DAILY CATHOLIC WEDNESDAY October 20, 1999 vol. 10, no. 200
NEWS & VIEWS
CATHOLIC, JEWISH PANEL TO REVIEW WORLD WAR II DOCUMENTS
VATICAN (CWNews.com) - A committee of three Jewish and three Catholic scholars has been formed to review the "Acts and related documents of the Holy See in the Second World War," a set of documents released between 1965 and 1981 at the request of Pope Paul VI, and representing the whole of the files in the Vatican on the subject.
Announced on Tuesday by Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy, president of the Pontifical Commission on Religious Relations with the Jews, the agreement related to the formation of the panel was reached on Monday between the commission and Seymour D. Reich, president of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations and an attorney from New York.
The committee of Jewish and Catholic researchers -- whose names will be published soon -- will review the 11-volume English edition of the wartime documents, and will be able to raise questions which, in its opinion, merit further clarification by the Holy See, an apparent reference to the possibility that the panel would be granted partial or indirect access to the closed archives of the period.
The hope is that the panel will clarify the role of Pope Pius XII in saving Jews from the Holocaust, a role which has been cast into doubt in recent years by some authors who have claimed that the Pope was sympathetic to anti-Semitism and the Nazis. The question was further complicated by Vatican refusals to allow access to its archives because they contain sensitive information related to personal, sacramental matters. The Vatican has held that all relevant information related to Pope Pius XII and World War II had been released in the documents compiled between 1965 and 1981.
The formation of the new investigative panel was a response to a Jewish request to have further access to the Vatican files of the Second World War period, particularly a request made during March 23-26, 1998, when an international conference on relations between Jews and Catholics was assembled in the Vatican, a few days after the publication by the Holy See of a document on the Shoah, or Holocaust, called "We Remember." On March 26 of last year, Cardinal Cassidy said that a combined panel of Catholic and Jewish historians would be formed to examine the published volumes compiled by Catholic historians -- four Jesuits, whose only survivor today is the Frenchman Father Pierre Blet who recently released his own book on the subject, debunking the anti-Semitic claims against Pope Pius XII -- in order to raise the points which would require additional research.
The statement released on Tuesday said that Cardinal
Cassidy and Reich hoped that "all the questions and the
disputes which currently exist, or which arise from the new
investigation, will be resolved through this common
examination." Cardinal Cassidy expressed his "satisfaction"
at the formation of this panel, adding that he was
"convinced" of its necessity. Reich added that this
agreement was an "unusual arrangement" which can be,
however, "a useful first step" for resolving the question
of the role of the Vatican during the Second World War and
for improving relations between Jews and Catholics.
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NEWS & VIEWS