Pope Pius XII (C) meets with members of Canada's Royal 22e Regiment after the liberation of Rome on July 4, 1944. On Thursday, the Vatican released thousands of documents detailing requests to the pope by Jewish people during the Holocaust. File Photo courtesy of the Canadian Department of National Defense
June 23 (UPI) -- Pope Francis on Thursday ordered the release of thousands of documents collecting requests of Jews seeking help from the Catholic Church during the Holocaust.
The release includes 40,000 files cataloging 2,700 cases of "requests for help sent to Pope Pius XII by Jewish people ... after the beginning of Nazi and fascist persecution," the Vatican's relations secretary, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, said in a statement.
The documents had already been made available for consultation by scholars as of March 2020, but Pope Francis requested they be made accessible to everyone.
Gallagher said making the documents widely available on the Internet would "allow the descendants of those who asked for help to find traces of their loved ones from any part of the world."
Seventy percent of the total documents will be made available in the initial release with the rest to be filled in as the Vatican prepares additional volumes.
The documents, which were previously held in the secretariat of state's archives, include requests for the Vatican to provide help to Jewish groups and families, many who had been baptized as Catholics and were no longer practicing Jews.
Among the issues were requests for the pope to intervene to avoid Nazi deportation, to obtain liberation from concentration camps or assistance finding family members.
Gallagher noted that while the files contain the requests for help, little information is available about the outcomes.
"The requests would arrive at the secretariat of state, where diplomatic channels would try to provide all the help possible, taking into account the complexity of the political situation the global context," Gallagher said.