Page 1, 18th February 1944

18th February 1944
Page 1
Page 1, 18th February 1944 — Awkward Questions are raised by CASTEL GANDOLFO AND MONTE

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Locations: Rome, Vatican City


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Awkward Questions are raised by CASTEL GANDOLFO AND MONTE

Different principles are involved in the case of Montecassino and that of Castelgandolfo.

Montecassiito is the first monastery of Western Christendom, but it does not enjoy extra-territorial .rights. If such a building is made use of by the enemy for military purposes, it must automatically become the legitimate object of attack. The Vatican had asked that it be spared by both sides.

In its enjoyment of extra-territorial rights Castelgandolfo (whose artistic worth is not comparable) is neutral soil. As such it at present harbours a large number of refugees. For either side to make use of it, or to attack it, is an act as illegal and im• moral as the invasion of Holland or Belgium. TheHoly See has already protested against its being bombed.

The confused series of reports about what is happening, issued from Allied, enemy and Vatican reports, makes it impossible for any final judgment to be made as to the rights and wrongs of what is taking place.

We give below an account collated from the different sources available.


An official broadcast from the Allied headquarters, quoted by Reuters last Saturday, announced that Castelgandolfo, near Rome, where the Pope has a summer residence, must now be considered a battle area.

It is not officially suggested that tly:i Germans have occupied this extraterritorial territory, and the fact that the Vatican has not .protested against any German violation of its neutrality suggests that this has so far been respected by the enemy. On the other hand, our respect for this tiny dot of neutral territory would involve partial protection for enemies sheltering near it, and it is this consideration which has probably prompted the Allied decision.

In Allied air raids the Papal villas have been hit, and the Holy See has formally protested.

The Osservatore Romano reports a raid in these terms: " During a new

air attack, a ,umber of bombs fell for the third time within the grounds of the Pontifical Villa at Castelgandolfo,

-tusirig damage and casualties. We art informed that since this area enjoys the privileges of extra-territoriality, the .Holy See, as on the occasion of the two preceding air attacks, has not failed to express its remonstrance to those concerned.

" Other bombs fell on a property of the Holy Sec, namely, on the College of Propaganda, which is adjacent to the Pontifical Villa. At the moment, by arrangement with His Holiness, it is sheltering many poor, homeless families who have been stripped of all their belongings. Part of the College of Propaganda is built upon an extraterritorial site, and it is just this part that has been completely destroyed— unhappily with many casualties.

" The Holy Father gave orders that every possible help should be sent at once from Vatican City to the stricken people. The incident is all the more

painful in that it is already a matter of general knowledge that the Pontifical Villa and the adjoining properties of the Holy See have become the temporary refuge, by the august arrangements of the Supreme Pontiff, of more than 15,000 people, including women and children."

Vatican radio made this announcement in English:

" The authorities in charge of the Papal village at Castelgandotto wish to make it known that although the evacuation has bcgua of the vast number of refugees received at the village through the kindness ot the Hots Father after the landings of the Allied armies, more than 10,000 still remain there, since it hal'S not yet been possible for them to go elsewhere.

" Consequently any warlike action against the Papal village will net only be an offence against the extra-territorial rights of the village but would also affect thousands of humble, dc, fenceless country people, including women and children...

The German Overseas News Agency reported that over 400 bodies had been removed from the Propaganda College in the grounds of the Pope's summer residence at Castelgandolfo, " Rescue work among the refugees camping in the gardens was hampered by rain and the impossibility of showing lights," it said, " Signor Enrico Pico° Galeazi, Technical Director

General of the Vatican, is in charge of rescue work. Altogether 15,000 People have been affected by the last air raid. Only a few refugees living in tents and huts in the gardens of the Pope's summer residence ivill be allowed to stay on there.

" The Pope wanted to go to Castelgandolfo himself to comfort the vic tims, but his entourage is trying to dissuade him from this journey."


For some days the Allies have been preparing thc world for the bombing of Montecassino. Frequent reports to the effect that the venerable building was being used by the Germans as an observation post and converted into a fortress were given, and during this period the enemy anticipated the Allied decision by reporting that the abbey was already being shelled, even " reduced to a heap of ruins."

Actually no attack was made until Tuesday after warning leaflets had been filed. It was known that the Vatican some time ago asked that this venerable landmark be spared by the belligerents, and the Allied determination to spare allk religious and artistic monuments so long as this was possible was repeated. Roosevelt at his Press Conference on Tuesday read out the Allied undertakings in this respect.

Finally the Allied decision was taken, and on Tuesday morning waves of bombers attacked the monastery every twenty minutes. There was not one burst of anti-aircraft fire, accord ing to Reuter's correspondent. The destruction finally effected was described by one correspondent as follows:

, "The abbey's whole outline seemed changed. The west wall had simply collapsed bodily. It was not merely that it had gone. The whole side of the monastery along a length of about 120 yards had fun' caved in.

" What remained of the roof had gone. Framed in a new and immense fissure I could see the barren conical summit of the hill. '

" Whatever there was of treasure left by the Germans in the library or In the cellars of the monastery must now have bee:: destroyeq."

In the reports there is no mention of any defence of the monastery against the attack and the Germans vigorously deny that, they had occupied it. The German report is as follows: " The oldest monastery of the West, the original seat of the Benedictine Order, built in 529 A.D., has been destroyed by British bombs. The British and American Governments had been officially informed that there were neither German gun emplacements nor German artillery observers in the monastery."

ft is possible in view of the fact that the monastery does not appear to have been defended that the Germans were bluffing. They may have pretended to occupy it so as to draw our fire and bombs and then tell the world of our vandalism.

The library and other treasures had apparently been removed to the Vatican some weeks ago by the commander of the Hermann Goering Division.

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