Beliefnet
VATICAN CITY (AP)--A major Jewish group urged the Vatican onTuesday to grant more access to its World War II-era archives soscholars can learn exactly what the Vatican knew about the Holocaust.

The call from the New York-based Anti-Defamation League came a dayafter a panel of Jewish and Catholic historians announced they hadsuspended their research into the Vatican's wartime record, saying theycouldn't proceed without access to the documents.

The panel was appointed by the Vatican and another Jewishorganization in 1999 to examine the wartime actions of Pope Pius XII,who has been accused by Jews of having failed to speak out while the Holocaust was goingon.

The group put out a preliminary report in October, based on reviewof already released Vatican papers, which described a pope intent onfruitless diplomacy as reports of atrocities poured into the Vatican.

The Vatican official in charge of relations with other religions,Cardinal Walter Kasper, told the panelists in a June 21 letter thatdocuments dating after 1923 wouldn't be available to them for "technical reasons."

Catholic members of the panel said the reams of documents merelyweren't ready for release because the two Vatican archivists hadn'tcatalogued and bound them.

Panelists acknowledged they were never promised access to thedocuments -- and in fact had never demanded to see the papers. But in aJuly 20 letter to Kasper announcing their decision to suspend their work, thepanelists said they had hoped that during the course of their researchthe documents would be made available.

Meanwhile, in an indication of the divisiveness of the issue, one ofthe Catholic panelists said Tuesday he was disassociating himself fromthe press release announcing the suspension.

The release from the International Jewish Committee forInterreligious Consultations quoted its chairman, Seymour Reich, asexpressing deep disappointment that the Vatican hadn't opened its books.

The Rev. Gerald Fogarty, a professor of church history and theologyat the University of Virginia, said he was not disappointed by theVatican's decision. Kasper "never made or could make any promise that any questions weraised would be answered from documents in the archives," Fogartywrote.

Only the Holy See's secretary of state has jurisdiction overreleasing the papers, Fogarty said.

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