The Vatican against Nazism and Fascism on the eve of the Second World War. A tired pope watching the crisis unfold and considering what action to take against the new enemies of Christianity.
Pius XI died on February 10th, 1939, just after finishing the address he hoped to deliver to the Italian bishops on the tenth anniversary of the Lateran Pact. That text dealt harshly with Nazism and Fascism and was written in solitude. It was a discourse that Mussolini feared and that the pope did not survive to deliver.
This moment captures the spirit of Emma Fattorini's book, a work that employs newly available and unpublished documentation from the Vatican Secret Archive to rewrite a fundamental page of 20th history. Pius XI came to view the 1930s as a ‘conflict of civilizations,' a crisis which could only be resolved by a return to the Christian roots of the West. He was a pope who strongly defended the Jews because, in contrast to other elements in the Catholic hierarchy, he held the theological conviction that Jews and Christians shared a common origin: ‘spiritually we are all Semites.' So wrote Pius XI in the last years of his life as he contemplated the direction in which the world was headed and came to the conclusion that Nazi and Fascist totalitarianism could be stopped by the Vatican.
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"Now the most comprehensive work on the Vatican’s relations with states and national churches in western and central Europe in the 1930s."
European History Quarterly
"A revealing insight into European politics in the 1930s, and the first scholarly attempt to look at the Church's relationship with Fascism and the Nazis during that period."
Birmingham Jewish Recorder
"A crucial new perspective on the relationship between the Vatican, Mussolini's Fascism, and National Socialism. The tendency to focus exclusively on Eugenio Pacelli, the future wartime pope Pius XII, has obscured the troubled papacy of Pius X1 between 1922 and 1939. Professor Fattorini's narrative, in the light of the recent release of Vatican documents of the period, is sure to breathe new life into this controversial era of Church-state relations on the brink of world war."
John Cornwell, University of Cambridge
"Emma Fattorini's remarkable work extends our understanding of how the leadership of the Catholic Church grappled with fascism and Nazism. She does so by drawing on riveting documentation recently released from the Vatican Secret Archive and by focusing on the relatively overlooked pontificate of Pius XI. "
Michael R. Marrus, University of Toronto
"Fattorini's objective and scholarly volume helps to demolish the long-prevailing belief that Pius XI and his secretary of state Eugenio Pacelli - later his successor as Pius XII - concurred in the policy to pursue towards fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. She demonstrates, on the basis of solid documentation, that, while Pius XI increasingly perceived the need for confrontation with these regimes after 1936, Pacelli preferred conciliation and impartiality - policies he pursued during World War II and the Holocaust."
Frank Coppa, St John's University
"Emma Fattorini has produced an important work on the activities of the Vatican in the years leading up to World War II. She portrays a pope whose spirituality, rather than political views, led him increasingly to speak out against Nazism. Her book adds to a slowly increasing body of literature which illustrates that, while the Vatican may have been slow in speaking out about the persecution of the Jews, no one in the secretariat of state harbored any sympathy for Hitler."
Gerald Fogarty, University of Virginia