Yad Vashem welcomed the Vatican’s decision to release the archives, saying it had been calling for years for the archives to be opened to “enable objective and open research as well as comprehensive discourse on issues relating to the conduct of the Vatican in particular, and the Catholic church in general, during the Holocaust”.Iael Nidam-Orvieto, the director of Holocaust research at Yad Vashem, said it was known that Pius did not “publicly condemn the Nazis’ extermination of Jews in direct, clear and unambiguous terms”.However, he added, he was confident that “serious and objective historical research will allow the evaluation [OF PIUS]in the correct light,” including “appropriate criticism”.
Pius’s public reticence over condemning the Holocaust was despite efforts by many in the church, as well as diplomats from allied countries, to persuade him to speak out.
Following the Allied bombing on August 13th, 1943 of Rome, Pope Pius XII surrounded by Italian soldiers and policemen, prays for the end of the war. During such public appearances through-out World War II, Pope PIUS XII always expressed his compassion for the victims of the conflict but never came out with a condemnation of Nazism.
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His predecessor had been “criticised, one can say, with some prejudice and exaggeration”, he added.
The role of Pius XII, a staunch anti-communist who became pope in March 1939, six months before war engulfed Europe, has long been questioned by historians.That move triggered new rounds of recrimination about the Vatican’s alleged callousness toward Hitler’s victims, especially Jews, and about the historical issues surrounding Pius XII’s dealings with the Nazis.Yet lately the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial began softening its view of Pius XII.What makes this event so significant is that it constitutes the starting point for bitter accusations regarding the Catholic Church’s alleged failure to condemn the tyrannical, totalitarian Third Reich and the Holocaust that flowed from it.Ever since the appearance of Rolf Hochhuth’s play, “The Deputy,” in 1963, the Catholic Church and Pope Pius XII have been excoriated for their silence before the horrors of the Holocaust.The concordat with Germany was signed by Pope Pius XI.But it was formulated and negotiated by his close aide, the papal secretary of state, Cardinal Eugenio Maria Giuseppi Pacelli, who would succeed him as Pope Pius XII.Recent revelations, based on interviews with a Romanian spymaster, indicate that Hochhuth may have been the dupe of a clever KGB plot to undermine the influence of the Vatican after World War II.But for the last half century, Hochhuth’s charge has put the Vatican on the defensive, particularly during the last decade, when a firestorm of international controversy accompanied Pope Benedict XVI’s approval of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints’ recommendation to name Pius XII “venerable,” a step towards possible canonization.Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.This year marks the 80th anniversary of one of the landmark moments in the recent history of the Catholic Church—the signing on July 20, 1933, of a concordat between the Vatican and Hitler’s Nazi regime.