Scholars of Pope Pius XII have countered claims that the wartime pope and the Catholic Church hierarchy were complicit in a controversial post-war custody battle over two Jewish orphans who were baptized Christians in France, then hidden from their relatives.

Researcher William Doino Jr. told CNA a recent article on the topic in The Atlantic is “both flawed and misleading, because it misrepresents and cites out of context a small portion of the newly released archives to advance a one-sided view of Pius XII– and omits key documents and evidence which contradict the article’s main allegations.”

He responded to historian David I. Kertzer, writing in The Atlantic, who has claimed that the archives have now revealed “the central role that the Vatican and the pope himself played in the kidnapping drama.”

“The Vatican helped direct efforts by local Church authorities to resist French court rulings and to keep the boys hidden, while at the same time carefully concealing the role that Rome was playing behind the scenes,” Kertzer wrote Aug. 27.

Those claims have also drawn criticism from Matteo Luigi Napolitano, professor of history of international relations at Italy’s University of Molise said in L’Osservatore Romano Sept. 3.

“Things are obviously much more complex if we look at the Jewish sources,” he said. “The Rabbinate wanted to maintain dialogue with the Vatican, while other organizations would have gone to the clash, to be exploited on the media level.”

The archives on Pope Pius XII’s pontificate were opened in 2020 for only four days before being closed again due to coronavirus restrictions. Napolitano said scholars have only had about forty days’ worth of work on the new material.

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