News from Europe

Opening of the Vatican archives: Pius XII towards Nazism and communism

Since Monday March 2, 2020, all Vatican archives from the pontificate of Pius XII are available to researchers. "From these numerous documents, we can see the image of a Pope who was a true defender of civilization," emphasizes Johan Ickx, director of the historical archives of the second section of the Secretariat of State.


Official documents of the Pope during the period of World War II have been known for a long time. From now on we will also learn about unofficial texts, which will allow us to reconstruct the genesis of papal activities or “backstage activities”.

Johan Ickx also points out that public interest is wrongly focused only on the first stage of the pontificate related to the war. “No less important, however, is the attitude of Pius XII in the face of another evil, which was communism in this era. We can expect many important discoveries in this field,” says the Flemish historian.

The researcher also reminds that, contrary to what is sometimes suggested, the Vatican did not delay the opening of its archives, on the contrary, it made them available ahead of time. “According to normal practice, we would have to wait another ten years for the archives of Pius XII,” said Johan Ickx.

“It is not for me to give an opinion on the decision of Pope Francis, nevertheless, I believe that this earlier access to the archive is very positive, because it expresses the will to learn the historical truth. All the more so because it concerns such a terrible chapter in the history of humanity as World War II, with all the consequences of Nazism, but also communism, which is still very little talked about today,” Johan Ickx told Vatican Radio. 

“Everyone concentrates on World War II, but one must not forget that the second part of this pontificate is burdened by the fact that half of Europe was occupied by the Soviets. The life of the Church was seriously threatened or even destroyed there. There was a persecution of the clergy. Many priests were imprisoned. Great pressure was exerted on the faithful, they were deprived of civil rights. We will also learn about this from these archives. It will not be a joyful picture, but it will be more real and realistic,” said the historian.


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