Historian: Vatican Archives Will Debunk ‘Fake News’ of Pius XII’s Supposed Silence

circa 1942: Pope Pius XII (1876 - 1958), born Eugenio Maria Guiseppe Giovanni Pacelli in Rome, makes a radio broadcast from the Vatican. His message is a prayer for peace at Christmas, and an end to World War II. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Keystone/Getty Images

ROME — Renowned historian Father Peter Gumpel said Monday that the opening of the Vatican’s “secret” archives will serve to debunk all the “fake news” that has been generated over Pope Pius XII’s supposed silence during Nazi persecution of the Jewish people.

Father Gumpel, who has had unprecedented access to the Archives, told the Italian newspaper Avvenire that Monday’s opening of the Vatican Archives will confirm “the many gestures of hidden charity made by Pacelli on behalf of the Jews.”

“The shocking revelations that many media think they will find on those now accessible shelves will not emerge,” said the 96-year-old German Jesuit priest. “All the ‘fake news’ will be debunked around the alleged silence of Pius XII in the drama of the Shoah.”

The opening of the archives, which has made public as of Monday all unpublished material on the pontificate of Pius XII from 1939 to 1958, is of great interest to historians, and some 60 scholars from around the world were present for the event.

One of the most important results of the opening of the files, Gumpel said, will be “the confirmation that nothing has been hidden” regarding Pius XII and there is no “smoking gun” that many would love to find.

The opening of the archives on March 2 is not coincidental, the priest said, because 81 years ago, on March 2, 1939, Eugenio Pacelli was elected pope at the age of 64 and took the name of Pius XII, the Jesuit recounted.

“His secretary, the Jesuit father Robert Leiber, confirmed to me that the pope used much of his personal fortune to help the Jews,” Father Gumpel said. “Sir Martin Gilbert has also shown through his essays that Pius most likely saved more than 100,000 Jews in the world, paying for many journeys of hope from Germany to Portugal or Brazil out of his own pocket.”

Upon the passing of Pius XII, Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Golda Meir, said:

During the ten years of Nazi terror, when our people went through the horrors of martyrdom, the Pope raised his voice to condemn the persecutors and to commiserate with their victims. The life of our time has been enriched by a voice which expressed the great moral truths above the tumults of daily conflicts. We grieve over the loss of a great defender of peace.

The newly available documents on the entire pontificate of Pius XII from 1939 to 1958, comprising sixteen million pages, more than 15 thousand envelopes, and 2,500 files, took thirteen years to put into order.

For access to the files by scholars, a master’s degree is required and all original documents will be available from Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


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