From Bruce Johnston in Rome
A F'ANEI. set up by the Vatican to investigate the Church's treatment of the Jews during the Second World War has appealed for access to the Holy See's secret archives.
A mixed commission of Catholics and Jews last week presented an interim report demanding access to the archives and arguing that only unrestricted access would put an end to the debate over Pope Pius Mrs wartime actions.
In the document, the sixman Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission raised 47 questions after examining 11 volumes made available to scholars, and asked for more time before giving a verdict on Pius.
Commission members, who include three Catholics and three Jews, last week said they were hopeful they might be allowed to see extra material, including secret documents circulated within the Vatican.
So far members have been given access only to an already published but daunting collection of documentation on the Vatican in the wartime years, compiled by the Jesuit supporter of Pius XII, Fr Pierrel3let. It is on the basis of a painstaking study of this collection that the commission has raised its queries.
One Jewish commission member said: "Our doubts have only increased since we began examining the volumes."
The commission was branded "disloyal" by Jesuit Fr Peter Gumpel, postulator of Pius XIT's cause, Fr Gumpel was angered by the
commission's decision to go public with the preliminary report. "I find the conduct of the international, historical Judeo-Catholic commission disloyal to the Holy See, academically unacceptable and incorrect," Fr Gumpel told the Rome-based news agency Zenit.
"I have publicly expressed my willingness to give answers, but no member of the commission has been in touch wi h me. They requested that two persons of the commission be able to speak with Father Pierre B let, but the appointment was cancelled without any explanation. 1 wonder why they have done this. Did they wish to influence public opinion against Pius XII and the Church?
"This has happened precisely when we Catholics are making all kinds of efforts to improve relations with the Jewish world."
According to reports, one of the commission's most important questions concerned its discovery that the Vatican approved anti-Semitic measures adopted by the French Vichy government, Told in August 1941 by Marshall Henri Philippe Petain of the measures, Pius Xll's collaborators replied that the Vatican had no objections, provided that the measures were "administered with justice and charity".
The commission is keen to acquire more documentation in order to answer the question of whether the Pope himself was aware of this opinion, and to satisfy other questions.
It noted that there had appeared to have been no Vatican reaction to Kristallnacht, when Nazis burnt synagogues and shop windows and murdered Jews in a 1938 reprisal in Germany.
Also, it had found that in reply to pressure from Bishop Konrad von Preysing of Berlin that the Vatican do something to help the Jews, Pius had said that it was up to local bishops to decide when to speak and when to remain silent, given the risk of reprisals.
The commission was appointed by the Vatican in March of last year, following a row over the Vatican's refusal to open its archives after the London conference on Nazi gold, and mounting claims that Pius XII had failed to do enough to oppose the Holocaust.
Amid the controversy, and new allegations that Pius was not only anti-Semitic but proNazi, the wartime Pope's controversial cause for beatification has reportedly been relegated to the sidelines.