Vatican Secret Archives: 6 of the most intriguing documents in church history

One hundred documents held in the Vatican’s Secret Archives are now on display in Rome for the first time. Read our list here of six standouts.

Documents from Galileo's heresy trial

Daniele Fregonese-Vatican Secret Archives/Reuters
Proceedings of the trial of Galileo Galilei are seen in this undated photo.

The exhibition will feature documents from the 17th century trial of Galileo Galilei, whose theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun was regarded as heresy by the Catholic church. 

One of the documents bears the signature of the astronomer, who was hauled in front of the Inquisition in 1633 and was convicted of “grave suspicion of heresy.”

Galileo, who lived from 1564 to 1642, spent the last nine years of his life under house arrest. He avoided being burnt at the stake by agreeing to recant his view that the sun, not the earth, was at the center of the universe. Still, the Vatican banned his books. The Roman Catholic church only formally admitted its "error" in condemning Galileo's assertions in 1992.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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