With this “Motu propio,” a personal initiative of the pope, Pope Francis has changed the name of the Vatican Secret Archives.
He explains that the word “secret” was a Latin translation of the word “segretum;” a “private” or “reserved” archive for the pope.
However, the expression “secret archive” has taken on a negative tone, as if it was hidden material meant to defend its own interests.
For this reason, it will now be called “Vatican Apostolic Archive.”
The “Vatican Apostolic Archive” is within the walls of Vatican City.
It was officially opened on Jan. 31, 1612.
Six years ago, on its 400th anniversary, there was an exhibit of some of the documents that are kept on the 52 miles of its shelves.
For example, Clement V’s Chinon Parchment to the Templars in August of 1308, the acts of the trial against Galileo, and Enrique VIII’s application for marriage annullment were on display.
In March, documents from the pontificate of Pius XII will also be available.
The archive can be consulted free of charge, but are only available to researchers or historians who request access.
A Motu Proprio in the Collection from Pope Alexander VIII
The artifact is an example of a motu proprio, (a Latin term, meaning, “on his own impulse”), a document issued by the Pope, or by a monarch on his own initiative and personally signed by him.
When issued by the Pope a motu proprio may be addressed to the whole Church, to part of it, or to some individuals. This particular letter is known as a fiat motu proprio. This designation is clearly visible in the upper portion of the letter.
A papal fiat designates a written document granting permission to a diocese or a religious order or an individual for whatever is being requested. The Holy Father writes in his own hand, Fiat et Petut, meaning “Let it be done according to Peter.” The first initial of the pope is the most common form of signature on a papal fiat.
What contributes to the rarity of the artifact is the short duration of his pontificate, which lasted less than two years.
Pope Alexander VIII was elected October 8, 1689, and this papal fiat was written just a month later.