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Pope Francis announced the records of Pope Venerable Pius XII’s pontificate contained in the Vatican Secret Archives will be unsealed in the cause for canonization of the late pontiff.

Last Sunday, on the 80th anniversary of Pope Venerable Pius XII’s election as Bishop of Rome, the Holy Father made the announcement in a meeting with managers and staff of the Vatican Secret Archives. Beginning March 2nd, 2020, the records pertaining to Pius XII’s pontificate from 1939 to 1958 will be unsealed.

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.”

According to Bishop Sergio Pagano, Prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, when Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI opened the Vatican records for the pontificate of Pius XI in 2006 “work was already underway for the progressive preparation of the documentary material of Pius XII, which many scholars demanded with ever greater insistence.” In preparation for the unsealing of Pius XII’s records,

“Archivists of the Vatican Secret Archives and their colleagues from other Vatican archives carried out patient work of sorting, annotating and inventorying the many fonds and documents.”

Pope Francis said that work done by Vatican archivists “cultivates memory,” as if the Church was likened to a tree.

“In a certain sense it could be compared to the cultivation of a majestic tree, whose branches reach to the heavens, but whose roots are solidly anchored in the earth. Even the greenest and youngest branches can draw from them good sap for further growth.”

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.

Bishop Pagano said Pius XII was “too superficially judged and criticized for some aspects of his pontificate,” but with the openness of Pope Francis historians can research Pius XII “without prejudice, but with the help of new documents, in all the realistic scope and richness.”

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