BY LUKE COPPEN
TIE VATICAN has promised to give historians full access to its secret archives, in an effort to end the controversy over the role of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust
From 2003, scholars will be able to consult documents on relations between Germany and the Holy See covering the period from 1922 to 1939. during the pontificate of Pope Pius XI. a Vatican statement said.
Once these papers had been made fully available. Pope John Paul 11 will give priority to documents on relations between the Vatican and Germany during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII, between 1939 and 1958.
'The opening of the Vatican archives for that period is a matter very close to the Pope's heart for evident reasons, since the Second World War and the deportation of the Jews and the tragedy of the Shoah all took place during the pontificate of Pius XII," the statement said.
But complete access to all documents up to the year 1939 and beyond would have to wait to 2005. it added. The decision to open the archives came amid fresh claims that Pope Pius XII did not do enough to protect Jews from Hitler's Final Solution.
The claims were made in a new feature film by Konstantinos Costa-Gavras„ entitled Amen. The film presents Pope Pius as a cowardly politician who believes in diplomacy, appeasement and giving fascism sufficient rein to combat communism. It is based on the notorious 1963 play The Representative by German dramatist Rolf Hochhuth.
Last week France's bishops expressed outrage at the film's publicity poster, which was displayed during the film's premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. It shows a Nazi swastika imposed on a cross.
The bishops called the poster "unacceptable in its intolerable identification of the symbol of Christianity with the symbol of Nazi barbarism" and demanded that it be withdrawn.
"The poster should be denounced by all those who believe in human dignity, freedom and the respect of religions," they said.
Additional reporting: Catherine Dodds