The Keeper of the Archbishop Sergio Pagano Unveils Centuries-old Discoveries in New Book
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Photo: Bishop Sergio Pagano poses in his office at The Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, after an interview with The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

VATICAN CITY  — In a groundbreaking revelation, Archbishop Sergio Pagano, the longtime prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Archive, is set to unveil a treasure trove of secrets spanning 12 centuries in his forthcoming book, titled “Secretum.” The 75-year-old archbishop, who has spent 45 years safeguarding the Vatican’s archives, is about to retire, making this interview his first and last disclosure.

Pagano, in a year-long conversation with Italian journalist Massimo Franco, delves into the historical intrigues and lesser-known details of the Holy See’s relations with the outside world. The revelations range from Napoleon’s 1810 sacking of the archives to the financing of the 1922 conclave by last-minute donations from U.S. Catholics.

The Vatican Apostolic Archive, with 85 kilometers of shelving, is a repository of documents from the 8th century, including those from Vatican embassies worldwide and specific collections from aristocratic families and religious orders.

Pagano, who monitors researchers through a live feed, discloses that scholars are currently flocking to study documents from Pope Pius XII’s pontificate, opened by Pope Francis in 2020. Unlike the Vatican’s defense of Pius, Pagano criticizes the wartime pope for not condemning Nazi atrocities post-war, attributing it to concerns about the creation of a Jewish state.

The book also unveils Pagano’s disdain for incomplete research behind Pius’ sainthood cause, revealing that the two Jesuit researchers relied on a partial 1965 compilation without setting foot in the Apostolic Archive.

Beyond the Vatican’s internal affairs, “Secretum” exposes novelties, such as the financial relationship between the U.S. church and the Vatican, dating back to the 1922 conclave. Pagano recounts a financial crisis during Pope Benedict XV’s death and the subsequent telegram requesting funds from U.S. churches to elect Pope Pius XI.

The book suggests that Pope Francis’ decision to remove “Secret” from the archive’s name in 2019 might be a financial nod to the U.S. church, encouraging potential donations. This rebranding coincides with the establishment of the “Treasures of History” foundation, supporting the archive.

As a final highlight, Pagano showcases the original 1530 letter urging Pope Clement VII to grant King Henry VIII an annulment, a pivotal moment in the birth of the Anglican Church. The archivist takes pride in revealing how the document survived Napoleon’s seizure of the Vatican archives in 1810, skillfully hidden in a secret drawer.

“Secretum” promises readers an unprecedented look into the Vatican’s rich history, shedding light on the mysteries that have shrouded the Holy See for centuries.

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