A Belgian at the heart of the Vatican


Johan Ickx, originally from Antwerp, is one of the greatest experts on the Vatican archives and plays a leading role at the Holy See.

Johan Ickx was born in Antwerp in 1962. He is the director of the historical archive of the Section for Relations with States of the Holy See's Secretariat of State. He is at the head of the archives of the Vatican's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is the first time a layman has held such an important position at the Vatican.

How did a Belgian come to hold such a position? One reason is his university studies. Johan Ickx studied philosophy, theology and religious sciences at KU Leuven. He continued his studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and obtained a PhD. He wrote his thesis on the condemnation of the professors of the University of Louvain by the Holy See in the 19th century. He was hired as an archivist by the Vatican in 2000. Over the years he rose to the head of the archives - the first time a layman had held the position. In addition to being an archivist, he is a historian and a writer. He best is known for his book "The 'Great War' and the Vatican".

The role Johan Ickx plays has never been so important. Pope Francis has decided to open the "secret archives" which cover the controversial period of Pope Pius XII's papacy to historians. The section of the archives the Belgian is responsible for has digitised and inventoried 1.3 million documents in order to facilitate the work of researchers.