On March 2nd, Vatican Secret Archives on the papacy of Venerable Pius XII will be made available to archivists, with some saying it will shed light on the WWII pope’s actions during the war.

Prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives Bishop Sergio Pagano said however they don’t expect any immediate surprises, and it will take researchers years to investigate the questions being asked and “to make a historical judgement.”

“We believe that the new documents that open in different archives of the Holy See will better clarify, deepen, and contextualize, different aspects of the pontificate.” 

Cardinal José Tolentino Calaça de Mendonça, Vatican archivist and librarian, said the Church welcomes the research to come, and that “we should have the patience to wait and listen.”

Last year, Pope Francis announced the decision to unseal the archives on the 80th anniversary of Pius XII’s election to the papacy. 

Pope Francis said he made the decision to unseal records of Pius XII’s pontificate “with a serene and confident soul, certain that serious and objective historical research will be able to evaluate it in its proper light.”

“The Church is not afraid of history. On the contrary, she loves it, and desires to love it more and better, as God loves it.” 

The complete catalog on Pius XII’s pontificate is expected to total nearly 16 million documents. The catalog includes 151,000 positions (each consisting of dozens of sheets) of the Secretariat of State described in 68 volumes of indexes. 538 “separate envelopes” cover individual topics or institutions under the organization of the Secretariat of State.

Also included in the catalog are the “Pius XII” papers which contain manuscripts by Eugenio Pacelli before and during his pontificate, as well as typescripts of his many speeches, sometimes with handwritten corrections.” Three “special” archival collections concerning the “Relief Commission”, “Pontifical Charity”, and the “Migration Office” are also available for researchers.

Director of the Historical Archive of the Secretariat of State’s Section for Relations With States John Ickx said the opening will “in fact, yet change something. To understand better the truth of things – this is for sure” and that more will be known “from March 2nd onward.”

Pagano said he fears any quick-answers might come from “little-prepared” scholars looking for a “scoop,” and that any “serious scholar should take into account 10 years of study more or less.”

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