The records tell the story of the Archdiocese of Southwark and its mission.
They include the papers of the bishops/ archbishops; material relating to finance, property and education; chancery records; files on religious houses and seminaries; parish files; deanery records; information on Southwark clergy; and records on St George’s Cathedral.
There is also a collection of early printed books, predominantly works of theology and church history, and complete series of Southwark Diocese publications such as The Southwark Record and the Southwark Catholic Directory.
Our collections also tell the story of the wider community, as the Diocese concerned itself with many national and international issues of the day.
Aims of the Diocesan Archive
The Diocesan Archive aims to give glory to God through its work, specifically aiming:
- To be a custodian of the collective memory and identity of the Diocese.
- To identify, gather, preserve and make available records which build a comprehensive picture and tell the story of the Southwark Archdiocese over time.
- To show the continuity of the work of the Diocese and its place in the uninterrupted work of the Church throughout the centuries.
- To support the current work of the Diocese and be a useful resource for its personnel, administration, parishes and agencies.
- To advise and assist diocesan staff with good record-keeping practices.
- To be a resource for both diocesan personnel and external researchers who wish to study aspects of the story of the Diocese and the wider community.
- To ensure access to diocesan history is as straightforward as possible, e.g. the digitisation of the historical parish registers.
- To help the Diocese to be open and to be accountable to its personnel, parishioners and the wider community, allowing an objective investigation of facts.
Role of archives and good record keeping in the Mission of the Church
The Catholic Church recognises the importance of archives to the mission of the Church. This is reflected in Canon Law and also in a circular letter issued by the Vatican.
The Pastoral Function of Church Archives
This circular letter, issued by the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church, is an important statement by the Vatican on the importance of archives to the Church and its mission. The message stressed throughout the letter that Church archives have particular value for evangelisation
The full letter can be read here: The Pastoral Function of Church Archives
Canon 486 §1: “All documents which regard the Diocese or parishes must be protected with the greatest care.”
Canon 486 §2: “In every curia there is to be erected in a safe place a diocesan archive, or record storage area, in which instruments and written documents which pertain to the spiritual and temporal affairs of the diocese are to be safeguarded after being properly filled and diligently secured.”
Can. 491 §1: “A diocesan bishop is also to take care that there is an historical archive in the diocese and that documents having historical value are diligently protected and systematically ordered in it.”
Canon 535 §4: “In each parish there is to be an archive, in which the parochial books are to be kept, together with episcopal letters and other documents which it may be necessary or useful to preserve.”
“In the mind of the Church, archives are places of memory of the Christian community and storehouses of culture for the new evangelization. Thus they themselves are a cultural good of primary importance whose special merit lies in recording the path followed by the Church through the centuries in the various contexts which constitute her very structure. As places of memory archives must systematically gather all the data making up the articulated history of the Church community so that what has been done, the results obtained, including omissions and errors, may be properly evaluated.”
- Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church