Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Time to End the Sealing of Archives for Generations

The president of the International Jewish Committee on Inter-religious Consultations said that the Pope was “seriously considering” not proceeding with the beatification of Pius XII before the opening of Vatican archives on 'Hitler's Pope'. The archives will not be open to researchers for at least six years, and “a time for reflection would be appropriate” the Vatican said. The decree that Pope Benedict must sign has been held by the Vatican since May.

Sixty five years have passed since Pius XII saw Italy end its long, dark night of fascism as it was convulsed under civil war and foreign armies fighting over its entire territory. Still the political and civic life of the country is affected by those years. All information on them should be in the public domain. Yet there is an arbitrary and undefended, as well as indefensible, policy to keep archives closed.

This applies to all of us, not just to Italy or to the Vatican. We cannot understand the world we live in if authoritarian secrecy measures are taken to hide it from our sight and consideration. The Vatican almost prides itself on being a secret state; preening in being the repository of secrets that endow its sense of self importance.

But it is matched and over-matched by the United Kingdom. The wholesale practice of hiding past action makes our history the product of a 'narrative' just as much as current affairs are constantly bent into a propaganda tool. Our state and our government need to get up to speed at least with the last days of the German Democratic Republic that in so many others aspects, they clearly ape.

1 comment:

Sackerson said...

I understand that there are some British files that have remained secret for centuries.