Page 1, 24th March 1944

24th March 1944
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Organisations: His Majesty's Government
Locations: Berlin, Rome, Warsaw, London, Halifax, Paris


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The Catholic Herald has in its hands the only copy in England of The Vatican and the War, newly published American book by Camille Cianfarra, Rome Correspondent of the New York Times from 1935 to 1942.

The story contains a great deal of hitherto undisclosed inside information about the diplomatic activities of the Holy See before and during the war.

Three stages in the Vatican's efforts to prevent war, between May and September, 1939, are described.

Interesting revelations in the war period include the Vatican's reaction to the German-Italian " peace offensives" in the first winter, the Pope's first effort to preserve Rome from bombing and Mr. Churchill's reply, the Holy See's answer to the " Anti-Bolshevik Crusade" campaign and the reasons for Vatican-Japanese relations.

Intermingled with such important matters are many homely details about Papal and Vatican life, and there is much to suggest that the writer knows throughout what he is talking about and is anxious to avoid sensationalism.

By a Staff Repot-lc, I have in my hands the only copy that has so far reached England of The Vatican and the War, by Camille Cianfarra, New York Tunes Rome correspondent flout 1935 to 1942.

Unlike some other reporters of Vatican affairs, Cianfarra writes as one who thoroughly understands the spiritual and diplomatic attitude of the Holy See, and be has evidently enjoyed exceptional opportunities of setting at facts that have so far been hidden or only hinted at.

He can reveal such intimate touches of the Papal life as that Ilia Holiness shaves with an electric razor bought on his American tow, and the following amusing stor)': After Ribbentrop had visited the Pope during the

Peace offensive" of March, 1940, the Pope is stated to have said to Cardinal Maglione, " I have spoken to him (Ribbentrop) out of the depth of my heart. Let us hope that God may on his eyes." " Let us hope that He may cloie them!" retorted the Cardinal.


But much the most important part of the book concerns the up-till-now undisclosed background of the Pope's efforts to maintain peace before the war and to restore peace during the war. Pius Xll's efforts to prevent the outbreak of the war fall into three atages. The first stage was in May, 1939, after the fall of Litviooff.

The Vatican was made aware, as others were not, that this move foreshadowed the signing of the GermanSoviet pact of August. On the basis especially of the report of the Papal Nuncio in Berlin, die Pope decided to take sbecial measures to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

" Instructions," so Cianfarra reports the Papal orders, " must be sent to the Papal representatives in Berlin, Warsaw, Paris, London and Rome to see the political leadeis in the countries where they were accredited and convey Pius' personal appeal to abstain from rash decisions that might lead to wal." The Papal notes were sent, and by May 9 the Vatican had received the replies. " The five Governments .unanimously stressed that none of them wanted war."

Encouraged by this, Pius XII sought specifically to bring about an understanding between Germany and Poland on the one side and between Italy and France on the other. The respective Nuncios were instructed in this sense. Answers were to the following effect: France would not discuss Italian claims to French tenitory. Warsaw would not discuss the Danzig question. London Mid lost faith in Hitler. Hitler was preparing " his own solution."

Italy alone was favourable as she had more to gain than lose from negotiations.


Though the Papal efforts Persisted, nothing concrete came of them and " at the end of June the Vatican whew that it was fighting a losing battle."

The second stage was after the signing of the Soviet-German pact. The Pope decided to make a public appeal to the peoples of Europe. Summoning the editor of the Osservatore Romano, he told him to announce a broadcast for the evening of August 24. At the same time he arranged for appointments with the British, French, Polish and Italian Ambassadors, as well as to recall Cardinal Maglione, who was on

holiday. The Pope's appeal elicited sympathetic comments from Britain, France and Belgium. Germany, Poland and Italy ignored it.

The last stage was August 31, when the Pope addressed notes to Germany, Poland, England, France and Italy suggesting a fifteen days' truce during which Germany and Poland would pledge themselves to do nothing that would feed the war-like auflosphere fomented by the press carnpligns and the military measuies. During the truce, the Pope hoped the big Powers as well as representatives from some smaller Powers could confer in order to study a peaceful revision of Versailles preliminary to the conclusions of a collective, non-aggression pact which would place European peace on a permanent basis,


" Hitler and Bock received the document before noon," states Cianfarra. " The same day Halifax instructed Neville Henderson to see Ribbentrop and explain that ' His Majesty's Government wishes to support the Papal appeal with all the seriousness at His command.' A similar step was made by Sir Howard ICennard, the British Ambassador in Warsaw. Buot it was too late."

" six a.m. on September 1 Orsenigo in Berlin telephoned directly to Maglione in the Vatican Ii, tell hint that Nazi troops had invaded Poland. front four points fifteen minutes before. Maglione, in turn, telephoned the Pope at Castel Gandolfo. Members of the Papal household saw the Pontiff go to his private chapel and kneel in prayer. tears streamed from his eyes and his body was shaken by sobs."

Cianfarra then Uaces the Papal diplomatic activities that, in one form or another, were practically continuous after the outbreak of war.

Italy sought to obtain the Vatican's ald to promote the first " Peace offensive" after the fall of Poland. Though the Osservatore Romano reprinted an article from Mussolini's paper urging England and France to accept a compromise peace on the basis of a new and smaller Poland, the Pope himself, in notes addressed to England and France, " limited himself to expressing his desire to see peace re-established in Europe and counselled Britain and France to seize any opportunity that might achieve that objective and spare the world much graver ills." The two countries replied in the negative on the basis of their inability to break theii agreement with Poland.


Though Cianfarra recognises and describes at length the tension between the Holy See and both Germany and Italy before the war, he recognises the improvements of relations between the Vatican and Mussolini during the first winter of war. This improvement seemed to be sealed by the Italian anti-Bolshevist campaign which reached its height during the Finnish-Soviet war. At this time both the Pope and the Vatican journal used their clearest and strongest language in denouncing

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