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January 19, 2014 11:06 am

Pope May Open Holocaust Era Vatican Archives, Possibly Shedding Light on Pope Pius XII’s Role

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avatar by Gidon Ben-Zvi

Pope Francis. Photo: Casa Rosada/Wikimedia Commons.

Pope Francis I is interested in opening up the Vatican archives in order to address lingering accusations that the Holy See turned a blind eye to Jewish persecution during the Holocaust, according to Argentinean Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a friend of the pontiff.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Skorka did not divulge the details of his conversation with Pope Francis. However, he did say that while, “What we said to each other was between us, I believe that, yes, he will open the archives…. The issue is a very sensitive one and we must continue analyzing it.”

For decades Pope Pius XII, who led the Catholic Church during World War II, has been accused of not taking significant action in response to the plight of millions of Jews who ultimately perished in the Holocaust. Over the years, the Vatican stubbornly refused to open up its archives in order to investigate what Pope XII knew, when he knew it and what he did about it, Israeli daily Ma’ariv said.

Pius’s critics maintain that he never condemned the Nazis. However, the Vatican has long insisted that he saved many Jewish lives, concealing them within various Christian religious institutions. Pius, according to the Vatican, maintained that the most effective way to help persecuted Jews was by avoiding a direct conflict with the Germans, which would have only made life even more difficult for the targets of the Nazi’s ‘Final Solution’, Ma’ariv reported.

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Jewish organizations including Yad Vashem have sought to delay Pius XII’s sainthood until researchers have had an opportunity to investigate the controversial pontiff’s role during the Holocaust – by opening up the Vatican archives that contain thousands of documents.

The revelation about Francis I comes as he prepares for a scheduled May visit to Israel. The Pope’s journey to the Holy Land is expected to bring him to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Rabbi Skorka said that, “Francis wants to open a window for peace. Our dream is to pray at the Western Wall and Bethlehem, to prove that people of both faiths can pray together and talk to each other.”

Relations between the Vatican and worldwide Jewry underwent a renaissance under Pope John Paul II, who oversaw the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel in 1993 and visited Yad Vashem and the Western Wall in 2000, but they frayed during the papacy of his successor, Benedict VXI, who reinstated British bishop Richard Williamson, who had publicly denied the Holocaust, the Times of Israel reported on Sunday.

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