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Sunday, January 11, 1998 Published at 00:05 GMT

World: Europe

Secret Vatican files to be opened
image: [ The Vatican - extending the number of its files available to historians ]
The Vatican - extending the number of its files available to historians

Historians are to be allowed to view secret Vatican files relating to the Inquisition.

Some of the files dating back 400 years relate to book banning and heresy cases in the Inquisition, the Catholic church's battle against Protestant Reformation.

A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said the documents would extend the amount of Vatican archive material already available for research.

The files being opened up run to 1902 and belong to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office.

[ image: Galileo - condemned for heresy]
Galileo - condemned for heresy
It was the Holy Office that was responsible for deciding which books should be forbidden reading and who was guilty of heresy.

The Inquisition mainly concerned the challenges of Protestantism but one of its most famous cases concerned the Italian scientist Galileo Galilei.

An Inquisition court condemned Galileo in 1633 for contending the Earth was not the centre of the universe, as Church teaching then held.

[ image: Pope John Paul II]
Pope John Paul II
He was accused of heresy and forced to renounce his astronomical beliefs.

In 1992, after 13 years of study by the Vatican, Pope John Paul II declared that the Church was wrong to condemn the astronomer.

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