The news is full of the fact that the papers from the Pontificate of Pius XI are to be made available from September. Though I'm pleased that more of the Vatican Archives will now be accessible, this is hardly a 'breaking news' story. Making available to researchers new collections is a pretty routine part of an archivists job. True, the Vatican is famously strict about such matters and would probably look with horror on the British '30 year rule' kept by many archives (ie any papers over 30 years old are 'open'). However, just as Benedict XV's papers were made available in 1984, so Pius XI's will now be available and, one day fairly soon, this will be extended to Pius XII and his successors. It's not a concession but a normal part of the Vatican archive policy.
The real reason behind the world's interest in Pius XI's archive is the belief, fuelled by Dan Brown, that the Vatican archive is a place of secrets - and more so than other archives. What dark secrets, the media wonders, will be discovered in relation to the Vatican in the era of Hitler and Mussolini? Will Pacelli be condemned as a pro-Nazi sympathizer?
On Radio 4 last night, after the opening of the Vatican archive was announced, the newsreader turned to Naser Oric, the former Bosnian Muslim commander at Srebrenica, who has been found guilty of war crimes. I don't think the juxtaposition between Bosnian war crimes and the Pope's relationship with the Nazis was purely accidental...
However, the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ has nothing to fear from historical truth. The truth will set us free!