BUCHAREST, Romania (CNS): Historians and Communist-era diplomats have cast doubts on a former Romanian general’s claim that he helped with a KGB plot to portray Pope Pius XII as a Nazi sympathiser in order to weaken the Catholic Church.
General Ion Mihai Pacepa, a Romanian intelligence chief under dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, said that between 1960 and 1962 he recruited three Romanian spies to disguise themselves as priests and gain access to the Vatican Secret Archives. Their objective was to steal documents for the KGB, the former Russian secret police and intelligence agency, so the documents could be manipulated as evidence against Pope Pius, who died in 1958, said General Pacepa.
General Pacepa, who defected to the United States in 1978, said these documents also contributed to a devastating anti-Pope Pius play, The Deputy, which opened in Berlin in 1963.
He said a KGB chief of disinformation created an outline for the first draft of The Deputy, which helped popularise the notion that Pope Pius supported Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. Forgeries based on the stolen documents were part of the play’s “historical appendix”.
His claims were included in an article, “Moscow’s Assault on the Vatican”, posted in late January on the National Review Online.
Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel, a historian and the co-ordinator of work supporting Pope Pius’ sainthood cause, told CNS there was a “deliberate effort on the part of the Russians to discredit Pope Pius XII” but that there is no evidence that anyone managed to get and manipulate the documents.
Ronald Rychlak, an adviser to the Vatican’s delegation to the United Nations, is one of the few Americans given access to the Vatican’s confidential six-volume report, the “Positio on Pius XII”, completed in 2004.
Mr Rychlak called General Pacepa’s article “shocking”. He said nothing in the positio suggests individuals gained access to the archives as part of an organised plot.
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