Pope Francis will open the Vatican archives from the era of Pius XII in order to determine if the controversial pontiff, who has been accused of failing to speak up during the Holocaust, can be considered for sainthood, according to a report in The Sunday Times.
The newspaper quotes a close friend of Francis, Argentinean rabbi Abraham Skorka, as saying that the pope will follow through on his promise to examine Pius' wartime role.
Prior to ascending to the papacy, Francis, who was known as Cardinal Bergoglio expressed his position on the issue in his book, On Heaven and Earth, which he co-wrote with Skorka in 2010.
"Opening the archives of the Shoah [Holocaust] seems reasonable," the future pope 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.”
Pius has been accused by Jewish groups of remaining silent and allowing Jews to be slaughtered by the Nazis, a charge denied by the Vatican, which insists that he saved many Jews during the Holocaust.
The Vatican confirmed earlier this month that Pope Francis would visit Israel this year, which would make him only the fourth pontiff to visit the Holy Land in the modern era.
The visit comes during a period of dramatic outreach for the Roman Catholic Church under Francis – not only to other faiths but also to groups often marginalized by the church in the past – and fairly early in Francis’s papacy.
Francis will have been pope for just over 14 months when he travels to Israel, Jordan and the West Bank on May 24-25. Only Paul VI, who became the first modern pope to visit Jerusalem six months into his papacy in 1964, made such a trip so early in his reign. But Paul’s trip came before the Vatican even recognized Israel as a sovereign state.
Pius' beatification has been a sore subject in Jewish-Catholic relations. Thus far, Pius has passed two of the four stages necessary to reach sainthood.