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Sacred duty of truth must apply to the Vatican too

Sacred duty of truth must apply to the Vatican too

Author: Christopher Lockwood
Publication: The Daily Telegraph (London)
Date: June 8, 2000

Journalists, it seems, have a new admirer in the Vatican. But only if they stick to the objective pursuit of truth.

In a message to thousands of them last Sunday, Pope John Paul II defined the task of the media as a "sacred duty", and urged its exponents to dedicate their professional skills to the good of humanity.

"Because of its vast influence on public opinion, journalism cannot be guided only by economic forces, by profits or by partisan interest," he said, addressing the group at a special audience at the Vatican.

"Journalism must instead be felt as a task which is in a sense sacred, carried out with the understanding that the powerful means of communications are entrusted to you for the good of all".

Journalists, he said, had to understand that when they carried out their work properly they "render a precious service to truth itself and therefore to man"

Yet this homily preaching the value of the search for truth sits rather oddly with the Vatican's refusal to open up its archives to researchers exploring the relationship between the Church and the Nazis, who Pope Pins XII notoriously failed ever to condemn.

Two years ago, in response to years of demands for records from Jewish organisations, the Vatican finally handed over 12 volumes of documents.

But, according to Lord Janner, who beads the Holocaust Educational Trust, they were the wrong ones. "The material all turned out to be already available. And so much is missing. We don't have access to any of the records from monasteries in occupied countries or to the correspondence between the Vatican and the German government, and no access to bank records," he says.

Requests for additional documents, detailed in a letter 18 months ago, have not even been replied to.

Lord Janner is anxious to give full credit to the Pope for shifting the Vatican's culture of secrecy as far as he has. "This pope has done more to improve relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people than any other pope in history. So I am doubly disappointed at the refusal," he says.

Dr Shimon Samuels, of the Wiesenthal Institute in Paris, takes a stronger line. "We know that Nazi gold was placed in the Vatican for safe-keeping. But the Vatican is sabotaging our attempts to write the history of the Holocaust," he says. "By releasing only handpicked documents, it is strengthening the impression that there is something to hide."

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