Owing to misinterpretations of the Holy Father's action in visiting the bombed area of Rome and in writing to the Cardinal-Vicar, the Vatican Radio, broadcasting to many countries, has given full explanations of the whole position.
The Pope's impartiality and neutrality are emphasised, and it is made clear that the bombing of Rome was regarded as a culmination of a trend about the ultimate consequences of which the Pope has constantly warned the nations, notably about the time when England was the victim of aerial attach.
Though the Holy Father's letter (which reached us too late for publication last week) was widely publicised in the national press, its full text will be found on page 6.
A leading article on the letter appears on page 4.
Broadcasting last Saturday, the Vatican Radio analysed in the following terms the actions of the Pope in regard to the raid on Rome and the letter to the Cardinal-Vicar. In the last few days a D.N.B. (German news agency) statement appeared in the press, according to which the Holy Father had already sent a gersonal protest to President Roosevelt after the attack on Rome, and that, in addition, the American Charge d'Affaires to the Holy See, Mr. Tatman, had been invited to a discussion by the State Secretariat on the evening of July 19, and on the day on which the attack took place. In this connection, we state that both assertions have no foundation in fact whatsoever. It will be valuable, said the speaker, to emphasise clearly what the Holy Father has done in connection with the bombing of Rome, since so many rumours have been spread. The Holy Father did two things: He visited the bombed districts and he wrote a letter to the Vicar-General of Rome.
Firstly: the visit to the scene of the raid.
In the late afternoon of July 19, from 5.30 to 7.30, the Holy Father visited the bombed districts of his episcopal town. Only Mgr. Montini, Under-State Secretary in the Vatican State Secretariat, accompanied him. In his car, the Holy Father drove from the Porta Maggiore through the badly stricken districts of the town where he solaced with his fatherly word the gathering crowd of the stricken, fortified them by his blessing and distributed very considerable sums for the alleviation of immediate distress. The Holy Fathes was made the object of moving, indeed of heartrending, demonstrations. When he had reached the Basilica San Lorenzo, which has been destroyed by bombs, he prayed kneeling on the street with the crowd, the De Pm/midis and other prayers. Prayers were offered for those kilted, injured and rendered homeless by this attack as well as for all those who suffered or were killed by air raids in the course of this war. After the prayers, the Holy Father addressed a few words of comfort to the very numerous crowd surrounding him. He drove back to the Vatican again through the damaged quarters.
On his return, the Holy Father sent all means of transport, such as cars and so on, available in the Vatican City to the stricken districts to transfer the injured and homeless. In addition, he sent a large sum of money to the Presbytery of San Lorenzo, as well as large quantities of bread and milk to alleviate wants of the stricken people. All this is within the framework of the Caritas activity carried out by the Pope as Father and Shepherd of his diocese.
Secondly: The letter to the VicarGeneral.
The Holy Father has addressed a letter to the Vicar-General of Rome, dated July 20. This letter was published in the organ of the neutral and independent Vatican City, in the Osservatore Romano. Foreign news agencies took the text of the letter therefrom ; it is obvious that the Italian agencies, for example, Stefani, are included among the foreign news agencies.
The following must he said regarding the letter written by the Holy Father: The Holy Father explains in this letter how deeply he recommended to all belligerents, fighting on whatever side, from the beginning of the conflict, the safety of peaceful citizens and of the religious and cultural monuments. This letter is by no means the first document of its kind; in the messages of the Holy Father since the outbreak of war, we find again and again admonitions to this effect which are impartially directed to all, for reasons of humanity, civilisation and Christian love. We point particularly to the Easter message of Pius XII, in 1941, at a time when the air raids on England were in the forefront of the war.
2 in this letter, the Holy Father states all the reasons which he submitted to responsible circles, and that means to responsible circles on both sides, in order to effect the inviolability of Rome. This passage in the letter gives a hint of the efforts made by the Holy Father to declare Rome an open city.
3In this letter, the Holy Father an
t" flounced the fact of the destruction of the Basilica of San Loienzo Fuori Musa, but he did this in an objective manner. He did not say that the Basilica was completely destroyed, as was stated in newspapers. Nor did he say that the greatest part of the Basilica was destroyed—in piu grand parte; what he said was that a very great part—in grandissima par(e—was destroyed,
In fact, the front part of the Basilica, which is composed of two churches, is nearly completely destroyed. The high altar has suffered serious damage. The ancient part, situated behind, is, however, apart from the effect of some shell splinters. essentially intact, as are the Crypt and the grave of Pius IX.
Therefore the Holy Father has not exaggerated; apart from other reasons, it was his right to mention the fact, since this Basilica was a possession of the neutral Vatican State. Every neutral State raises its voice when its territory is crossed by aircraft, attacked or violated. Moreover, this Basilica, one of the seven main and pilgrimage churches of Rome, belongs in one sense to the Catholics of the whole world.
The Holy Father is very willing to believe that the bombs welt not intentionally dropped on the Basilica. He says expressly in his letter that this painful event had proved what he had always warned against, namely, that it was virtually impossible to avoid on this sacred soil of Rome the devastation of revered buildings, even if precautionary measures were taken. That the Holy Father does not mention the military objectives attacked should not cause