ROME (JTA) — It could be five years before the Vatican’s secret archives dealing with Pope Pius XII’s reign are fully catalogued and opened to scholars, a Vatican offical said.
Bishop Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, made the time estimate Monday when he opened an event in the Canary Islands on the history of the Church, the Catholic news agency Zenit reported.
There exist some 16 million documents from Pius’ 1939-58 pontificate, according to Zenit.
Jewish and other scholars have called on the Vatican to open the secret archives from the World War II period to clarify the role Pius played during the Holocaust. Critics accuse him of turning a blind eye to Jewish suffering; the Vatican and other supporters say he worked behind the scenes to save Jews.
Last month a group of Catholic scholars wrote to Pope Benedict XVI urging him to slow Pius’ advance toward sainthood until the matter is cleared up.
According to Zenit, Pagano said the Vatican would be willing to open the archives immediately, since there was nothing to "fear" from them, but the documents must still be registered, catalogued and put into order.