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On June 23, 2022, Pope Francis requested that all the historical archives concerning Pope Pius XII’s pontificate and his relationship with the Jewish people be available in digital format. Eight months on, the work is now complete, the Archives of the Secretariat of State announced on February 21, 2023.
The 170 volumes, containing almost 40,000 unique files, include the requests for help that Pope Pius XII received from Jews all across Europe, after the beginning of the Nazi and fascist persecution in the 1930s and 1940s. Around 70% of the material had already been made available through digital scans.
The digitization of the remaining 30% is now also on the Vatican’s website and is available in English and Italian. A second, expanded edition of the analytical inventory is also accessible and it includes all the names of the people who made more than 2,500 requests for help.
This “Jews” archive was made possible because Pius XII had entrusted an employee of the Secretariat of State, Monsignor Angelo Dell’Acqua, with the task of processing the requests sent to him “with the aim of offering all possible help.”
In many cases, requests were made for visas or passports to help people to be expatriated, to find asylum, to reunite families, to obtain releases or transfers from one camp to another, to obtain information, or to deliver food or money.
The archives have been open since March 2020
The archives of the pontificate of Pius XII have been open to researchers since March 2020. The contents of the “Jews” archives had been widely revealed by Johan Ickx, a historian and director of the Historical Archives of the Section for Relations with States. He published a book in French in September 2020, titled “Le Bureau : les Juifs de Pie XII” (The Pope’s Cabinet: Pius XII’s Secret War for Saving Jews). An English version should be published in April 2023.
Based on these archives, the Belgian historian asserted that the Pontiff intervened on behalf of the Jews on several occasions. During a conference on June 22, 2022, on the theme “Popes and Peace,” he explained he was annoyed by the attention given to certain publications that question the actions of the Italian pope. He said that these texts would contribute to making people’s minds “foggy” as soon as Pius XII is mentioned.
During his speech, Johan Ickx also criticized the media’s treatment of the Italian pontiff. “For them, to say that Pius XII defended Jews is to be an apologist,” he said, citing notably the German press. In particular, he questioned the false theory, often relayed by the press, according to which Pius XII only saved Jewish converts to Catholicism: “He saved both, converts and non-converts.”