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NewsWhat really lies in the secret archives of the Vatican

What really lies in the secret archives of the Vatican

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Mystery and intrigue are inherent in the Holy See. People will always wonder what the religious authorities are up to behind closed doors of the Vatican and what treasures are hidden there.

Despite claims that the pope has evidence of aliens and that there are demons in the catacombs,

the truth about secret archives is much more realistic. That is why it is much more interesting.

From handwritten letters from historical figures such as Mary, Queen of Scots and Abraham Lincoln, to papal bulls * excommunicating Martin Luther from the Roman Catholic Church, the contents of the archives would shock any scholar.

But why are they so strictly guarded? In fact, there is no evidence in these archives of aliens that the Vatican is hiding from the public, but rather documents that can prove that the Church was complicit in Mussolini’s terror and possibly even in the Nazi anti-Semitic actions.

Archivum Secretum

The truth about secret archives comes from a mistranslation from Latin. The real name of the Vatican archives is Archivum Secretum Apostolicum Vaticanum. “Secretum” does not translate from Latin as “secret”, as some suggest. The more accurate translation is “personal” or “private”. The archives are in fact composed of personal letters and historical records of the popes from the last four centuries.

The archives were created by Pope Paul V. He clearly sensed the historical significance of papal correspondence and knew that such documents must be preserved.

However, according to the mentality of the seventeenth century. Ordinary people should not be familiar with the words exchanged between popes and kings. So, the archives are kept locked.

Access to the secret archive

It was not until 1881 that Pope Leo XIII allowed researchers to examine some of the contents of the archive. But it has not been easy to look at the documents, and the procedure has not changed much in the last 200 years. First of all, journalists, students and amateur historians are not given access.

Once an interested party has demonstrated that he or she is a sufficiently serious scientist, credentials are given, which must be renewed every six months. To enter the archives, “scholars enter Porta Sant’Anna, pass the Swiss Guards, pass through the Cortile del Belvedere and present credentials.”

Once admitted, scientists must say which specific documents they want to review. They have the right to request only three documents a day. So, instead of being able to view the contents of the archive, they should choose articles from catalogs in which the articles are handwritten in Italian or Latin. These catalogs are quite impressive, given that the archives contain “80 km of shelves with documents dating back to the eighth century.

If after only a few minutes the scientist realizes that what he is looking for is not in the received folders, he ends the day. Computers are allowed, but photography is not, so scientists spend most of their time in the reading room taking notes.

Historical treasures in the archives of the Vatican

If one is lucky enough to have access to the Vatican archives, he or she will be able to view such historical treasures as:

  • A 60-meter-long scroll containing the records of lawsuits against the Knights Templar, which lasted several years, beginning in 1307.
  • Inter caetera, the papal bull issued by Pope Alexander VI in 1493, which divided the world between the Spaniards and the Portuguese.
  • Letter from Michelangelo to Pope Julius II
  • Papal bull, issued by Pope Leo X in 1521, excommunicating Martin Luther
  • The petition of 1530, by which Henry VIII asked Pope Clement VII to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and which contained the signatures and seals of over 80 English lords and clergy (the pope refused)
  • Letter to Pope Sixtus V from Mary, Queen of Scots, requesting that the Church intervene shortly before her execution
  • Notes on the trial of Galileo in 1633.
  • Letter from Pope Clement XII to the Seventh Dalai Lama requesting the protection of Franciscan missionaries in Tibet
  • Letters from Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis (both written in 1863, neither Catholic) in their efforts to get Pope Pius IX to take the side of the Union or the Confederacy during the American Civil War

Pope Pius XII in alliance with the Nazis

David Kerzer, a historian at Brown University, managed to study documents from the reign of Pope Pius XII (1922-1939). He concluded that the pope had “made deals with Mussolini to protect the Church’s interest in exchange for silence on state-sponsored anti-Semitism.” Pope Francis was pressured to make the contents of the archives related to Pope Pius XII available so that the world could finally find out about his connection to the Nazis.

Some say he supported Hitler, or in a way similar to Mussolini’s ecclesiastical support, or perhaps even more substantial support. Others say the pope worked against the Nazis and helped hide Jews and other targets of Nazi aggression.

In March 2020, Pope Francis made “the basic documentation for the pontificate ** of Pius XII” available to historians, stating that the church “is not afraid of history.” When researchers gathered this year for a webinar to discuss their assessment of the archives so far, they said “it will probably take years to evaluate the material provided by the Vatican.”

Are archives less “secret”?

According to Pope Francis, the Vatican archives are no longer “secret” but “apostolic.” In 2019, he decided to change the age-old name of the Archivum Secretum Vaticanum, the Vatican’s secret archives, to the Vatican Apostolic Archives because, according to Vatican News, “in Latin and secretum (meaning separate, private), and apostolicum (ie belonging to domnus apostolicus who is only the pope) refer to the same reality, even legal ”.

The pope made his decision based on the need to respond to modern “sensitivity,” which often associates the word secretum with ideas of mysteries and hidden artifacts locked in vaults.

Nevertheless, the Vatican’s archives remain the pope’s private archives – “subordinate solely to him and his exclusive administration”, as Vatican News reports.

* A bull is a basic papal document with a lead seal, containing a provision or message from one pope to other church or secular figures. Bulls were most common and used in the Middle Ages, and were issued much less frequently after the 15th century.

** A pontificate, according to the modern understanding of this term, is the period of the pope’s reign – from the day of his enthronement, after he was elected by the conclave, until the moment when he ceases to be pope due to death or abdication.

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