DAILY CATHOLIC for March 30, 1998
NEWS & VIEWS
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vol, 9, no. 63

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HISTORIAN REFUTES COMPLAINTS ON VATICAN ARCHIVES

      VATICAN (CWN) -- In the continuing debate over access to the secret Vatican archives relating to World War II, Father Pierre Blet-- the sole survivor of the four-man Jesuit team which prepared a 12- volume compilation of those archives for scholars' inspection-- has repeated his insistence that nothing has been hidden in the archives, and that the 12-volume series provides all of the relevant information about the Vatican involvement in World War II and reaction to the Nazi Holocaust.

      Father Blet made his statement in response to a statement by Rabbi David Rosen of the Anti-Defamation League, who had pointed to one letter, written to Pope Pius XII by the vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, which was not found in the 12-volume collection. Writing in the Italian daily Avvenire, the Jesuit scholar said that there had been no interest in suppressing the letter in question, and that it could certainly be released if it was found in the archives now.

      While the letter spoke of a Nazi campaign to eliminate Jews, Father Blet pointed out that there were many such reports early in the 1940s, which were difficult to verify. "In any case," he continued, "in his Christmas message for 1942, Pius XII spoke out explicitly against those who 'persecute, condemning people to death or to progressive enslavement, solely on account of their nationality or race." The Pope repeated that same condemnation in June 1943, Father Blet observed.

      Father Blet also observed that the condemnation of racial persecution by Pius XII was the first public statement against the Nazi crimes. It was not until later in 1943 that the Allies spoke out against Nazi abuses, and even then the statement-- by Germany's wartime enemies-- was vague.

      The Jesuit historian reacted with some heat to a suggestion by Rabbi Leon Klenicki of the Anti-Defamation League that the full Vatican archives should be opened, so that scholars could judge the material for themselves rather than relying on the work of the Jesuit team. Father Blet argued: "If one doubts the honesty of our work, one can also doubt the archivist, who could have destroyed important documentation." He said complaints about the validity of Church research were "unjust."

      As for the secrecy of the war-time archives, Father Blet noted that the Vatican follows the same policy used by the US Department of State: "We do not publish documents which concern people who are still alive, our which, if revealed, could pose obstacles for current negotiations."


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March 30, 1998       volume 9, no. 63
NEWS & VIEWS



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