Thursday, February 21, 2008

Secret Inquisition Documents Revealed

~from The Times of London
Secret documents from the archives of the Holy Inquisition today went on public show for the first time in Rome - though not the instruments of torture used to extract confessions from heretics.

The archive was opened to scholars a decade ago by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the successor to the Inquisition, also known as the Holy Office. The decision to allow access for academics was made by the then head of the Congregation, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

Marco Pizzo, co-curator of the exhibition with Monsignor Alejandro Cifres, head of the Congregation's archives, said the sixty documents on display at the Vittoriano Museum on Piazza Venezia in the centre of Rome included a collection of maps of Jewish settlements across Italy, "the oldest evidence we have of the ghettos''.

There are also decrees from the Inquisition's Index of Forbidden Books, including a ban on the Renaissance poet and writer Ludovico Ariosto, with detailed comments by the censor on why Arisoto's work was unacceptable.

But Mr Pizzo maintained the task of the Inquisition was "not just to repress. It also had authority in many other fields such as iconography, the way saints and prelates could be portrayed, for example. This material helps us better understand history. Everything had to be seen by the Holy Office in one way or another''.

Vatican officials said the exhibition would run for only a month because of the "fragile nature" of the documents. The practice of inquisition to combat heresy began in the thirteenth century, and was entrusted to the Dominican Order. In 1542 Pope Paul III established a system of tribunals under the "Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition" to "defend the integrity of the faith", which in practice led to the use of torture to root out heresy real and imagined, with many heretics imprisoned or burned at the stake.

However Vatican officials say opening the archives has "exposed some myths" about the Inquisition, showing for example that more women accused of witchcraft died in Protestant than in Catholic countries.

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