A recent revelation from the Vatican Archives has once again stirred debates about Pope Pius XII’s wartime activities and awareness.

A letter discovered from December 14, 1942, written by German Jesuit Father Lothar Kรถnig, indicates that the Pope had a clear understanding of the Holocaust’s magnitude, possibly earlier than previously believed.

Published in Italy’s newspaper, Corriere della Sera, the letter is significant as it addresses the Pope’s personal secretary, Father Robert Leiber. Father Kรถnig details horrifying accounts of Nazi death camps, specifically mentioning the extermination of 6,000 Jews and Poles daily at Belzec concentration camp. References to other Nazi camps like Auschwitz and Dachau in the correspondence imply the existence of further communication between the two, though these letters have not been released.

Historically, defenders of Pope Pius XII have claimed his public silence on the Holocaust stemmed from a lack of concrete knowledge or the fear of Nazi reprisals against Catholics in German-occupied territories.

However, this discovery seems to challenge that narrative. Vatican archivist Giovanni Coco, responsible for unearthing the letter, highlights its importance, stating that it provides definitive evidence that Pope Pius XII received precise information about the Nazi atrocities against the Jews.

With Pope Francis’ decision to open all archives from Pius XII’s reign in March of 2020, more details are speculated to emerge.

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