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

Some scientists believe the Vatican's historic archives might hold key insights into "unidentified anomalous phenomena" and paranormal activity. Their efforts highlight an intersection of historical records, religious studies and scientific inquiry into the unexplained.

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

The Twin Jet Nebula is seen in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image taken Aug. 26, 2015. (CNS photo/ESA/Hubble & NASA)

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. 

A screen grab shows former U.S. intelligence official David Grusch giving sworn testimony before Congress in this file photo from July 26, 2023. (CNS photo/House Committee on Oversight and Accountability)

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.

"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. 

Diana Walsh Pasulka, author of the 2019 book "American Cosmic," and a religious studies professor, is seen working in a library in this undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Diana Walsh Pasulka)

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. 

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." 

vatican archives
The Vatican Apostolic Archives, pictured in this Feb. 27, 2020, file photo, houses over 50 miles of papal letters, presidential missives and historical records. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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."

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
Garry Nolan, a professor of medicine at Stanford University in California, is pictured in this undated photo. (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." 

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.

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. 

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
U.S. Father Francis Tiso poses for a photo in his home in Isernia, Italy, in this file photo from Dec. 5, 2022. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan)

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."

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.



With its Rome bureau founded in 1950, Catholic News Service has been providing complete, in-depth coverage of the popes and the Vatican for more than 70 years.  CNS Rome continues to be your fair, faithful and informed connection to the Holy See.