Vatican To Open WWII Archives for Research

Cardinal Walter Kasper helps rededicate a Holocaust memorial in Braintree, MA on March 25, 2009. (Photo: Boston Globe/John Tlumacki)

Vatican officials made a surprising announcement on Monday saying that they would finally open their World War II archives for scholarly research.

The previously undisclosed archives have long been a source of bitterness between Catholics and the Jewish community, who say that the church failed to support them during the Holocaust.

In a lecture at Liverpool Hope University, Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council on Christian Unity, admitted that the church's response during the Holocaust was "feeble," adding that the church had become weak by "cutting itself off from its Jewish roots for centuries."

"Israel without the church is in danger of becoming too particularistic and reclusive, while the church without Israel…is in danger of losing its historical grounding and becoming ahistorical and Gnostic," Kasper said.

"Judaism and Christianity need each other and therefore are dependent on each other," he added.

Regarding the opening of the archives, which Kasper said will be ready in five to six years, the cardinal declared, "It is our belief that we have nothing to hide and that we do not need to fear the truth."

Jewish author David P. Goldman applauded Kasper's message, calling it one that the Jewish community should be able to "accept in full satisfaction of their grievance against the wartime Vatican."

"What matters more than the speculation about just what Pius XII did or should have done is the future," Goldman wrote in First Things magazine. "It is of inestimable importance for the Jewish people that the Church publicly and passionately explains its own continuing dependence on the Chosen People of God."

"We as Jews have no need and no right to ask for more from the Catholic Church," he said. "We do not expect to agree on many things. But what we should agree about is that our respective presence in the world mysteriously reflects God's plan for the salvation of humanity."

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