Letter: Vatican dispute

September 21, 2001

The article "Can of worms open as Vatican archives stay shut" ( THES , September 7) refers to the role of Father Peter Gumpel, the Vatican official who is acting as the independent judge for Pope Pius XII's beatification.

In October last year, Father Gumpel prepared detailed answers to each of the Catholic-Jewish academic commission's 47 questions on the Vatican's role during the Second World War.

Father Gumpel told Inside the Vatican magazine that most questions could be answered easily by consulting published sources and archival collections open to scholars for decades.

After he answered about 12 questions at meetings with the commission, one member, Bernard Suchecky, leaked the questions to a French newspaper, Le Monde , without saying that they were in the process of being answered.

The worldwide publicity that followed caused the commission to cancel further meetings. Since then, the commission has acted as if the Gumpel meeting never took the place, telling the press its members were still waiting for the Vatican's response.

In addition, the commission did not evaluate material in the Vatican's 11 volumes of the Actes et Documents du Saint Siege Relatifs a la Guerre Mondiale . The commission said that its members read no more than two volumes each.

Inside the Vatican reported that none of the Jewish scholars on the panel understood Italian, the language of most of the documents. This could not have helped their work.

In its actions this past year, the commission seems interested only in discrediting evidence favourable to Pius XII, not in seeking the historical truth.

Dimitri Cavalli
Bronx, New York

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