Vatican opens up archives of Pope Pius XII during World War II

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ROME (CNN) – A fuller picture may soon emerge on a controversial period in Vatican history.

Scholars are being given access on Monday to the archives of Pope Pius XII.

His silence during World War II led to accusations that he was a Nazi sympathizer.

It’s a moment of truth for the Vatican as the world waits to discover what is in these files.

Several million letters, cables, and documents relating to Pope Pius XII, the pope during the Second World War, who has been accused of not doing enough to help save Jews during the Holocaust.

Menachem Rosensaft, Associate Executive Director of the World Jewish Congress, said the opening of these archives is a “tremendous step forward.”

“I think we need to express our enormous gratitude and appreciation to Pope Francis for taking this step of relying on the verdict of history and handing over to scholars what is the last archive that remains to be explored,” said Rosensaft.

The reputation of Pius XII has long been tainted by accusations that he remained silent in the face of the Holocaust.

One of the Vatican’s head archivists, Dr. Johan Ickx, said he was personally reviewed over one million documents and that the accusations against Pius XII are unfounded.

“He was not at all silent and all his nuncios in central Europe and also in the north of Europe were also actively doing nothing else than trying to save people, people, also Jews, people, because that was one of their charges,” said Dr. Ickx, Head of Vatican Secretary of State Archives.

From Monday, scholars will be allowed into the Vatican archives to study the files.

When Pope Francis decided to open the archives he said the Church is not afraid of history.

He hopes that these files will shed light on what he calls the “hidden but active diplomacy” of Pope Pius XII during the war.

A group of Jewish scholars will also be among those studying the papers.

“We can’t rewrite history but history has to be written based on full evidence and that is what we’re looking for,” said Menachem Rosensaft, Associate Executive Director, World Jewish Congress.

Evidence that is currently available at the Vatican, waiting for history to be written.

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