Holocaust memorial chair thanks pope for opening archives

VATICAN CITY -- On Thursday, the chairman of Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial said that he thanked Pope Francis for granting scholars access to World War II-era archives from the Holy See.

Holocaust memorial chair thanks pope for opening archives

VATICAN CITY -- On Thursday, the chairman of Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial said that he thanked Pope Francis for granting scholars access to World War II-era archives from the Holy See.

Dani Dayan met Francis at the Vatican and said that the pontiff described the opening of the archives as "an issue if justice." Francis visited the memorial in Israel during a 2014 pilgrimage.

In its account of the meeting, the Vatican didn't mention what Francis said to his Israeli visitor. However, the Vatican's official media quoted Dayan as describing the words of Pope Francis.

Dayan stated, "When I thanked Dayan for opening Vatican archives for the relevant period of Holocaust for our researchers,"

Historians have long fought for access to Vatican archives of letters, documents and other materials that span the years of Pius XII’s 1939-1958 pontificate. This overlapped with World War II.

Many have criticised Pius over the years for not speaking out against mass deportations of systematic killings of Jews. Pius was allegedly working quietly behind-the scenes to save people during the Holocaust, according to the Vatican.

Scholarly examining the wartime archives suggests that Jews who converted to Catholicism, or were the children of Catholic-Jewish marriages, were the most difficult to save.

According to Vatican media, Yad Vashem's Dayan said that Francis had told him that the Catholic Church was not afraid of history.

Dayan stated that the Holy Father said that he was well aware that in the church, there were people who did right and others who didn't.

The pope visited Yad Vashem 2014 and prayed in front of a crypt filled with the ashes of Holocaust victims. He also laid a wreath of roses in the Hall of Remembrance.

During a 2016 pilgrimage, Francis visited the Auschwitz memorial and met 25 Christian Poles who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

Yad Vashem's archivists are analyzing information from Vatican archives with the aim, according to the Holocaust memorial, of returning it back in Jerusalem for further study and "hopefully shed light on many Holocaust victims' experiences and fate."

Dayan invited Francis, as Thursday's meeting was over, to return to Israel and Yad Vashem.

Dayan said that Dayan and Francis conversed in Spanish and that Francis was very clear in condemning antisemitism and fighting it as an "alliance."

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Josef Federman contributed to this article from Jerusalem.

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