According to a new Motu Proprio issued by Pope Francis, the Vatican Archives has changed its name to something a bit less… mysterious:

From now on the present Vatican Secret Archive, without prejudice to its identity, its structure and its mission, should be called the Vatican Apostolic Archive.

Reaffirming its active desire to serve the Church and culture, the new name highlights the close link between the Roman See and the Archive, an indispensable instrument of the Petrine ministry, and at the same time underlines its immediate dependence on the Roman Pontiff, as is already the case in parallel for the name of the Vatican Apostolic Library.

The reason for the change in name is both due to the contemporary cultural understanding of the word “secret,” and that while the Latin term secretum (meaning separateprivate, or isolated, in addition to secret as we understand it) is an accurate description of the archive, it is easily misunderstood. Francis explains:

However, there is one aspect that I think could still be useful to update, reaffirming the ecclesial and cultural aims of the mission of the Archives. This aspect concerns the very name of the institute: Vatican Secret Archive.

Born, as mentioned, from the Bibliotheca secreta del Romano Pontefice, that is, from the part of codes and scriptures more particularly owned and under the direct jurisdiction of the Pope, the Archive was entitled first simply Archivum novum, then Archivum Apostolicum, then Archivum Secretum (the first attestations of the term date back to about 1646).

The term Secretum, which has become the institution’s proper name and which has prevailed in recent centuries, was justified because it indicated that the new Archive, created at the behest of my predecessor Paul V around 1610-1612, was none other than the Pope’s private, separate, reserved archive. This is how all the Popes always intended to define it, and this is how scholars still define it today, without any difficulty. This definition, moreover, was widespread, with similar meaning, in the courts of kings and princes, whose archives were defined indeed as secret.

Read it all.



Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland, having worked for many years in Catholic publishing. He's a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He's active in his parish and community. He is the founding managing editor for Where Peter Is.

Vatican’s Secret Archives aren’t secret anymore!

6 Responses

  1. Jessica says:

    Huh. I genuinely thought there was some kind of actual secrecy involved. Catholicism and its technical terms! I love the precision, but man can it cause problems.

  2. chris dorf says:

    I liked how they described the common name misunderstanding here:

    “Archivium Secretum” — meant solely to mean that the archive was private and separate — had taken on almost sinister implications that the Holy See had secrets to hide.

    Francis cited the Pius XIII opening in explaining his rationale for the name change, while lamenting how the original Latin name “Archivium Secretum” — meant solely to mean that the archive was private and separate — had taken on almost sinister implications that the Holy See had secrets to hide.

    “Thanks to a certain cultural emphases in some places, the word ‘secretum’ having lost its true meaning and instinctively being associated with the modern concept of the word ‘secret,’ assumed the prejudicial acceptance of being hidden, not revealed and reserved for a few,” he wrote.

    “That is completely contrary to what the Vatican Secret Archive always was and intended to be,” he said.

  3. jong says:

    Pope Francis is living a life of transparency, simplicity and humility preaching the Mercy of God not just by words but magnifying it thru his deeds. No wonder he is clothe with the Light of Christ. A True Luminous Pope, a Bishop Dressed in White destined to Consecrate Russia right at the very ground of Fatima.
    There’s is no pope in over 2,000 years in the history of the Church that had been attack in such a great magnitude that it itvolves the very members of the Church from laity, religious, clergy up to prelates not withstanding the common enemies. And mind you, this attack has been daily & global, Lifesite even said they published three articles daily, Dr.Marshall more than 3 videos of attack per week, Michael Voris numerous video attacks on a regular basis since day1, Michael Matt, plus a lot more.
    Can a weak pope survive this kind of magnitude of evil attacks on all fronts worldwide? No!
    Good thing, we have an expanded Petrine Ministry, a contemplative pope offerng his prayers and sacrifices as a shield for Pope Francis is a fortress that is hard to penetrate.
    And so, Pope Francis just calmly said when a reporter ask, where he is finding strength in all of this crisis. Pope Francis said, the “Peace” that was poured upon him upon elected to the papacy never leave him up to this day”.
    The Peace of Christ remains in the humbled heart of Pope Francis and it is shielded by a Great Prayer Warrior in the person of Pope Emeritus BXVI who retain the “munus”.
    These two pious & righteous popes united together in prayer have the presence of Christ in their midst. (Matthew18:19-20)
    Let us not be deceive by the growing noise of the schismatic rigid Rad Trads.
    The Peace of Christ will always be in the True Catholic Church in the midst of storms, Jesus one word can calm it.
    Be still and know that “I AM God”.
    Thank you Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus BXVI for embracing the Church Via Crusis and embracing the Church painful purification for its victory and glorious resurrection. Exodus14:14
    “Ubi Two Petrus, Ibi Ecclesia, Ibi Deus.”

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