One of Argentina’s most senior rabbis has confirmed that Pope Francis is likely to open to the public Vatican archives concerning the action of Pope Pius XII during the Second World War.
Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who is rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires, has been a close friend of the Pope for many years and stayed with him in the Vatican in September.
“I believe that, yes, he will open the archives,” the rabbi said, adding that the pair had discussed the matter when they met. “The issue is a very sensitive one and we must continue analysing it.”
For decades, there have been questions over the wartime record of Pius XII and the action he took to protect Jews. With Pius XII now a candidate for canonisation by the Catholic Church, Francis is thought to regard it as important to resolve the question. The Vatican archive is believed to contain documents from Pius XII’s papacy which would shed light on the matter.
It is claimed that Pius XII, who was Pope from 1939 to 1958, hid up to 4,500 Italian Jews from the Nazis in the Vatican and at his summer residence Castel Gandolfo. However, others say that he failed to speak out against the treatment of Jews or to denounce the Nazi regime.
Rabbi Skorka and the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergolio, now Pope Francis, published a book together in 2010 in which the issue of the archives was addressed. “Let them be opened up and let everything be cleared up,” wrote the future Pope. “If they made a mistake in any aspect of this we would have to say: ‘We have erred.’”
Pope Francis is to visit Israel, the West Bank and Jordan in May and Rabbi Skorka plans to accompany him. “Our dream is to pray before the Kotel and in Bethlehem, to show that it is possible for people of the two different faiths to pray there, and to talk to each other,” Rabbi Skorka told the Sunday Times last weekend.