Angels or aliens? Some researchers say Vatican archives hold UFO secrets

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The Vatican Apostolic Archives, pictured in this Feb. 27, 2020, file photo, houses over 50 miles of papal letters, presidential missives and historical records. Some researchers speculate that they may also contain evidence of non-human intelligence, disguised as accounts of miracles. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A group of scientists and researchers are seeking access to the Vatican Apostolic Archives to uncover information about UFOs and the paranormal, believing there may be traces amid the 50 miles of shelves holding everything from handwritten papal notes to presidential missives.

The decades-long effort gained momentum in 2023 following former U.S. intelligence official David Grusch’s congressional testimony alleging the Vatican’s involvement in an international cover-up of alien secrets. Grusch claimed Pope Pius XII “backchanneled” information to the United States about a crashed UFO recovered by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Vatican’s response to UFO inquiries

“I don’t know where (Grusch) got this information,” Marco Grilli, secretary to the prefect of the archives, told Catholic News Service June 11.

Grilli said the archives had received emails inquiring about the veracity of Grusch’s claims but likened them to requests to read the personal letters of Pontius Pilate or the Virgin Mary.

“One can laugh at it,” he said.

However, findings like those reported in Diana Walsh Pasulka’s 2019 book “American Cosmic” suggest to UFO believers that the archives hold more than meets the eye.

Paranormal events in the Vatican’s archives

Pasulka, a religious studies professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, said the archives are full of reports about paranormal events, such as nuns witnessing orbs entering their cells, flying houses and other aerial phenomena. She argues that these events might be better understood as UFO-type occurrences rather than miracles as Catholics traditionally understand them.

“The historical record is filled with these kinds of events,” she told CNS May 30; “the people at the Vatican, they don’t even know where to look; it’s in their basements.”

The Vatican’s archivists are in a “mad rush to digitize what they have; they have to prioritize what they think is most important,” she explained. “They aren’t really prioritizing orbs that are bothering nuns in the 1800s.”

Scientific interest in the archives

The interest in the Vatican’s holdings extends beyond the realm of scholars of religion. Scientists like Garry Nolan, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, view the Vatican archives as a potential treasure trove for understanding UFOs.

“The Vatican is probably the oldest library system of paranormal or supernatural knowledge still extant,” Nolan said. The archive “has an aura of both mysticism and a feeling of deep truth that if you just know how to read it, you can pull that information out.”

Nolan believes that if an advanced species is showing up on earth, it means it might be possible for humans to survive threats like climate change, the energy crisis and war.

Garry Nolan, a professor of medicine at Stanford University in California, is pictured in this undated photo. He views the Vatican Apostolic Archives as a potential treasure trove for understanding UFOs. (CNS photo/courtesy Garry Nolan)

“The very fact that we think we see something, to me, is hope,” Nolan said of UFO sightings. “It says something has made it past the cliff, past the decision point that we feel we are on the edge of right now.”

Interfaith dialogue and UFOs

Nolan co-founded the Sol Foundation in 2023 to spearhead scientific research into UFOs — now called UAPs or unidentified anomalous phenomena — and to initiate dialogue with religious institutions like the Vatican about the spiritual implications of discovering alien life.

The foundation is confident that at least some UFOs are genuine vehicles of non-human origin. Consequently, one of its primary objectives has been to initiate an interfaith dialogue to assess the potential impact on world religions.

Because the Vatican “facilitates interfaith dialogue and engages religious pluralism, it’s always been in our mind that it’s an entity we want to engage,” Peter Skafish, the foundation’s director, told CNS.

Historical roots of paranormal research

Interest among non-Catholic researchers in uncovering paranormal secrets in the Vatican has spanned decades and has roots in a culturally influential retreat center in California.

U.S. Father Francis Tiso poses for a photo in his home in Isernia, Italy, in this file photo from Dec. 5, 2022. Father Tiso recalls speaking to the co-founder of the Esalen Institute, a retreat center in California known for its progressive and countercultural influence, about a plan to access the Vatican archives to search for information on UFOs over two decades ago. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan)

Father Francis Tiso, an expert on interreligious dialogue, said he discussed a plan to conduct paranormal research in the Vatican archives with the founder of the Esalen Institute over 20 years ago.

Esalen is a retreat center in California known for its progressive and countercultural influence, particularly during the 1960s and 70s. It continues to play a significant cultural role in the United States by attracting Silicon Valley technologists, spiritual leaders and innovators to explore new ideas in psychology, spirituality and personal growth.

Father Tiso said that Michael Murphy, Esalen’s co-founder, told him that someone should go to the Vatican archives, “do research, examine the documentation and try to classify it in ways that would be accessible to the scientific community.”

Studying miracles attributed to the intercession of saints as possible paranormal activity, Father Tiso said, could help “build another bridge in the direction of paranormal phenomena connected with the idea of (the UFO) narrative, that somehow we human beings are in some way in contact with other civilizations, other conscious beings in the universe.”

Catholic miracles and UFO phenomena

Jeffrey Kripal, a member of the board at Esalen and professor of religion at Rice University in Houston, said the stories of Catholic miracles are of interest to UFO researchers because telepathic communication, levitation and other paranormal events often coincide with “close encounters.”

“The whole gamut of religious phenomena appears in the abduction or the encounter experience,” Kripal said.

Carlos Eire, a professor of history at Yale University, has studied the types of miracles that captivate researchers like Pasulka and Nolan. He published his findings in the 2023 book, “They Flew: A History of the Impossible.”

Levitations, UFOs and miracles are all on the “spectrum of, let’s call it the impossible; things that are considered impossible or highly unlikely,” he said.

The Vatican archives have a high value for paranormal researchers, he said, especially because, since the Renaissance, the church has applied more rigor to alleged miracles by requiring witnesses to swear oaths that they are not lying.

While the staff at the Vatican archives acknowledge that their vast shelves contain accounts of miracles, they deny that any of their holdings pertain to aliens.

“The prefect wants to affirm that there is no document in the archives that regards extraterrestrial life,” and scholars seeking such material at the Vatican should be “dissuaded from undertaking futile and unproductive attempts in this Apostolic Archive,” Grilli said.

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has reported from the Vatican since the founding of its Rome bureau in 1950.