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Keys: What do the Vatican Archives have on Pius XII?

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Since the beginning of March, the Vatican has given researchers access to the sixteen million pages on the pontificate of Pius XII.

They are a flood of documents hoping to give better insight to his figure, his time as pope and clarify doubts like this.


Some wonder why Pius XII never forcefully denounced that the Nazis were persecuting the Jews...

Perhaps the documents will confirm or deny what scholars say about the pope. Marc Riebling, for example, says Pius XII preferred to act in secret and he supported at least three plots against Hitler.

The truth is the bishops' actions against Nazism had harsh reprisals for both Catholics and non-Catholics.

President, Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences
An example was the decisive pastoral letter by the Dutch bishops. It protested against the jewish persecution, and was read in all the parishes in the country. The response was immediate. Thousands of Jews were arrested, even those who had converted to Christianity. I think this could be one of the elements that led the pope not to intervene publicly against Hitler and Nazism.”


Scholars will look for documents that contain a request by Pius XII for the bishops to help the persecuted Jews. However, they could have been destroyed, so the Nazis would have no reason to attack the Vatican.

Professor Matteo Napolitano, from the University of Molise, Italy, collected Aldo Brunacci's testimony. He was head of the Assisi Cathedral during World War II. While he died in 2007, he was previously declared “Righteous among the Nations” for his work in hiding Jews.

University of Molise (Italy)
Before he died, Aldo Brunacci insistently repeated to me that he had seen the orders by the Holy See brought to him by the Bishop of Assisi. He said the bishop showed him the document. He could not take it because it had to be destroyed. It would be interesting to see if the archives contain the original document, its draft, or the protocol of these orders which were given.”


Pius XII was not only a political pope.

He wrote more than 40 encyclicals, including "Mediator Dei" on liturgical reform, which culminated with the Second Vatican Council.

In 1950, he defined the dogma of the Assumption of Mary.

In 1958, he appointed Karol Wojtyła, future John Paul II, a bishop.


One of Pius XII's great achievements was archaeological. He adventured to see if St. Peter's grave was really under the foundations of the basilica; and he found it.

Archaeologist, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross
"He faced this problem the Church had not wanted to confront for centuries, out of fear the grave wouldn't be there."

In order to dig under the basilica, he used Pius XI's request as an excuse. He had asked to be buried as close as possible to the tomb of St. Peter.

Archaeologist, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross
They had to lower the level of the Vatican caves. They begin to do some excavation work. A frame from the Roman era appeared and that is when the pope decided to proceed with the excavation of the area to look for the tomb of St. Peter. Tradition said it was under the basilica's altar.”

The place containing Peter's memory was located a few meters underground. Therefore, Pius XII was also buried very close to his remains, and there his grave is still maintained today.

Javier Romero
Translation by Melissa Butz