Delegation of the Jewish International Committee Received at the Vatican

Source: FSSPX News


On October 30, 2008, for the second time, Benedict XVI received a delegation of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, with which the Holy See has been in contact for some thirty years. These regulars contacts, called “fruitful” by the pope, “contributed to a greater understanding between Catholics and Jews.” “I gladly take this occasion to reaffirm the Church’s commitment to implementing the principles set forth in the historic Declaration Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council. That Declaration, which firmly condemned all forms of anti-Semitism, represented both a significant milestone in the long history of Catholic-Jewish relations and a summons to a renewed theological understanding of the relations between the Church and the Jewish People,” the pope declared.

Catholics, the Holy Father added: “are increasingly conscious of the spiritual patrimony they share with the people of the Torah, the people chosen by God in his inexpressible mercy, a patrimony that calls for greater mutual appreciation, respect and love. Jews too are challenged to discover what they have in common with all who believe in the Lord, the God of Israel.” The pope continued: “dialogue between cultures and religions must more and more be seen as a sacred duty incumbent upon all those who are committed to building a world worthy of man. The ability to accept and respect one another, and to speak the truth in love, is essential for overcoming differences, preventing misunderstandings and avoiding needless confrontations. (…) A sincere dialogue needs both openness and a firm sense of identity on both sides, in order for each to be enriched by the gifts of the other.”

Rabbi David Rosen, president of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, quoted the address of John Paul II, in 1990, for the 25 years of Nostra Ætate and thanked the Holy See for his commitment against all forms of anti-Semitism. After having evoked the various meetings of the pope with the Jewish community of France and of the USA, he recalled the words of Benedict XVI in Paris: “The eternal Covenant of the Almighty with the Jewish People,” which the Church considers as “her beloved brethren in the faith,”underlying that this “emphasis upon the eternal validity of the Sinai Covenant would stimulate” the research, to which John Paul II issued the call, “to reflect more and express more completely” the signification of the relationship of the Church with the Jewish People.

He said he was himself reassured by the words of Cardinal Walter Kasper and the letter of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to the rabbis of Israel concerning the absence of any proselytism in the prayer for the Jews in the Good Friday liturgy. He stressed the “remarkable landmark” of the fact that for the first time a rabbi was given the right to speak during the recent Bishops’ synod. He reiterated the request for experts to have access to the archives of the Vatican concerning the time of Pius XII’s pontificate.

 The Jews and the Beatification of Pius XII

Richard Prasquier, president of the Representative Council for Jewish Institutions in France (Crif) and president of the French Committee for Yad Vashem, was present with the delegation of the Jewish Committee. In a press release of this past October 17, the Crif had made a pronouncement concerning the project of beatification of Pius XII, declaring that “if it were carried out, it would deal a severe blow to the relationships between the Catholic Church and the Jewish world. As long as the Vatican refuses to open its archives for the time of the Second World War to historians, and the majority of independent historians does not support the thesis of an untiring activity of the pope in favor of the Jews, such a beatification would be felt negatively by all of the Jewish institutions over the world.” … “Unless new documents, up to now not provided, unquestionably modify the historical vision of that time, the Jews who have survived the Holocaust would feel like a deep wound that the silence of the Magisterium concerning the genocide of the Jews be proposed as a model behavior.”

On this subject, the delegation was able to meet with Mgr Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Secret Archives of the Vatican who described “in detail” the “technical challenges” to be met in order to list everything before the documents could be consulted by researchers: “the description of the various positions (protocols, booklets, envelopes, etc); the numbering of each loose sheet; a stamping of the papers for safety reasons; the binding of the sheaves of papers which are more deteriorated or more fragile.” Mgr Pagano expressed his regret for the delays imposed by this cataloguing work which will require a minimum of 5 or 6 years “with the present labor forces.”

That same October 30, Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, announced through the Documentation service of Vatican Radio (SeDoc) that the secret archives of the Vatican concerning the pontificate of Pius XII (1939-1958), will not be opened to researchers before 6 or 7 years because of the important archiving work still necessary. Indeed, he explained, the archives of the pontificate of Pius XII being made up of the archives of the pontifical representations (nunciatures), those of the Secretary of State, as well as those of all the Roman Congregations and other Vatican offices, this amounts to 16 millions sheets, among them 15,430 files and 2,500 booklets. The minute work of cataloguing and preparing the documentation requires a specialized staff which is hard to find, and accounts for the delay. “Before that is achieved, it is unrealistic to think of opening the archives to researchers” whose request is quite “understandable and justified.” Lastly, Fr. Lombardi specified that when the work of setting the documents in order is completed, “the final decision to open the secret archives of the Vatican concerning the Pontificate of Pius XII is up to the pope himself.”

The opening of the secret archives of the Vatican to researchers was inaugurated by Leo XIII, in 1881, and continued by his successors. The established principle has been to open to research the documents of “pontificate after pontificate” and not after a number of specific years (50, 70 or 90 years, as is the case for other archives), because the secret archives of the Vatican are not classified in chronological order but by “pontificate”. To this day, the Vatican archives are available to researchers up to the date of February 10, 1939, the last day of the pontificate of Pius XI (1922-1939). (Sources: