(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.