Fogarty, Professor of Religious studies and History at the University of Virginia in the United States.

Listen to Veronica Scarisbrick's report:

It’s a day- long conference which represents an opportunity for debate surrounding the pontificate of Pius XII, the Pope of the Second World War who has often been accused of alleged silence. Among the key issues to be discussed on Thursday are the role of  Vatican diplomacy during World War II, the role the Catholic Church played at the time, the Shoah and the Holy See’s commitment in saving Jews.

In an effort to find out more about new archival evidence relating to the pontificate of Pius XII, Veronica Scarisbrick asks Father  Fogarty who’s currently well into writing a book on this particular period, what the situation is regarding the evidence relating to this war time pontificate.

It seems from his reply that the theme of this conference is a little misleading because the Vatican Secret Archives relating to the pontificate of  Pius XII are still under wraps even if not for long. In the meantime Father Fogarty highlights how: “ …independent of the Vatican Secret Archives is the ‘Congregation for Extraordinary  Ecclesiastical Affairs’, a separate archive which comes under the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. Those archives have been ready for consultation for the past two years, but the approval to open them has not yet taken place. So therefore they’re waiting on the ‘Vatican Secret Archives’ which properly speaking represent  one half of the Vatican archives, the internal affairs of  the Church.”

Archival norms, Father Fogarty adds, have changed over the last thirty years. Rather  than open the  archives a century after the death of a pope, the rule now is to open them  pontificate by pontificate. A norm which explains how in the 1980’s the archives relating to the first  two pontificates of the twentieth century, those of Pius X and Benedict XV were opened, taking the archives up to 1922. And again how the pontificate that followed, that of Pius XI, was  opened up in 2006 , taking the archives relating to pontiffs up to February 1939.

What’s clear is that while Thursday’s conference speaks of new archival evidence,  it won’t relate to Pope Pius XII and material from either the ‘Vatican Secret Archives’ or those of the ‘Congregation for Extraordinary  Ecclesiastical Affairs’ but to other archive material  or  when it comes to the Vatican to the period when Pius XII  was still Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, Vatican Secretary of  State.

30/09/2014 16:31