ROME (JTA) — Should Pope Francis decide to open the secret Vatican archives regarding the World War II pontificate of Pope Pius XII, it could still take another year and a half before the thousands of documents in question are fully catalogued.
“It is a very complex operation, which we have been working on for six years,” Monsignor Sergio Pagano, the prefect of the Secret Vatican Archives, told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Monday.
Pagano said it could take “another year or year and a half” before the organization of the files and documents is completed. “After that, the pope will decide.”
Critics have long accused Pius of not having done enough to help Jews during the Holocaust and have called for the archives to be opened to clarify the issue. The Vatican asserts that he worked behind the scenes to save Jews.
Pius XII was declared “venerable” and put on the path to sainthood in 2009.
In an interview in the Sunday Times, Francis’ longtime friend, the Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka, said he and the pope discussed the Pius case when they met at the Vatican last week.
Skorka told the Sunday Times that Francis felt that no decision on Pius’ beatification and canonization should be taken before the archives have been opened and the issue cleared up.
“The question is very delicate and we have to continue to analyze it,” he told the Times.
Francis had already expressed his view that the World War II archives should be opened in “On Heaven and Earth,” a book he co-wrote with Skorka in 2010, when he was Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio.
“Opening the archives of the Shoah seems reasonable,” he wrote. “Let them be opened up and let everything be cleared up. Let it be seen if they could have done something [to help], and until what point they could have helped. If they made a mistake in any aspect of this, we would have to say: ‘We have erred.’ We don’t have to be scared of this — the truth has to be the goal.”