Saturday, May 21, 2016

Still all quiet on the Pius front 2013-2016

For all sorts of reasons I have not been able to post for the last couple of months.  My school is preparing for its Sesquicentenary next year and I am involved on various committees and projects that seem to take up more and more time.  Many have the moments been when I have thought I should sit down and write something, but more often than not, it has been a case of "tomorrow", the end of today has left me yearning only for the sofa!  

Now, back to it!

I have commented before that under Pope Francis there has been a serious "slow down" on talk and action on the possible canonisation of Pius XII.  It has not changed in the three years since I last wrote on this topic.  It is almost as though the academic world has adopted a "wait and see" approach, an approach I can well understand.  

Over the last ten or so years, after the high-water mark of the revisionist and apologists attempt to re-configure historical debate on Pius along non-historical lines, mainstream academia has, it would appear, reached the point where there is nothing more to be said at present.  Research continues, but, as in my case, I suspect it is moving into other related areas.  My own study has taken more and more into ADSS, and the "usual" work of historians, namely the little discoveries and nuances that help add a highlight on this point or a shadow on that point.  There have several major works published by serious historians - Coppa, Fattorini, Kertzer, Kornberg, Madigan, Ventresca, Wolf, to name some - that have, in their own field, added to our collective knowledge.

The "elephant in the room" has been and remains, the closed archives of Pope Pius XII contained in the Archivio Segreto Vaticano.  We have waited for years, and, I suspect, we will continue to wait.  2003, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2013 ... Whatever the reasons for the delays, most of us believe that there will be no major change in the general direction research has headed over the last half century.  This direction was confirmed when the archives for Pope Pius XI were opened between 2003 and 2006.

I will continue to post my reading of ADSS if only because I remain convinced that the published documents still contain many nuggets that shed light on the reasoning behind the many different layers of the Vatican diplomatic efforts firstly, to prevent a war, and secondly to contain it once it started.

Over and over again, the documents reveal patterns of diplomacy, negotiation and responsibility, that did not change over the course of the war years.  If I have reached only one conclusion from the ADSS, it is that Pope Pius XII while not knowing everything, was arguably the best informed person in Europe.  However, that knowledge grew incrementally, and in a non-consistent manner - he became aware of events from across Europe as they arrived in Rome, and often not in chronological order and often seemingly unrelated.  It was the responsibility of the Secretariat of State to attempt to create meaning and patterns out of the material that arrived, and that could often be devilishly difficult to do.  Only in one area did the Pope have as clear and consistent a picture of German intention as was possible.  That area was the evolution of German policy towards the Jews.

From a research point of view I have to thank so many people who have posted and maintained entire libraries of online resources.  My study of ADSS would simply not be possible without access to the mostly gratis resources that have been made available.  For that I am most grateful and offer my deepest thanks.



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