Pius XI falsely labelled 'Hitler's Pope'

Emma Fattorini Polity, Hitler, Mussolini and the Vatican: Pope Pius XI and the Speech that Was Never Made

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This is an English translation of a book that was first published in Italian four years ago, which aroused considerable controversy in the author's native Italy.

The reasons for the controversy are plain. Emma Fattorini has used new documentation from the Vatican Secret Archive, with the "Pacelli notebooks" being a notable discovery. Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, was from 1930 his predecessor's secretary of state and key framer of initiatives such as the concordat signed with Nazi Germany in June 1933.

Along with what might be telling new evidence, then, is the possibility of identifying villains and heroes. Pacelli, after all, is sometimes damned as "Hitler's Pope". By contrast, Fattorini argues that, from 1936 at least, Pius XI became increasingly determined to set the Church in open opposition to Hitler and his regime.

In 1938 and the early days of 1939, the Pope was allegedly even contemplating a drastic break with Mussolini's Italian dictatorship, despite having signed a major agreement with the regime on 11 February 1929.

On November 6, 1938, the dying Pope would broadcast in a trembling voice his conclusion that "anti-Semitism is inadmissible. Spiritually we are all Semites", thereby simultaneously affirming Catholic objection to the practice of Nazi racism and to Italy's own recent adoption of legislation depriving the country's Jews of full citizenship.

Over Christmas and into the New Year, with the 10th anniversary of the Lateran Pacts approaching and Pius XI struggling to live until then, he prepared a still stronger statement, "the speech that was never made" of the book's title.

As late as 1938, Pius XI, an authoritarian to his bootstraps, had endorsed totalitarianism, so long as all understood that "the totalitarian nature of the Church must prevail in its battle with the (lay) totalitarianisms with which it came into conflict".

But, on his deathbed ever more pessimistic and alarmed even if he was assuredly no democrat, could he have intended to launch his Church into battle with the Axis and thereby save the world from the coming greater war (whose depredations he may have foreseen)?

There is plenty of interest here. Yet somehow the book does not really work. Fattorini and others have had some difficulty reconstructing what he was trying to say.

The pontificate of Pius XI badly needs scholarly analysis (as does that of Pius XII, especially after 1945). But Fattorini's book is only a sketch of what should be done at greater length and profundity - and without resorting to a sales pitch that suggests that a melodrama that the young Verdi might have put to music was, in 1938-39, playing out in Rome.

FULL ARTICLE:

Hitler, Mussolini and the Vatican: Pope Pius XI and the Speech that Was Never Made (Times Higher Education Supplement)

LINKS:

Emma Fattorini (Wikipedia, Italian)

Emma Fattorini: “Mit brennender Sorge”, the cry of Pius XI (ResetDOC)


Click here for a 20% discount on this and other books from Church Resources and John Garrett Publishing

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