By Christopher Wells
Reflecting on the reign of “the Servant of God Pius XII, of venerable memory”, Pope Francis said that he “guided the Barque of Peter in one of the saddest and darkest moments of the twentieth century”. The figure of Pius XII, he said, “has already been investigated and studied”, and widely discussed and even criticized – at times in a prejudiced or exaggerated manner. Today, he said, the pontificate of Pius XII is being re-evaluated, in the hopes that a more balanced historical judgement might emerge.
To further those efforts, the Pope said that Vatican archival materials pertaining to Pius’ pontificate (1939-1958) will be accessible to scholars beginning on 2 March 2020.
Archival work cultivates memory
Pope Francis thanked the Vatican archivists for the hard work they have undertaken since 2006 to make a careful inventory of the materials on Pope Pius XII, and to prepare to make them available for consultation. Archival work “cultivates memory”, he said. “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”. If the Church is like the tree, the archivists work to keep its historical roots alive, so that “even the greenest and youngest branches can draw from them good sap for further growth”.
In announcing the opening of the archives for the pontificate of Pius XII, Pope Francis said he made the decision “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,” Pope Francis said. “On the contrary, she loves it, and desires to love it more and better, as God loves it”.