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The Pope and Mussolini PULITZER PRIZE WINNERFrom National Book Award Finalist David I Kertzer Comes The Gripping Story Of Pope Pius XI S Secret Relations With Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini This Groundbreaking Work, Based On Seven Years Of Research In The Vatican And Fascist Archives, Including Reports From Mussolini S Spies Inside The Highest Levels Of The Church, Will Forever Change Our Understanding Of The Vatican S Role In The Rise Of Fascism In Europe The Pope And Mussolini Tells The Story Of Two Men Who Came To Power In , And Together Changed The Course Of Twentieth Century History In Most Respects, They Could Not Have Been Different One Was Scholarly And Devout, The Other Thuggish And Profane Yet Pius XI And Il Duce Had Many Things In Common They Shared A Distrust Of Democracy And A Visceral Hatred Of Communism Both Were Prone To Sudden Fits Of Temper And Were Fiercely Protective Of The Prerogatives Of Their Office We Have Many Interests To Protect, The Pope Declared, Soon After Mussolini Seized Control Of The Government In Each Relied On The Other To Consolidate His Power And Achieve His Political Goals In A Challenge To The Conventional History Of This Period, In Which A Heroic Church Does Battle With The Fascist Regime, Kertzer Shows How Pius XI Played A Crucial Role In Making Mussolini S Dictatorship Possible And Keeping Him In Power In Exchange For Vatican Support, Mussolini Restored Many Of The Privileges The Church Had Lost And Gave In To The Pope S Demands That The Police Enforce Catholic Morality Yet In The Last Years Of His Life As The Italian Dictator Grew Ever Closer To Hitler The Pontiff S Faith In This Treacherous Bargain Started To Waver With His Health Failing, He Began To Lash Out At The Duce And Threatened To Denounce Mussolini S Anti Semitic Racial Laws Before It Was Too Late Horrified By The Threat To The Church Fascist Alliance, The Vatican S Inner Circle, Including The Future Pope Pius XII, Struggled To Restrain The Headstrong Pope From Destroying A Partnership That Had Served Both The Church And The Dictator For Many Years The Pope And Mussolini Brims With Memorable Portraits Of The Men Who Helped Enable The Reign Of Fascism In Italy Father Pietro Tacchi Venturi, Pius S Personal Emissary To The Dictator, A Wily Anti Semite Known As Mussolini S Rasputin Victor Emmanuel III, The King Of Italy, An Object Of Widespread Derision Who Lacked The Stature Literally And Figuratively To Stand Up To The Domineering Duce And Cardinal Secretary Of State Eugenio Pacelli, Whose Political Skills And Ambition Made Him Mussolini S Most Powerful Ally Inside The Vatican, And Positioned Him To Succeed The Pontiff As The Controversial Pius XII, Whose Actions During World War II Would Be Subject For Debate For Decades To Come With The Recent Opening Of The Vatican Archives Covering Pius XI S Papacy, The Full Story Of The Pope S Complex Relationship With His Fascist Partner Can Finally Be Told Vivid, Dramatic, With Surprises At Every Turn, The Pope And Mussolini Is History Writ Large And With The Lightning Hand Of Truth NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE Kertzer Has An Eye For A Story, An Ear For The Right Word, And An Instinct For Human Tragedy This Is A Sophisticated Blockbuster Joseph J Ellis, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Of Revolutionary Summer A Fascinating And Tragic StoryThe New Yorker Revelatory A Detailed Portrait The New York Review Of Books From The Hardcover Edition

About the Author: David I. Kertzer

Is a well-known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the The Pope and Mussolini book, this is one of the most wanted David I. Kertzer author readers around the world.

10 thoughts on “The Pope and Mussolini

  1. says:

    Kertzer shows how the relationship between Pope Pius XI and Benito Mussolini played into the rise of Fascism and anti Semitism Mussolini demanded absolute power and the pope demanded a dominant position for the Church Both men were headstrong adversaries who cooperated as needed Both sacrificed principle to achieve their goals Their fears, desires, deals and surrounding intrigues would weigh heavily on Italy s fate particularly that of the nation s Jews.Mussolini started his political career as an anti Catholic socialist As a supporter of Italy s entry into WWI he broke with the socialists He fought in the war and joined fascist groups in 1917 By 1919 he was leading the fascists and formed the National Socialist Party in 1921 Succeeding by violence and intimidation in a politically fractured Italy, his forces marched into Rome in 1922 He demanded and was appointed prime minister by the king He was now the most powerful person in Italy.The Vatican was still living in the past It still laid claim to the Papal States taken from it in 1870 when Italy formed The dispute meant no formal relation existed between the Vatican and Italy In fact the Pope would not venture into Rome which he did not recognize as part of Italy Achille Ratti, a cardinal from a humble background in a small northern Italian town, became Pope Pius XI in 1922 He led a conservative Catholic view that was strongly anti socialist and anti Semitic On top of traditional Catholic demonizing, Jews were now held responsible for bolshevism which Pius XI considered the Church s biggest threat.While skeptical of Mussolini s faith, Pius XI saw him as way to expand the church s influence Mussolini likewise saw the church as a way to cement his own They began an escalating series of quid pro quos Mussolini granted the Church power, freedom and praise in exchange for the Church s support for him All the while Mussolini s goons took out dissidents, Catholic or otherwise Pius XI dismissed these attacks on anti fascists in his Church as the work of thugs outside of Mussolini s control The pope would not criticize Mussolini since he felt the Church needed him to secure its position in Italy Behind the scenes through envoys there was a constant tug of war between Mussolini and the Pope for power, but the pope was playing Mussolini s game Unknown to the pope, Mussolini had placed spies throughout the Vatican hierarchy Their daily reports to Mussolini covered Vatican internal discussions and even included accounts of pederasty committed by senior Vatican officials In 1929 the Holy See and Mussolini signed the Lateran Accords The Vatican gave up its claim to the Papal States legitimizing Italian authority in Rome in exchange for recognition as the state religion of Italy and cash Pius XI was happy and Mussolini thrilled as his power continued to be validated But soon after, Mussolini made official statements that implied the Church s rights were at his Italy s pleasure The pope was angered but did little While the pope rarely consulted his staff, key members were ardent Mussolini supporters who intervened on Mussolini s behalf when possible Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who became Vatican Secretary of State in 1930, was a staunch anti bolshevist and anti Semite who was particularly deferential to Mussolini Pacelli would become Pope Pius XII upon Pius XI s death.Mussolini wanted no doubt as to who was really in charge Mussolini quickly stopped political activity in any part of the Church unless it favored him The Church s rights were held to be strictly spiritual When Mussolini shut down the Catholic Action youth group in 1931 Pius XI was furious He got Mussolini to let the group operate but only with the stipulation that all Catholic Action youth leaders had to meet Mussolini s approval Anyone critical of him would be dismissed Mussolini was turning the Church youth group into his support group In 1932 33 Pius XI would expend his political capital pressing Mussolini to prohibit Immodestly dressed women, to stop Protestant groups from organizing and to closely monitor Communists and Jews.In 1933 Hitler became the new chancellor of Germany Pius XI at first was skeptical of him One in three Germans was Catholic Hitler needed Catholic support Germany s ambassador to the Vatican conveyed Hitler s backing for the Church to the pope But most of all Hitler s denunciations of bolshevism pleased Pius XI German Catholic bishops had unanimously denounced the Nazis The Vatican instructed the bishops to cease opposition to Hitler The pope s order undercut the opposition Catholic Center Party which then quickly fell apart The Vatican signed a concordat with the Nazi government guaranteeing the Church s rights in Germany in exchange for Catholic support The Nazi s program of forced sterilization of defectives was announced about the same time, which the Church ignored though clearly a violation of Church doctrine Hitler did as he pleased and began closing Catholic schools Hitler played the pope just as Mussolini had The pope blamed anti clerical Nazi elements not Hitler himself Just as with Mussolini, Vatican Secretary of State Pacelli was much deferential to Hitler than was the pope Catholic conspiracy theories about Jews such as their comprising the leadership of Russia were widely published in official Church periodicals Thus Hitler s anti Semitic harangues, for example that 98% of Soviet leadership was Jewish, made perfect sense to Germany s large Catholic population In fact Jews comprised 6% of the Russian leadership in the 1920 s and less thereafter.In 1935 Mussolini invaded Ethiopia Pius XI was against the war but as usual fell in line Pacelli and other top Vatican staff supported Mussolini s colonialist war The war was essentially genocide Villages were firebombed, villagers wiped out with poison gas and their water supplies poisoned Most of the free world including FDR and Americans were horrified The Church made sure its publications in America backed Mussolini targeting the large Italian American community Italian victory in 1936 changed Mussolini His ego overwhelmed him He now believed himself invincible.The Spanish civil War in 1936 drew Mussolini and Hitler closer together greatly disturbing Pius XI The Pope now saw that half of Catholic schools in Germany had been closed Pacelli however still considered the communist threat paramount He visited the US and met with FDR two days after the US election FDR later said that Pacelli reminded him of Father Coughlin Pacelli warned FDR of a Communist takeover of the US Pacelli s real reason for the visit was to shore up his personal support from the four American cardinals Pius XI was old and failing and Pacelli wanted to be and would be his successor By 1937 almost all Catholic schools in Germany had been closed and the Nazi s began immorality trials of Catholic priest, monks and nuns for sexual deprivation Finally the Vatican reacted At the request of German bishops, an encyclical, watered down to not mention the Nazis by name, was issued critical of German violations of their concordat It was read in German churches and it infuriated Hitler Hitler closed Catholic publishing houses and seized diocesan files, which many bishops burned in advance The Vatican now opposed Hitler, but still strongly supported Mussolini.In March 1938 Hitler took over Austria Austria s Cardinal Innitzer lauded the F hrer and pledged his allegiance to the German cause Mussolini who had wanted Austria under Italian control said nothing The pope was stunned by both men s response Pius XI forced Innitzer to publicly retract his support of the German takeover Pacelli as usual tried to make sure that neither the Germans or Mussolini were too upset by the Pope s position.In May 1938 Hitler visited Rome for five days Mussolini arranged huge celebrations Swastikas were everywhere He and Hitler paraded through the city They swore their allegiance to each other as supporters including many clergy cheered In July 1938 Mussolini began his anti Semitic campaign The Church and fascists differed on their definition of Jews Mussolini aped Hitler His anti Semitism was race based The Church s anti Semitism was based on religion and culture The pope wanted Jews to convert If they would become good practicing Catholics they were part of the fold and no longer a problem Church doctrine did not embrace the concept of race There was only one humanity The pope decried what he called extended nationalism angering Mussolini The practical issue was marriage between converted Jews and other Catholics Mussolini s laws outlawed this but the pope believed the Church controlled marriage as agreed to in the concordat of 1929 Again the pope s instincts gave in to his staff eager to kowtow to the powerful Mussolini In August a secret deal was reached giving Church approval to Mussolini s anti Semitic laws in exchange for a promise that Catholic Action members could remain Fascist party members.In September 1938 Jewish teachers in Italy at all levels were fired and Jewish children were prohibited from attending public school The Church did not object, even though the Pope gave a speech in which he lamented the new laws The Vatican hierarchy excised those remarks from published versions of the speech Pacelli and other Vatican officials again did everything to avoid friction with the Fascist government by covering up or modifying anything controversial the pope said or wrote Some important Church officials, such as Jesuit Superior General and virulent anti Semite Wlodimir Ledochowski, actually believed Mussolini s new laws were right, although they did not want to appear to criticize the pope One prominent ardent Mussolini supporter was Milan Cardinal Schuster who at first publically praised the new laws But amazingly on November 13, 1938, four days after Kristallnacht stunned the world he spoke out excoriating the laws and characterizing Mussolini as a Hitler neophyte embracing a pagan creed He instantly went from Fascist favorite to Fascist target Many northern Italians wondered if one day Hitler s racism would target them But Schuster s change of heart had no impact The laws were not changed and Mussolini s staff worked with its key ally in the Vatican, Pacelli, to mute any outburst from the pope.In February 1939, the 82 year old Pius XI passed away Lying on his desk was a speech and an encyclical he planned to issue on the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Lateran accords Months before he had asked an American Jesuit priest, Father LaFarge, to help define the Catholic position on racism The pope had been impressed with LaFarge s writing on black racial issues in America The result was the encyclical that opposed racism Ledochowski as LaFarge s superior read it first and made every effort to delay it, water it down and keep it from the pope The pope got it anyway but his untimely death meant it would never be issued Pacelli made sure it would disappear entirely He had the Vatican Printing Office destroy all copies of Pius XI s speech Pacelli became Pius XII Only after Pacelli s death in 1958 would Pope John XXIII release parts of Pius XI s planned speech and only in 2006 was the full text disclosed.Under Pius XII, the Vatican became conciliatory and actively sought to improve relations with Mussolini and the Nazis Pius XII removed the head of Catholic Action which Mussolini had long wanted but an obstinate Pius XI would not do Even years later when Mussolini fell from power and was arrested Pius XII did not challenge the anti Semitic laws.This revealing Pulitzer Prize winner is the result of seven years research into Fascist Italy and Vatican archives that only became available ten years ago Kertzer dug deep producing a history rich in detail and convincing in its depiction of the relationship between the Church and Mussolini His portrayal of Pius XI shows a conflicted unsophisticated pontiff easily handled by his subordinates His account challenges long held beliefs about the role of Cardinal Pacelli as Vatican Secretary of State Pacelli better known as Pope Pius XII is being considered for sainthood Kertzer gives us a compelling study for those with an interest in the Church s role in anti Semitism and the consolidation of power by the Fascist and Nazi regimes.

  2. says:

    The result of David Kertzer s research is that there is no longer reason to wonder about the Vatican s position regarding Mussolini and the rise of Fascism This well documented narrative tells how a very limited, backward looking, authoritarian Pope gave inches and then feet and miles in order, as he saw it, to protect the church.There is plenty to show Pope Pius as an enabler to Mussolini It begins his withdrawal of support for the Center Catholic Party which hobbled Mussolini s strongest opposition and left its former members vulnerable While anti clerical Fascist thugs beat up priests, Pius complained to Mussolini about how women dress The Pope condemned the Nazi takeover of Austria and the character of the Vienna s archbishop who signed all of Hitler s decrees as Pope Pius had essentially done for Mussolini only to soften his public comments and try to take them back The Vatican was silent in the run up to the Racial Laws, and when they were on the horizon, the Pope tried to negotiate the weakest of all exceptions It is emblematic that before his great speech where he would finally condemn Fascism, he died years later, the speech was revealed to be as tepid as all that preceded it.The Pope s supporters might point to the Lateran Accords as an achievement, but Kertzer shows how this compromised the Church s integrity and ended its high ground Pius XI s worst legacy may have been the elevation of those who would bend to his will This led to the election of his successor, Eugenio Pacelli, sycophant to the end, who took the name Pius XII This election thrilled Fascists and Nazis alike.While it is not the focus of this book, King Victor Emmanuel similarly fails the Italian people He signs every bill Mussolini gives him When the Racial Laws go into effect, worried about his health, he has his Nazi son in law from Germany plead an exception for the his physician.The author spent 7 years sifting through documents I was surprised at the anti Semitic statements in church newsletters and clerical speeches that surely had been available prior to the 2006 opening of the Vatican s pre war archives The Author s Note on the resources indicates how much information is there to mine Hopefully someone will write on Mussolini s surveillance system, organizational behavior in the Vatican and the rise of Pius XII for the general reader.Kertzer has accomplished his goal p 411 of writing a book not only for experts, but also those who know little of this history I highly recommend it for anyone interested in this period.

  3. says:

    I highly recommend this book for serious history buffs who read a lot of nonfiction and enjoy a high level of detail about the many people who played a part in historical events I also recommend it for casual readers of nonfiction who have a strong interest in this subject and time period I say that with the warning that there are a lot of people involved, and it can be difficult to keep track of them and their roles and backgrounds.Kertzer is a meticulous researcher with expert knowledge of Italian history The book gives much extensive coverage of people and events than the title implies At times it s fascinating, at other times it s a bit too thorough, but it s always extremely well written and documented There is a wealth of notes at the back of the book, as well as numerous photographs throughout the book that greatly enhanced my enjoyment and understanding of the material.I found it especially interesting that Pius XI and Mussolini shared some personality traits Of course, Mussolini s manifested in a extreme fashion, but both men were ruthless and narcissistic.

  4. says:

    My first impression of this book surprised me because I felt a glimmer of sympathy for Mussolini for having to deal with such an intractable man as Pius XI That sympathy quickly dissipated under the barrage of Mussolini s Facist policies.Unfortunately, I never felt any sympathy for Pius XI at all He may have meant well, but knowing that he could have helped with the downfall of Mussolini in the early days, instead, he lent his considerable support to the Duce which led me to question the pope s thinking As the book progressed, I got the idea that Pius XI would have done anything to insure the supremacy of the Roman church He may have detested Mussolini s dealings with Hitler, but he was never willing to risk losing the benefits of the Lateran Accords for the Church He might have changed his mind about Mussolini, but by 1939 it was too late.The first part of the book was the most interesting By the time it reached the discourse on the racial laws, I felt overwhelmed by the characters involved The strident rationalizations about why some anti Semitism was permissible churned my stomach.Finally, the author included some information about the Church under Pius XII who had served as his predecessor s Secretary of State Appeasement seemed to dominate his thinking anything not to infuriate Mussolini or Hitler.This is a well researched book, but the problem is that many of the characters are reprehensible as is so much of this period in history.

  5. says:

    In The Pope and Mussolini , David Kertzer informs the reader that while the deceased Pius XI was lying state in February 1939, Benito Mussolini chose to visit his mistress Clara Petacci and made love to her not once, not three times but twice In other words, the book is lurid and in many instances Kertzer chooses to trust some highly sleazy sources Nonetheless, despite its rather disreputable approach, I am giving the book it four stars because the author David Kertzer marshals much impressive evidence in support of his primary thesis.Kertzer argues that during his time as leader of Italy, Mussolini had a strong relationship with the Vatican during the pontificate of Pius XI that was highly beneficial to both Despite their close collaboration, the two parties hated each other Mussolini who was an atheist thought the clergy were unworldly who needed to be disciplined occasionally so as to be brought into order The Vatican thought that Mussolini was a nasty thug Nonetheless the partnership held through all crises because both sides gained so much from it.In Kertzer s view, Mussolini needed the endorsement of the Vatican which he as a usurper of legitimate authority desperately needed The Vatican in return received money, power and recognition Kertzer is particularly good at explaining the controversial Lateran Accords of 1929 which recognized the Vatican as an independent state with formal boundaries thus ending a seventy year period in which the Kingdom of Italy and the Vatican had refused to recognize each other following the seizure of the Papal States by the Kingdom of Italy in 1870 Mussolini secured the deal by being generous up front He offered to make Roman Catholicism the official religion of the Kingdom of Italy, to allow priests to conduct religious education in Italy schools and to financially support Catholic Institutions such as schools and hospitals The only material change that the Vatican made to Mussolini s proposal was that it be enacted as a treaty between two sovereign states as opposed to a simple piece of parliamentary legislation.Kertzer is less convincing in his contention that the entente with the Vatican was beneficial to Mussolini He states that the scandal resulting from the assassination in 1924 of the Socialist parliamentarian that Giacomo Matteotti assassination might have brought Mussolini down and that the strong endorsement of the Roman Catholic Church was key to Mussolini s survival I suspect that with or without the Vatican s help Mussolini would have weathered the storm but Kertzer is correct to note that the support from the Vatican was loud and clear Kertzer says nothing new about Mussolini but presents a very original and nuanced portrait of Pius XI Pius XI emerges as a decent man but one profoundly out of touch with his era He never used a telephone in his life and urged his clergy not to do so either He considered Protestantism to be a serious threat to the Roman Catholic Church in Italy However, on the issue most dear to Kertzer, Pius XI was principled and courageous He believed profoundly that Jews were doing no harm to Italy and refused to consider them as an inferior race To the end of his live, he defended the right of his church to convert Jews and to allow them to marry individuals who had been born into the Catholic Church.The disturbing thing about Kertzer s version of events is that he portrays Pius XI as being very isolated within the Curia in his distaste for Hitler and his opposition to Mussolini s decision to pass racial laws similar to those in Nazi Germany Kertzer may be overplaying his hand as he endeavours to show that a significant number of the anti Semites were pederasts However, he does seem well documented on the basic point that anti Semitism was common in the higher clergy I have less confidence when Kertzer implies that following the death of Pius XI, Eugenio Pacelli later XII made a deal with a group of cardinals positively disposed towards the Nazis in order to ensure that he would be elected in the conclave It is possible that the story is true but it is likely that Kertzer is once again trusting dubious sources Despite my reserves, The Pope and Mussolini is an excellent book that presents a very provocative interpretation of the pontificate of Pius XI The reader however must maintain a critical mind.

  6. says:

    Italian history and the rise of fascism is not a part of history with which I am familiar Author Kertzer s massive research reveals the manipulations Pope Pius XI and Mussolini engaged in to bring Italy into WWII on the side of the Nazis The early 20th century brought the two together over their great fear of communism liberalism Jews Protestantism Masons just to name a few I am neither a Catholic nor a participant of an organized religion so I was amazed at the layers of Catholic government and the Vatican s ruling class The back biting and in fighting resembled a middle school student council Pope Pius eventually found himself on a runaway train unable to redirect the scourge of anti semitism and at the end of his life he felt deep failure of his dealings Hopefully, his belief in forgiveness led him through the pearly gates.This is not a light read, but extremely detailed and thorough The Italian names can be very confusing and by the end I completely lost the ability to keep them straight But for those who are interested in historical fact, this book is supreme Deserving of it s Pulitzer.

  7. says:

    The Pope and Mussolini is David Kertzer s fascinating account of the secret dealings between the Italian dictator and Pius XI.These were uncomfortable bedfellows Mussolini had shown no signs in his early career of wanting to revive the Catholic Church s fortunes in fact as he started off as a socialist, the opposite was true His fascist lackeys had also spent much time beating up and terrorising hostile priests.Pius XI also showed no great personal enthusiasm for Il Duce, and his cult of personality, but he was prepared to compromise himself and the Church in exchange for a boost to its fortunes.Mussolini created the Vatican State to give the Pope extra status, and revived the Roman Catholic Church s role in civic life from the courtroom to the classroom Protestant books were suppressed, girls in gym lessons were made to dress demurely.In return, Mussolini got than just silent compliance from the Catholic Church Its backing gave his regime legitimacy and helped Mussolini entrench himself as dictator.And there is clear evidence of direct collaboration between Church and regime against what both saw as common enemies Protestants, communists and crucially and shamefully Jews.Pius XI did have qualms about some of the antisemitic laws Mussolini pursued He had deep misgivings about the pagan inclined Hitler, but he still saw the Jewish community as a threat to the Catholic Church His opposition was sophistry than substance.And Kertzer shows there was a significant strand of antisemitism in the higher echelons of the Church Indeed, the Church was far from wedded to democracy Mussolini s authoritarianism had an appeal to a clergy that believed in absolute obedience.This is a meticulously researched and fast paced account with a large cast of characters Kertzer lays to rest the suggestion that Pius XI bravely resisted fascism There were signs towards the end of his life that private disquiet about antisemitic laws would turn to public opposition But we ll never know how that might have ended, as his death brought the election of Pius XII an even complicit prop for the Fascists.The quality of Kertzer s research justifies his Pulitzer It s not his fault that the recent sex abuse scandals has reduced the shock value of a Catholic establishment prepared to put the interests of the Church ahead of what s morally right.

  8. says:

    CAVEAT As I reread this piece, it struck me that people might interpret it as anti Catholic It s certainly negative as far as Vatican City and its corrupt operations during the time period involved is concerned, which is true to the book under review However, like most American Catholics, I see a huge gulf between my Catholic parish life and what happens in Rome, so I didn t intend it as a screed against the church as a whole Kertzer struck a bonanza when the Vatican released decades of documents in 2006 He doesn t explain why they did so, but we all benefit Can t wait for the next release because many questions remain.He begins this story of The Pope and Mussolini immediately after the Great War 19th century European nationalism left the Roman Catholic church feeling bruised, battered, and wronged By 1870, The Italian army had appropriated huge swaths of what the church had considered its territory in the name of the new Italian nation The Holy See was now confined to a 100 acres in the center of Rome, an island in the midst of an Italian nation they refused to recognize In fact, they didn t officially do so until 1929 Anti clerical sentiment had banished religion from the public schools and, to the church s mind, put the clergy on the fringes rather than in the center of public life Then, post WWI turmoil flummoxed the fledgling nation The economy was a mess Returning soldiers had no jobs Many of the same conditions that made Hitler possible in Germany made Mussolini possible in Italy.Big difference, though At least in the beginning, according to Kertzer Mussolini had no real political philosophy or program He d been a socialist almost a communist for a while, but sensed that they didn t have the power point at their command, so he switched from left to right He figured out that since the church feared socialism communism above all things this side of the Devil except maybe Jews and Protestants, of which there were few in Italy he d acquire huge leverage if he could position himself as the man who stood between socialism and the true religion.With the help of his black shirt thugs, he engineered an election or two and ended up as Il Duce Leader in 1922 Crosses and pictures of the Pope went back into the classrooms Was the church worried about his totalitarian tendencies Nope They never trusted democracy anyhow It seemed to lead to separation of church and state, which seemed to the autocratic Pius XI and his cohort a violation of Christian principles Top down was good enough for the church, so it should be good enough for Italy And the rest of the world for that matter.Given that Vatican mind set, it was relatively easy for Mussolini to buy off the church and lead it around by its mitre for quite a while He lavished funds on individuals, helped repair churches and cathedrals damaged by the war, and allowed all sorts of religious education to proceed His thugs often attacked religious youth groups and newspapers if they contradicted his policies, but he claimed the deeds were done by rogues he was trying to stamp out He d make a few arrests, but never imprisoned anyone His network of secret police became a key area of cooperation The Vatican had spies, too Had had for a long time Now they could work together to ferret out common enemies Sweet.All of this went along fairly well for nearly twenty years Things started getting rocky with the rise of Hitler It wasn t so much the Jewish question Mussolini had nothing, really, against the Jews He had a Jewish mistress and no history of persecuting them The church claimed it had nothing against them either Yeah, they d killed Christ and were out for world domination, but if they d convert they d be welcome Pius XI and the rest continued to claim they weren t anti semites, just against the Jews as they existed If that sounds familiar, maybe you ve heard the arguments about how the church is not anti gay We love them If they d just stop being gay However, he saw it necessary to ally with Hitler, which meant embracing at least part of his racist philosophy And, indeed, there were those in high Vatican positions who were virulently and unapologetically anti semitic, Pius XI was getting fed up when he died and was about to say so He even wrote it all down, but died before he could publish it and Pius XII suppressed it.That summarizes how all this got started I was familiar with how it ended for Il Duce, but not for the Pope s involved It s a shameful story of appeasement that makes Neville Chamberlain look like a war monger According to Kertzer, there is a movement to canonize Pius XII, and given the nature of those isolated old white men who are able to rationalize and twist anything to their point of view, as well as to the odd and freaky nature of canonization itself, it could happen Watch.

  9. says:

    I won this book through a Goodreads Giveaway I knew nothing about this subject at all, but had recently done a concentrated read on WWI, so this book picked up close to the end of WWI.I m not Catholic so don t know much about it s history, and this book did a great job of explaining what was going on in the Vatican during a very tumultuous time in between WWI and WWII and the rise of Fascism and Nazism I continue to be dumbfounded at the racism that existed toward the Jews, and what Mussolini and Hitler were able to do all while many people had the opportunity to speak up and try to do something, Pope Pius XI included.This book was very readable and an eye opener.

  10. says:

    David Kertzer can simply be regarded as one of the most finest historians of the Twentieth Century This book should be widely known than it is It is quite difficult to come up with another name who could justice to illustrate extremely complicated relationship between Benito Mussolini and the Pope Pius XI, and how Catholic Church supported the rise of Fascism in Italy.

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