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Vatican/Archives/ Inquisition/Bible banned

Vatican archives reveal Bible was once banned book
By Jude Webber

ROME, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The Vatican permitted scrutiny of one of
the most notorious periods in Roman Catholic Church history on
Thursday when it opened the archives of the department once known as
the Inquisition. Scholars now will be able to study cases such as
that of the astronomer Galileo, condemned by the Inquisition for
claiming the earth revolved round the sun, and Giordano Bruno, a monk
burnt for heresy in 1600 in Rome's Campo dei Fiori square. Vatican
officials say the secret files, dating between 1542 and 1902, will
yield precious few juicy secrets -- the Church officially
rehabilitated Galileo in 1992, for example. But the archives do
contain some surprises. Opened on Thursday alongside the Inquisition
archives was the infamous Index of Forbidden Books, which Roman
Catholics were forbidden to read or possess on pain of
excommunication. They showed that even the Bible was once on the
blacklist. Translations of the holy book ended up on the bonfires
along with other ``heretical'' works because the Church, whose
official language was Latin, was suspicious of allowing the faithful
access to sacred texts without ecclesiastical guidance. Protestants,
who split from Roman Catholics during the Reformation in the 16th and
17th centuries, were allowed to read holy works directly. The Index
of Forbidden Books and all excommunications relating to it were
officially abolished in 1966. The Inquisition itself was established
by Pope Gregory IX in 1233 as a special court to help curb the
influence of heresy. It escalated as Church officials began to count
on civil authorities to fine, imprison and even torture heretics. It
reached its height in the 16th century to counter the Reformation.
The department later became the Holy Office and its successor now is
called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which
controls the orthodoxy of Catholic teaching. Its head, Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger, declared the archives open at a special conference
and recalled how the move stemmed from a letter written to Pope John
Paul some 18 years ago by Carlo Ginzburg, a Jewish-born, atheist
professor in Los Angeles. ``I am sure that opening our archives will
respond not just to the legitimate aspirations of scholars but also
the Church's firm intention to serve man helping him to understand
himself by reading without prejudice his own history,'' Ratzinger
said. Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, a senior Vatican figure, told La
Repubblica newspaper this month that although the archives contained
attention grabbing cases such as Giordano Bruno, there was also a
wealth of information from the Reformation, through to the
Enlightenment, French Revolution and the 20th century. ``To be able
to consult an unexplored source will be a real treat for scholars,''
he said. One Vatican official, Father Pagano, was one of few figures
allowed into the archives when he was sent, on the Pope's orders of
to collect the documentation referring to the Galileo case. He told
the Italian newspaper La Stampa last week that the archives of the
Inquisition and Index, housed in two rooms, had suffered badly down
the centuries and were now ``modest.'' Pagano said the Church had a
tradition of burning many of the most delicate heresy files and the
Inquisition's archive was almost entirely burned on Pope Paul IV's
death in 1559. The documents were hauled off to Paris under
Napoleon's rule in 1810 and Pagano said more than 2,000 volumes were
burned. Some fell in rivers during transit, others were sold for
paper or became mixed up with other files. The Vatican said the
archives now held around 4,500 volumes, of which only a small part
referred to heresy trials. The rest detail theological controversies
and spiritual questions.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

Ton Cremers
(Book History Chronology)
(Cultural Property Protection)

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