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Pope Paul Decrees Religious Liberty; Publishes Papers of Pope Pius

December 8, 1965
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Pope Paul VI placed today into Catholic law the decree on religious liberty adopted by the Ecumenical Council which says that all men are free to worship according to the dictates of the conscience. Declaring that “the human person has a right to religious freedom,” the decree says that “this freedom means that all men are immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power.”

The Vatican published today the first volume of material from its archives dealing with World War II, in accordance with authorization from Pope Paul VI to do so. Materials on the much-debated role of the Vatican, under the late Pope Pius XII, in reference to the Nazi genocide of European Jewry, are scheduled to be published later.

Pope Paul authorized publication of the documents in response to requests from many nations. The decision was believed to stem from the long-running controversy over the role of Pope Pius. The requests started arriving at the Vatican after the initial performances of a play, “The Deputy,” by West German playwright Rolf Hochhut, which caused widespread controversy throughout Europe and in the United States. The theme of the play was that Pope Pius XII failed to speak out against the Nazi genocide.

A Vatican spokesman said that the publication goal was to shed “just light” on Vatican activities during the war. The first volume dealt with Vatican diplomatic activity between March, 1939–six months before Hitler invaded Poland to start World War II–and August, 1940. Publication of the World War II material is an exception to a Vatican rule that no archive paper may be published before it is at least 50 years old.

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