VATICAN CITY Jewish groups have no cause to complain of the Vatican restricting archives on Pope Pius XII, accused by some of ignoring the Holocaust, and should open all their own files, a Vatican official said on Tuesday.
Jewish organizations expressed surprise and said there was nothing secretive about their archives.
Critics accuse Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, of turning a blind eye to Nazi persecution of the Jews and have asked that more Vatican archives for the period before and during World Wart Two be opened up.
The Vatican maintains Pius did not speak out more forcefully because he was afraid of provoking Nazi reprisals and worsening the fate of Catholics and Jews.
"More research is absolutely indispensable even with documentation from outside the Vatican," Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Committee on Historical Sciences, told a news conference.
Brandmuller, speaking at a news conference presenting Vatican initiatives to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Pius's death, said Jewish groups and Israel should look at their own archives of the period.
"So far, some 15 Israeli and Jewish archives have not been used. For example, the archives of the World Jewish Congress have not been used yet. So, I don't understand these complaints about the lack of access to the Vatican (archives)," he said.
Brandmuller did not name any other archives.
A spokesman for the World Jewish Congress said:
"All of our archives of that period were transferred to the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem and I don't think they have any special restrictions.
"Lots of those documents are already quoted in books."
Jerusalem-based Rabbi David Rosen, a leading member of several world Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, said he was very surprised by the comments.
"Many documents are either in organizations' archives or in Jerusalem and as far as I know there is nothing secretive or restricted about them," he told Reuters.
The Vatican says while some of archives of the period are still closed for organizational reasons, most of the significant documentation regarding Pius is already open to scholars.
"The most important things have already been published," Gian Maria Vian, editor-in-chief of the Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, told the news conference.
Last year, the Vatican's saint-making department voted in favor of a decree recognizing Pius's "heroic virtues," a major hurdle in a long process toward possible sainthood that began in 1967. But Pope Benedict has so far not approved the decree.
Some Jewish groups have said the Vatican should freeze the beatification process.
(Editing by Ralph Boulton)