For many years, I’ve heard rumors about a secret Vatican archive. This archive holds papers detailing the actions of Pope Pius II during the Second World War.
Why did he not protest when the Nazis emptied Rome of its Jews? Should he have spoken out? Did he tacitly help Nazi criminals after the war? Or did he do what he could behind the scenes to aid the allies?
The secret Vatican archive may soon reveal the answers to these question. What will we learn? Is it important? Will it reveal anything useful for Christians and Jews?
Perhaps. But I don’t think the revelations themselves will matter much, because we can’t change the past. We can only learn for the future.
Many people did not do enough to stop the Nazis. Even today many of us don’t do enough to stop the persecution we see around us.
So what matters more than what’s in the archives is what’s in our hearts, and what we do with our hands. Here are some truths to remember:
1.No one did enough: In a film about Pope’s visit to Israel, historian Michael Marrus made a stunning observation. “The truth is that during the Holocaust no one did enough. No one did enough.
“I don’t know what enough would be. I think it is the job of everyone now, Catholics and Jews, to understand more about the Holocaust period, to understand why no one was really able adequately to deal with this catastrophe, in order to go on from here.”
That means we keep studying history so we do our best not to repeat it. That’s why I wrote this book on the recent surge in anti-Semitism.
2. Human beings are capable of great evil: Germany was the most educated country in Europe. It produced great artists, musicians and writers. And yet the vast majority of its population supported Hitler and the Nazis.
Intelligence is not a sign of morality. During the war some people spent every day working at a death camp, and then laughed and visited with their families in the evenings.
Without guidance from God and our traditions, we can easily return to our worst selves. There’s a reasons high school students still read Lord of the Flies.
3. We live with the past, but we do not need to live in the past: We human beings may be capable of great evil. But we are also capable of great good.
Every moment we can decide to open or close our hearts. We can respond with empathy or indifference. We can learn from the past to build a better future. Whatever we find in the secret Vatican archives won’t change that truth.
Do You Think We Will Learn Anything From the Secret Vatican Archives?