On Saturday, October 16, 1943, after five o'clock in the morning, the SS entered the Jewish quarter of Rome and surrounded the streets adjacent to the Octavia Portico. They took the people out of their house at dawn, on the Jewish Sabbath, and arrested 1,024 people. There were more than 200 that were children. All were transferred to the military school of Via della Lungara, to the other side of the Tiber and a few meters from the Vatican. On the morning of October 18, at 2:05 PM, more than 48 hours after his arrest, a train of 18 lead cars left Tiburtina for Auschwitz. Only 15 men and one woman returned. Eugenio Pacelli, known as Pope Pius XII (1939-1958), was already in his fourth year of pontificate. But neither he nor anyone in the Vatican, although it was impossible to ignore that event happened a few meters from the Plaza de San Pedro, they raised their voices. Next year, however, will open the secret files that will allow researchers to bring light to that chapter.
The silence of the black Saturday is one of the many shadows that weigh on the period of Pius XII, marked by the Second World War and a silence that many have considered complicit with the Nazi extermination. The Vatican has always denied that it was like that. On the contrary, many believe that there were various gestures in favor of many other lives in danger. Francisco has ordered to open the file that contains all the documentation related to those days. "The Church is not afraid of history, she loves it. I accept this decision after listening to the opinion of my closest collaborators, with a calm and confident mind, confident that serious and objective historical research will be able to evaluate in its correct light with the appropriate criticism, moments of exaltation of that pontiff and, without doubt, also moments of serious difficulties, of tormented decisions, of human and Christian prudence, "says Bergoglio.
The Vatican began to open the archives from 1881, during the period of Leo XIII (1878-1903). Since then he has always been pontificates, and until Pius XII there have been some very long reigns (Pius XI: 1922-1939 and Benedict XV: 1914-1922). That is why it has taken so long to reach a key point for historians. Francisco, in fact, had always welcomed the opening of the archives and had pointed out that Pacelli secretly saved many Jews, but the vast amount of documents from almost 20 years of pontificate had delayed the work for its cataloging. In the last decade, some twelve people, under the direction of Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Secret Archive, have taken care of ordering sixteen million documents, more than fifteen thousand envelopes and two thousand five hundred files.
The documentation of the pontificate of Pius XII, however, was not completely hidden. When the polemic arose in the mid-sixties, Paul VI, Pacelli's closest collaborator (when he was secretary of state) and then as Pope of Pius XII, commissioned a group of four Jesuit historians belonging to different nationalities who were in the war (German, Italian, French and American) to review the documents. Then he ordered to publish the most important ones. 12 volumes of records and documents of the Holy See concerning the Second World War have come out since 1965 and 1981. Thousands of pages that thanks to the sponsorship of an American Jew favorable to Pius XII, can be consulted freely.
The Hebrew community, which on Monday celebrated the news of the opening, was favorable to Pius XII at the beginning and then divided, as the historian and former director of L'Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Vian. "In this way the conflict of interpretations should be overcome, which was already very advanced. There will always be bitter enemies of Pius XII, but that does not belong to history. It is an ideological conflict that the opening of the archives should allow to overcome. He was a man of his time who did what he could. He was not afraid for himself, but a responsibility for the whole Church and knew the danger of the Nazis. He was neither a hero nor a prophet, but he was a man who tried to save more lives than he could at the cost of very effective risks. " From next year, all doubts can be cleared.