Pope Francis declared Monday that the Vatican Secret Archive be changed to the title of Vatican Apostolic Archive, to avoid the negative associations that accompany modern interpretations of the word “secret.”
In an apostolic letter issued motu proprio Oct. 28, Francis declared that, “from now on, the current Vatican Secret Archive, nothing changing in its identity, its structure and its mission, be called the Vatican Apostolic Archive.”
This change, the Pope wrote, is to avoid associations with the evolving interpretation of the word “secret,” which instead of denoting “private,” he said, has “assumed the prejudicial sense of being hidden, not to be revealed and to be reserved for a few.”
Francis added that this interpretation is “the complete opposite of what the Vatican Secret Archive has always been and intends to be.”
The Vatican Secret Archive is an office that has preserved, since the beginning of the 17th century, documents and books of historical and cultural importance to the Church and to the world. It originated from the private archives of the popes. Since 1881, the archive has been open to qualified researchers on request.
The collection began to be called the “secret archive” around the mid-17th century, Pope Francis wrote, and served to indicate only that it was a “private archive, separate, reserved to the Pope.”
He stated that this change in name to the Vatican Apostolic Archive “highlights the close link of the Roman See with the archive, an indispensable tool of the Petrine ministry,” and that this new title also underlines its similarity to the Vatican Apostolic Library in its dependence on the Roman Pontiff.
Research in what will now be called the Vatican Apostolic Archive is free of charge and open to qualified scholars with a five-year university degree or equivalent doing scientific research. Access has only been allowed, however, to documents up until the end of the papacy of Pius XI, which is February 1939.
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