Mussolini’s Fascist Regime and the Catholic Church

Popes Pius XI and Pius XII attempt to ensure the Catholic Church can thrive under a brutal Fascist regime.

How can so many church goers blindly support Trump although Trump is the antithesis of Christianity?  Many Christians who feel alone in their opposition find hope in this editorial of the leading magazine Christianity Today:
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/december-web-only/trump-should-be-removed-from-office.html

To gain insight we can ask ourselves: Why did Catholics support the totalitarian regime of Mussolini?  How were the Pope and the Catholic Church compromised by their partnership with Mussolini?  Later I will write a blog on comparing the relationships between the Christian churches and the Fascist dictators in the World War II era with the relationship between the Christian churches and  Trump today, but first we want to understand past history in its own context.

The Catholics of Italy were more fortunate than the Christians of Germany during the dark days of Fascism and Nazism.  Although Mussolini’s totalitarian regime was brutal, and although Mussolini was not a practicing Catholic himself, he did cooperate with the Pope and the Catholic Church.  Mussolini did not enact Nazi style anti-Semitic race laws until he fell under the spell of Hitler after 1938.  Until then, the Catholics in the pews were not morally forced to choose between obeying the church and the state.  There was not widespread support for the German Nazi roundup of the Jews, sending them to the death camps, after the Germans seized control of Italy in the final years of World War II.

Mussolini’s regime was the first to label itself as fascist, borrowing from the symbolism of the ancient Roman Empire.  In Italian fascio means a bundle of sticks.  Individual sticks are easily breakable, but when you bind up a bundle in a regime, together they cannot break, symbolizing the strength of a totalitarian state.  We mostly remember the Hitler who conquered much of Europe, most people do not realize that originally Hitler was inspired in his rise to power by Mussolini’s example, and that Mussolini had been the Duce in Italy for over a decade when, inspired by the Duce’s example, Hitler became the Fuhrer in Germany.  Although Italy, like all of Europe, had antisemitism embedded into its culture, early fascists were not virulently anti-Semites, and some early fascists were Jews.

Although all fascist regimes were all far-right wing, conservative, nationalistic, totalitarian regimes, fascism is expressed differently depending on the country.  In Fascist Italy, Vichy France, and Spain, the fascist regime actively supported the Catholic Church, where the more extreme Nazi Fascism in Germany actively persecuted both Catholics and Protestants after a very brief honeymoon.  If you want to distinguish mainline Fascists from the more brutal Nazis, you can say that Fascists were totalitarian nationalists first, and racists second, while Nazis were virulently anti-Semitic and racist first, and totalitarian nationalists second.

BEFORE MUSSOLINI, NAPOLEON AND ITALIAN REUNIFICATION

The French Revolution had earlier sowed the seeds of liberty, equality, and fraternity, and unlike the American Revolution, the French Revolution combined their revolutionary fervor with anti-monarchical and anti-clerical sentiments, seizing all church properties and requiring priests to swear allegiance to the revolutionary regime.  Many priests refused, and they were either executed or exiled, and this persecution helped fuel civil wars, which combined with the general wars against the monarchies of Europe.  The French eventually won these wars, the French armies recruited widely and fielded passionate citizen armies that overwhelmed the peasant and mercenary armies of the monarchs.  Also, the French army promoted from within talented generals based on merit rather than birth.  Their most talented general, Napoleon, in time staged a coup and became Emperor of France, conquering all Europe, spreading revolutionary ideas as they conquered.[1]

Many doubted whether the papacy and Catholicism could survive these troubled times.  Napoleon was a revolutionary, Napoleon was no Catholic.  But Napoleon was far more interested in being Emperor of Europe, he saw the conflict with the Church as a distraction, many conservative peasants would die rather than renounce their Catholicism.  So, Napoleon dictated the terms of the Concordat of 1801 with Pope Pius VII, which would presage the Concordat Mussolini would sign with Pope Pius XI in the Lateran Treaty of 1927.  In both Concordats the Catholic Church negotiated from a position of weakness.  Napoleon recognized that Catholicism was the religion of most French but preserved the religious freedoms of Protestants.  As was the practice already, Napoleon could nominate bishops, but the Pope could depose them.  Most importantly, the church gave up all claims to lands confiscated after 1790, and the state paid the salaries of the clergymen.  Napoleon restored Sunday as a day of rest and restored the church calendar, but the state still kept the church on a short leash in many ways.[2]

Like Hitler later, Napoleon was undone by his invasion of Russia, failing to appreciate neither the sheer vastness of the Russian steppes nor the brutal cold of the Russian Winter.  Both lost the bulk of their vast armies, both sacrificed the momentum of war to their enemies until they were utterly defeated.

After Napoleon was defeated, the conservative diplomat Metternich tried to put the revolutionary genies back in their bottles, restoring monarchies across Europe, but the revolutionary ideas kept percolating, resulting in several insurrections in Italy.  The Italian revolutionaries dreamed of a united independent Italy, the Revolutions that spread across Italy in 1848.  There were a series of three Italian wars of independence that eventually coalesced around the armies of King Emmanuel II of Sardinia, battling the Austrian armies, the papal armies, and the armies of other city-states of Italy, and France and Prussia also influenced events.  Rome was the last papal state to fall, but the Popes did not readily acquiesce in the loss of their Papal States that had helped protect (somewhat) and provide a tax base for the papacy for over a millennium.  The Pope refused to cooperate with the new unified Italian government, forbid Italian Catholics from serving in the government, and Popes would pose as prisoners of the Vatican for the next fifty years, complaining continuously.[3]

MUSSOLINI RISES TO POWER

Like Napoleon, Mussolini was no Catholic. Although his mother was a devout Catholic, his father was a socialist revolutionary.  Taking after his father, Mussolini was a dedicated atheist, and was quite the bully and womanizer.  His mother sent him to a Catholic boarding school, he was expelled when he stabbed a classmate.  But he calmed down somewhat, graduating from secondary school.  He was fired from his first job as a teacher when he had an affair with a married woman.

This would be the first of countless and often simultaneous affairs.  Later when he ascended to power Mussolini would have many mistresses, and a main mistress who would recruit other mistresses.  Many wondered how he had time to govern while he was dallying with so many mistresses.  It is doubtful that Mussolini ever confessed his sins to a priest in the Catholic sacrament of Confession.

Mussolini had a steely glare that look straight through you, as a speaker he was mesmerizing.  Early in his twenties he became the editor of an influential Socialist newspaper.  He initially supported his party’s opposition to World War I, but he became convinced that Italy should enter the war on the side of the Allies.  He served in the trenches like Hitler, and like Hitler he found himself recovering in a hospital when the war ended.

After the war Mussolini was disenchanted with socialism.  He started his own fascist newspaper with funding from industrialists who hoped to eventually profit from this connection.  His attacks on war profiteers, defeatists, incompetent generals, and corrupt politicians helped fire up his base.  In these early days Mussolini attacked the church, calling for the seizure of church property and ending state subsidies of the church.

Politics were violent in these interwar years.  Fascism appealed to the nationalism of disenchanted young veterans who would band together into marauding fascist gangs that terrorized their opponents.  Mussolini’s fascist bully gangs ran amuck attacking socialists all across the country.  In the violence of the 1921 election hundreds were killed, hundreds were injured, priests were also beaten, but after the votes were counted the new Fascist party and the conservatives together won a majority, defeating the Socialists, Communists, and the Catholic Popular Party.

Fascists were the enemy of the godless communists.  All Europe were fearful that Lenin’s Communist Party would succeed in igniting violent revolutions in Europe.  Many Europeans thought that since the fascists were the avowed enemies of godless communism that they might shield the Churches from communism, so fascist were seen at least as the least worst choice.  Although the Italian Fascists did form a close alliance with the Catholic Church, the German fascists harassed and persecuted both the Catholic and Lutheran Churches.

Later the Spanish Civil War, fought from 1936 to 1939, degenerated into a brutal and bloody war between the Republican Communists and the Nationalist Fascists under General Franco.  This was also a proxy war between Russian on one side and Fascist Germany and Italy on the other side, the Allies  were more neutral in the conflict.  Although both sides were guilty of massacres, the communists brutally murdered thousands of priests, monks, and nuns.[4]

MUSSOLINI EMBRACES THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WHILE GRASPING FOR POWER

Mussolini surprised everyone in his first speech in Parliament, he did not consult with anyone in the Vatican before his speech.  Fascism, Mussolini proclaimed, would restore a Christian society in Italy.  Fascism would build a Catholic state befitting a Catholic nation.  Mussolini wanted the Vatican to see his Fascist Party as their true protectors, the Catholic Popular Party needed to be swept away to isolate the Socialists.  The Pope decided to slowly swing his support to Mussolini, who appeared to be on the winning side in Italian politics.

The Fascist gangs stepped up their attacks on Catholic priests, Catholic Popular Party members, and socialists.  The socialists called a national strike demanding that the government put an end to the violence.  The Fascists struck harder, burning down union halls, bullying strikers back to work.  Mussolini gathered together the heads of the fascist militia, they planned insurrections across the country.  A band of 26,000 fascist thugs descended on Rome with old army rifles and bludgeons.  The prime minister declared a state of emergency to order the army to face down the fascists, but the king surprised him by refusing to sign the order.

Italy was a constitutional monarchy under King Victor Emmanuel III, grandson to King Victor Emmanuel II.  Like the Pope, the King was tiring of the instability the Fascist gangs were causing, and he likely felt that it would be easier to co-opt them than to defeat them.  Humiliated, the Prime Minister resigned, and the King invited Mussolini to form a government as the new Prime Minister.

Mussolini surprised everyone by promising to bolster Catholicism in Italy.  Mussolini was eager to show his new ally the Pope how he could make the Catholic Church great again.  Unlike Hitler, Mussolini was a more faithful ally to the church, only starting to turn on the church when he fell deeper under Hitler’s spell when the storm-troopers started marching across Europe.  Crucifixes were hung everywhere, the Church privileges would be restored, clerical salaries were raised, the state paid for more church repairs, Catholic chaplains would serve the military, it was now against the law to insult a priest or Catholicism.  To the delight of the Vatican, Catholicism would be taught in all elementary schools.  He even remarried his wife in the Catholic Church and baptized their children!

But occasionally his Fascist thugs would bully and beat up the occasional priest.  Although Mussolini would never totally suppress his thugs, he would never stage an Italian version of Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives where Nazi thugs murdered many in opposition.  Better to have the occasional thuggery so Mussolini could continually demonstrate to the Pope that he was the only leader who could control them.

Why did the Pope betray the Catholic Popular Party to swing his support to Mussolini?  Like all popes of his era, Pope Pius XI distrusted democracy, equating it with socialism, atheism, and communism.  Lenin had declared war on the capitalist west and his minions had murdered hundreds of priests, and this would soon be repeated in the upcoming Spanish Civil War.  Mussolini and the Pope were natural allies against the socialists and communists.  Neither believed in freedom of speech or freedom of association.  When Mussolini declared himself the head of the secular totalitarian state, the Pope would respond that was the head of the clerical totalitarian state.[5]

In Germany an obscure former army corporal named Adolph Hitler, inspired by this march on Rome, adopting the fascist straight-armed salute, tried his own Beer Hall Putsch, but this rebellion was suppressed.  Hitler was successfully prosecuted, though he was allowed the publicity of a fiery courtroom speech.  In jail Hitler would write Mein Kampf, the Nazi bible.

BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS

Mussolini would soon face the first serious challenge as Prime Minister of Italy.  A very brave socialist delegate named Giacomo Matteotti strode to the podium on the third day of Parliament while being threatened by the Fascist thugs also elected to Parliament.  There he bravely announced that the recent election, marred by violence, should be annulled.

Mussolini was furious.  He turned to Cesare Rossi, his press secretary and head of a secret squad of thugs, and muttered, “That man shouldn’t be allowed to remain in circulation.”

There was no direct order, but we know how mafia gangs work, the boss complains and everyone knows what to do.  The next day three thugs, one with brass knuckles, abducted Matteotti in broad daylight in downtown Rome, drove with the horn constantly blaring, drowning out the screams of Matteotti while they brutally beat him to death.  After his wife calls the police they find the corpse in a shallow grave.

Italy was not yet a totalitarian police state.  Many witnesses stepped forward to tell their story of this brazen murder.  Everyone knew the trail led directly to Mussolini.  Conservative newspapers turned against him, demanding justice.  Many tore up their Fascist party cards.  Fascists were afraid to march in public.  Mussolini hesitated.

Not Pope Pius XI.  The Pope did not hesitate, we went all in defending Mussolini.  He directed the Vatican newspaper to write an editorial urging all good Catholics to obey civil authorities, refuse to cooperate with Socialists, and abstain from violent protest or any sort of protest.  Mussolini was praised for all he had done for the Church, implying that he did not have anything to do with this murder.

Mussolini was so grateful he enrolled his children in religious lessons, they would soon celebrate their confirmation and first communion.  But now there were rumors of a possible military coup overthrowing Mussolini, with the king’s blessing.

Seven months after the murder of Matteotti, Mussolini spoke to Parliament.  “I declare here, in front of the Assembly and all the Italian people, that I alone assume full political, moral, and historical responsibility for everything that has happened.”

“We are all with you,” shouted the Fascist deputies.

“If Fascism has been a criminal organization, I am the head of this criminal association!”

“We are all with you!”  The applause kept building.

Mussolini shouted, “You believed Fascism was finished, but you will see, Italy wants peace, want tranquility, wants calm.  We will give Italy her tranquility, this calm through love if possible, and with force, if necessary.”

Were these seen at the time as the rants of a good Catholic?  Now that Mussolini knew he could get away with murder, he would turn Italy into a dictatorship subject only to a compliant king.  Fascist thugs threw the opposition leaders in jail and closed down their newspapers.  New laws were passed banning opposition parties, only fascists unions were allowed, strikes were banned.  Mayors would be appointed by the central government, the press was censored, and capital punishment was reinstated.  For good measure, he tricked his wife into being baptized to please the Pope.[6]

THE LATERAN ACCORDS, THE POPE IS REWARDED

Negotiations for a new Concordat were proceeding while the consequences of the murder of Matteotti were unraveling.  These negotiations were tough, lasting over four years.  The biggest roadblock was the Pope’s devotion and protection of the national youth group, Catholic Action.  The totalitarian fascist government was uncomfortable allowing any national group that might compete with the newly organized Fascist youth association.  The Pope was reluctant to restrict the Catholic Action groups to prayer and religious instruction, their recreational activities were what appealed to their youth.  Mussolini eventually compromised, except for the occasional Fascist gang bullying a Catholic Action group here and there.

The Lateran accords were signed in early 1929.  The papacy would receive a generous indemnity for the loss of the Papal States, but the Pope was recognized as the sovereign ruler over the small 109-acre Vatican territory contained St Peter’s basilica.  In addition, the Holy See would have special rights to all of Rome’s basilicas and papal summer palace.  Rome would guard the Vatican’s character as the center of Catholicism and would recognize many Catholic feast days as public holidays.  Catholic education would also be extended to secondary schools, and all Catholic Action youth groups could operate freely.  Later Mussolini forced the Pope to restrict their activities to the religious sphere.

Unlike the later Concordat with Hitler, Mussolini would largely respect the terms of the Lateran Accords, and they remain in effect to this day.  The Pope was no longer the prisoner of the Vatican.  Fascist militia units with their flags and banners celebrated with the faithful in St Peter’s Square.  The American charge d’affairs in Rome reported that this was a “triumph for Mussolini in ending the controversy and in winning over the clergy to Fascism.”[7]

Mussolini and Pope Pius XI were now partners, Mussolini was the secular authoritarian, the Pope was the clerical authoritarian.  Catholics were active in Fascist organizations and public schools while the government supported the Church.  The government enforced morality laws against racy plays and films and immodestly dressed women.  Local Catholic Action Groups collaborated with the Fascist police.[8]  But occasionally a fascist bully would still beat up a Catholic priest.  Bullies will be bullies.

In the heady days following, Mussolini now required that newspapers refer to him as El Duce, with DUCE in capital letters.  Images of El DUCE appeared everywhere in public buildings, offices, and shops.  There had to be adoring crowds in all his public appearances, even if that meant dressing police in civilian clothes.[9]

POPE PIUS XI AND HITLER, I HAVE A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS

When we look back to the history of World War II we can never avert the gaze of the bulging eyes of the skeletal survivors of the Nazi concentration camps, so we naturally ask the question, how could the Pope be so gullible to believe Hitler when he guaranteed the Catholic Church a role in German culture? We forget that the Catholic experience in negotiating with the secular and potentially hostile regimes of Napoleon and Mussolini enabled the Catholic Church to survive and thrive in an increasingly secular world.  We can say that when Pope Pius XI and Cardinal Pacelli, later to succeed him as Pope Pius XII, negotiated the terms of the German Concordat with Hitler, they did not fully realize that Hitler always lied, he always negotiated in bad faith, he never lived up to the terms of the treaties he signed.

The compromises the Pope in agreeing to the German Concordat were similar to the compromises made in the Lateran Treaty, but with much more dire consequences.  Just as the Pope had betrayed the Catholic Popular Party in favor of Mussolini’s Fascist Party in Italy, the Pope also betrayed the Catholic Center Party, which had the support of the German Bishops.  Many former Center Party leaders would later be brutally murdered by the Nazis, some in the Night of Long Knives.  Later the Nazis would slanderously accuse hundreds of monks and nuns of sexual perversion and accuse Jesuits of financial frauds.

The increasing brutality of the Nazi regime worried the Pope, but many of his advisors, including Cardinal Pacelli, urged caution, reminding him that the Fascists were enemies of the real enemy of the Church, communism and Bolshevik Russia.  These fears of communism were reinforced by the Spanish Civil War, where Hitler and Mussolini supported the brutal Fascist General Franco against the socialists and communists, who murdered hundreds of priests, monks and nuns.

Every week revealed new brutalities.  The Nuremberg laws were passed, denying Jews citizenship and forbidding them from marrying Aryan Germans.  Jews were dismissed from civil service.  Catholic parochial schools were harassed.

Chancellor Dollfus of Austria was negotiating an Austrian Concordat which was never signed.  His wife and children were visiting Mussolini at his summer home but Chancellor Dollfus was unable to join them.  Germany and Austria were to be united in the Anschluss, Mussolini had to tell his wife and children their father would not be joining them, as he had just been shot by the Nazis.

Mussolini urged Hitler to observe the terms of the Concordat, to discontinue his persecutions of the Jews, but Hitler did not listen.[10]

MUSSOLINI, BULLY, WANNABE CAESAR, DESCENDS INTO DARKNESS OF MORDOR

Mussolini wanted to be a modern conquering Caesar rebuilding a new Roman Empire, and he decided to start with Ethiopia.  Initially the Pope was reluctant to support the effort that would cause so much suffering among black Ethiopians and Catholic missionaries, but Mussolini pressed on.  Initially they met embarrassing battlefield reverses against stiff Ethiopian resistance, but eventually triumphed with the use of chemical weapons and bombers and fighter planes.  Underwhelming sanctions were applied by the League of Nations, strengthening ties between Italy and Germany, who both quit the League.  Catholic Church bells rung across Italy celebrating the victory of the Italian forces.  But the Pope became increasingly concerned about the growing ties between Italy and Germany.[11]

Pope Pius XI was generally supporter of the milder anti-Semitism early in Mussolini’s rule, which was a carryover of the historical anti-Semitism the Catholic Church had long endorsed.[12]  But the increasing brutality of the Nazi policies were too much for Pope Pius XI, his years were advancing, his health was declining, and he was now worried about the status of his everlasting soul, he felt compelled to speak up against this evil regime.  He consulted with Mussolini, who told him he had very little influence over the Fuhrer on matters of religion.

The German bishops asked the Pope to prepare an encyclical to urge Nazi officials to respect the terms of the 1933 German Concordat.  Copies of this encyclical were smuggled into Germany and was read from the pulpits on Palm Sunday 1937 to surprised congregations totally unused to hearing criticisms of their government.  We quote directly from David Kertze’s book the Pope’s encyclical
Met Brennender Sorge (With Deep Anxiety):

While the Catholic Church had entered into the Concordat in good faith, said the Pope, “anyone must acknowledge, not without surprise and reprobation, how the other contracting party (Nazis) emasculated the terms of the treaty, distorted its meaning, and eventually considered these violations as normal policy.  The Pope lamented the destruction of Catholic parochial schools, breaking the terms of the Concordat.  The Pope castigated those who idolized race and nation, deeming them guilty of distorting and perverting “an order of the world planned and created by God.”  The Pope warned against blending Christianity and race worship: “None but superficial minds could stumble into concepts of a national God, a national religion; or attempt to lock with the frontiers of a single people, within the narrow limits of a single race, God, the Creator of the universe.”  Though he never mentioned Nazism by name, the Pope thanked those priests and laypeople “who have persisted in their Christian duty and in the defense of God’s rights in the teeth of an aggressive paganism.”

Hitler was furious, first by the unexpected criticism of the Encyclical, second by how this message was delivered to all those churches without his knowledge.  He ordered police to shut down Catholic publishing houses across the country.  Mussolini urged moderation towards the Church.  Some speculated the Pope might excommunicate Hitler.[13]

Hitler and Mussolini were still friends.  Mussolini would enjoy a state visit to Berlin where millions of Germans cheered the two dictators.  Soon after Hitler visited a Rome festooned with swastikas where hundreds of thousands Italians cheered the two dictators, Mussolini enacted the first of the Italian race laws against the Jews.  The Pope quickly raised the issue that those Catholics who converted from Judaism should not be considered Jews.[14]  Now negotiating with Mussolini was more like negotiating with Hitler, the Church agreed not to criticize the regime’s new anti-Semitic policies if Mussolini would leave the Catholic Action groups alone.[15]

When you deal with the dark Lords of Mordor you will always darken your soul.  Catholicism never appealed to Mussolini, he was never a practicing Catholic, he was increasingly drawn into the dark abyss of Nazi ideology.  On the eve of World War II racial laws were passed in Italy revoking Jewish citizenship, exiling Jews, firing Jewish teachers, expelling Jewish students, expelling Jews from the Fascist Party.  Jews could not own large businesses or work in professional occupations.  Jews were Jews by blood, not religion.[16]

David Kertzer write: “After sixteen years of nurturing his partnership with the Vatican, Mussolini was allowing his megalomania, his infatuation with Hitler’s Third Reich, and his sense of invincibility to get in the way of his political judgement.  The pope felt poorly used.  Increasingly frail, he knew his own death could not be far off.”  Pope Pius XI’s dream on an Italian confessional state under the terms of the Concordat was instead descending into a nightmare of increasing Fascist and Nazi brutality.

The tenth anniversary of the Lateran Accords were approaching.  The Pope had made known his displeasure of recent brutalities, Mussolini was reluctant to attend a celebration where the Pope could criticize the regime.  This was a valid fear.  The Pope had asked that a papal encyclical be drafted condemning racism and the persecution of the Jews.  His anticipation of giving a last speech to the many bishops expected to attend the celebrations helped keep him alive.

The day before he planned to give his final speech condemning fascism, Pope Pius XI died.[17]

THE CORONATION OF THE DIPLOMAT POPE, POPE PIUS XII

On March 12, 1939, Cardinal Pacelli was crowned Pope Pius XII.  In one of his first acts as Pope, Pius XII seized the encyclical and all copies of the troublesome speech, they would be buried unseen in the Vatican for over fifty years.  He shared the concerns of his predecessor regarding the racist brutalities and the coming war, but he was ever the diplomat, always mindful that Axis troops could march into the Vatican without opposition at any time.

Dr Wikipedia speculates that perhaps one reason Pacelli suppressed the draft encyclical on his predecessor’s desk was that, although it condemned both Nazi anti-Semitism and American racial segregation, it nevertheless had numerous anti-Semitic language inserted by the Jesuit editors blaming Jews for the regicide of Christ, crass materialism, and other anti-Semitic tropes.[18]  In October the new Pope Pius XII issued a more diplomatic version as his first encyclical celebrating the unity of mankind and cultural diversity, rejecting totalitarianism.[19]

The long bloody war that all Europe expected finally commenced.  In September 1939 the Nazis invaded Poland, imprisoning and murdering many Polish Catholic priests.  In the spring of 1940 Mussolini gleefully joined with Hitler in their invasions of France and all of Europe.

The Italians were peasants, they were not born soldiers.  Poorly equipped, poorly led, poorly trained, the German army had to rescue the Italians when they got bogged down when they invaded Greece.  In the fall of 1942 the Allies invaded North Africa, pushing back German and Italian troops, invading Sicily in July 1943.  As the Allies bombed Rome, the Grand Council of Fascism deposed Mussolini and the king had him arrested.

King Emmanuel III of Italy signed an armistice with the Allies, two days later Nazi troops invaded and occupied Rome.  While the Nazis started deporting the Italian Jews to the death camps, thousands of Italian Jews fled, many hiding in the monasteries and convents of the Vatican.

Nazi troops rescued Mussolini from prison and placed him in a short lived rump puppet state in Northern Italy.  Near the end of the war Mussolini attempted to flee, but was captured and murdered by partisans, and hung by his heels outside a gas station.  At war’s end, King Emmanuel III abdicated to his son Umberto, but the new Italian republic abolished the monarchy.

Pope Pius XII survived the war with his reputation intact.  There are many who today argue he could have done far more to protest the Holocaust,[20] but if had been more vocal, perhaps Fascist and Nazi troops would have marched in an murdered everyone in the Vatican.  Hitler was planning to murder the pope once he won the war in Europe.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Revolution

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concordat_of_1801

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_unification

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Civil_War

[5] David Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini (New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2014), pp. 18-56, 65.

[6] David Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini, pp. 57-87.

[7] David Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini, pp. 98-113.

[8] David Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini, pp. 166-170.

[9] David Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini, pp. 143-144.

[10] David Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini, (New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2014), pp. 199-212, 242-244 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Long_Knives

[11] David Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini, pp. 213-240.

[12] David Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini, pp. 186-198.

[13] David Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini, pp. 255-262.

[14] David Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini, pp. 266-297.

[15] David Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini, p. 311.

[16] David Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini, p. 316-327.

[17] David Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini, p. 354-369 and the prologue.

[18] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humani_generis_unitas

[19] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summi_Pontificatus

[20] David Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini, p. 370-404.

About Bruce Strom 127 Articles
I was born and baptized and confirmed as a Lutheran. I made the mistake of reading works written by Luther, he has a bad habit of writing seemingly brilliant theology, but then every few pages he stops and calls the Pope often very vulgar names, what sort of Christian does that? Currently I am a seeker, studying church history and the writings of the Church Fathers. I am involved in the Catholic divorce ministries in our diocese, and have finished the diocese two-year Catholic Lay Ministry program. Also I took a year of Orthodox off-campus seminary courses. This blog explores the beauty of the Early Church and the writings and history of the Church through the centuries. I am a member of a faith community, for as St Augustine notes in his Confessions, you cannot truly be a Christian unless you worship God in the walls of the Church, unless persecution prevents this. This blog is non-polemical, so I really would rather not reveal my denomination here.