By BRUCE JOHNSTON IN ROME IN JANUARY 1944 the Nazis planned to send a team of agents disguised as Italian officers to the Vatican, in order to kill the Pope and the Curia, according to a publication by Milan's University of the Sacred Heart.
The revelation is contained in a hitherto unseen letter which belonged to a priest who had been • active in the Resistance in Lombardy, Padre Enrico Assi.
The letter, which has been discovered in the historical archives of the Milan Diocese, was dated 26 September 1944, and written by a provincial Fascist Party secretary in Como, Paolo Porta, to his opposite number in Milan, Vincenzo Costa, and marked "top secret".
In it, Porta — who with other Fascist officials was later shot dead by partisans on 28 April 1945 in Dongo — provides the sole evidence of a plot to invade the Vatican and kidnap the Pope, which many diplomats and SS officers alluded to after the war.
According to Professor Anna Lisa Carlotti, who has published the letter in the Annals of Modem and Contemporary History of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, the plot was known as "Rabat-Fohn".
Personally requested by Hitler, and studied by Himmler in December 1943, it was passed to Genera! Heinrich Mueller, the head of the Gestapo, to be carried out, and called for the assassination of Pius XII and many of his cardinals.
In his letter, the Fascist Porta writes that he has heard wind from a high-ranking officer in the SS that German elements of the Florian Geyer 8th Cavalry Division were to dress in Italian uniforms and with Italian arms were to have besieged the Vatican.
Pretending to be partisans hoping to liberate the Pope, they were instead to have massacred the clergy found inside the Vatican walls. German soldiers were to have then killed all the bogus Italians, and — if the Pope had not been killed — "rescue" him and take him to Germany for his "own safety".
In his letter, Porta, who said he could not be sure the plan had not been shelved, wrote of the reasons for Hitler's anger towards Pius XII: it was, he said, over "the pontifical protest in favour of the Israelites".
TARGET: Pius XII, right