Vatican to help research on Inquisition

VATICAN CITY — Church, academic and cultural experts will work together to gather documentation on religious and civil trials for witchcraft, heresy and other crimes against the faith during the Inquisition, the Vatican said Tuesday.

Officials from the Vatican, the Italian Culture Ministry and the Center for Research on the Inquisition at the University of Studies of Trieste signed a collaboration agreement.

Earlier this year the Vatican presented researchers’ findings that victims of torture and burning at the stake during the Inquisition were far fewer than widely thought.

Pope John Paul II has noted that the Catholic Church has asked pardon for “errors” committed during the Inquisition, while noting there is need to find out how much popular impressions of the period are rooted in reality.

Starting in the Middle Ages, the Inquisition was a systematic crackdown by church officials intent on defending doctrinal orthodoxy. Catholics suspected of being heretics, witches or others considered of dubious faith, including Muslims and Jews who had converted to Catholicism, were among the targets.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the latest research project would cover material in church, state and private archives and libraries in Italy and abroad.

“Such a vast operation, never before attempted, is of great importance in responding to new orientations in international research on the control of religious ideas in medieval and modern Europe,” Navarro-Valls said.

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