Hitler, Mussolini and the Vatican: Pope Pius XI and the Speech That was Never Made
September 2011, Polity
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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This moment captures the spirit of Emma Fattorini's book, a work that employs newly available and unpublished documentation from the Vatican Secret Archive to rewrite a fundamental page of 20th history.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.