Vatican WWII Archives

In an effort to silence criticism of Pope Pius XII's actions during World War II, the Vatican will publish this month the complete archives of an office that handled requests for help in finding 2.1 million soldiers and civilians missing or held prisoner during the war.

The Vatican Secret Archives said Tuesday that it also would make the original documents in 2,349 archival units available to scholars by Sept. 15.

The documents of the Vatican Information Office for Prisoners of War offer "testimony to the wide charitable and social work inspired by the principles of universality and impartiality carried out by the pontificate of Pius XII," the announcement said.

Two years ago, Pope John Paul II directed the Secret Archives to give historians access to archives on relations with Germany during the 17 years leading to the war and the Holocaust and to publish all its files on the missing and prisoners. The prewar files were opened in February. Officials of the archives said at the time that it was an "exceptional" action taken in an attempt to "put an end to unjust and ungrateful speculation" over the wartime practices of Pius XII, whom John Paul wants to beatify.

Critics have accused the pope of failing to intervene on behalf of Jewish Holocaust victims because he had Nazi sympathies.

The Vatican is issuing two volumes of scholarly essays, samples of documents and summaries of work done on 21 topics, including "Persecution for Political, Religious and Racial Motives." The Vatican also is issuing eight DVDs containing reproductions of the files.

-- Religion News Service

Apology to Africans

Members of the European Baptist Mission, meeting in Germany for their 50th anniversary, have asked for the forgiveness of African churches for Europe's role in the division of the continent among colonial powers, the Baptist World Alliance announced.

"We ask our African partner churches for forgiveness for allowing the spirit of colonialism to make a mockery of the spirit of Christ," the mission stated in a declaration approved at a meeting that concluded last month. "We also ask for forgiveness for the events of the past, which we recognize today as being contrary to the spirit of Christ."

The anniversary meeting took place in Berlin, where representatives of European countries and the United States made decisions about the partition of the continent 120 years ago.

"The division of Africa, which was planned, decreed and made possible by the Berlin Conference, resulted not only in a political splintering of Africa, but also in a destruction of natural, ethnic, social and national connections, which led to tensions that continue to cause bloody conflicts," the declaration reads.

The Baptists confessed that European Christians had profited from the unequal treatment of nations and promised better future partnerships. "We vow to learn from the 1884 Berlin Conference to strive for a world where justice prevails," they wrote.

-- Religion News Service

New Seminary Leader

Andover Newton Theological School, a primary training ground for American Baptist and United Church of Christ clergy, has named a former disarmament activist as its new president.

On July 1, the Rev. Nick Carter, who led the SANE/Freeze movement for global disarmament as the Cold War was ending in the late 1980s, will take the reins at the ecumenical seminary in Massachusetts. He replaces the Rev. Benjamin Griffin, who is retiring after nine years on the job.

Carter comes to the school as a specialist in "institutional transformation," Andover Newton said in a statement. "He brings a varied resume, including experience as a suburban church pastor, a strategic consultant to nonprofits and an evangelist who used folk music and poetry readings to attract young adults to church in the 1970s."

Carter, an ordained American Baptist minister, will lead an institution that has Baptist and Congregational roots dating to 1807 but whose students now come from 35 denominations. Increasingly, graduates pursue careers not only in parish ministry but also in academia, counseling, religious education and social work.

-- Religion News Service