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The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History…

The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of…

by David I. Kertzer

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The author documents the relations of Pius XI and Mussolini in the years preceding WWII. Mussolini gave the Church control of much of the lives of Italians and the Church gave Mussolini government legitimacy as it stepped closer to Hitler, de-citizened Jews, and trampled human rights, as well as humans. It will give you some new perspectives on Catholicism, Mussolini, how WWII came about, and why Jews were so easily singled out as the target of hate. ( )
  addunn3 | Apr 9, 2017 |
As a history teacher I am always looking for a book that will broaden my understanding. This well researched and written book fills what always was unclear to me which was the uneasy relationship between the Catholic Church and Fascism in Italy (and later with Hitler in Germany) in the period prior to and including World War 2. The principle focus is Pope Pius XI who at first embraces Mussolini as they make a mutual beneficial agreement. Later things sour when Mussolini embraces more racist policies that conflicts with the Pope's beliefs This is a very important book and is an essential read to anyone interested in this critical era. ( )
  muddyboy | May 19, 2016 |
I was aware that there had been some ugly cooperation between the Vatican and Mussolini's Fascist regime leading up to and during World War II. This book reveals the details that have become accessible since the opening of the Vatican archives covering that period.
Granted, the Roman Catholic Church had been stripped of nearly all of its land in Italy when the Kingdom of Italy was founded in 1870. The Papal States were folded into the new kingdom, leaving only the 110 acres that constitute Vatican City. A succession of popes feared that even that property would be seized.
So when Benito Mussolini rose to power, Pius XI and his advisors saw an opportunity. The previous government had done its best to strip the Church of its official ties to the state, but the Italian population was still overwhelmingly Catholic. The Vatican made a deal with the Fascist leader. Not only wouldn't they oppose him or his party (Pius was distrustful of democracy, feeling that a state was better run by a strong leader), they would tacitly endorse him. In return, Mussolini pushed through new laws favored by the Church. Crucifixes went back up in public schools, and religion classes were added to their curriculum. The government provided a stipend to Italian clergy. Measures were put in place restricting evangelizing by Protestants.
Pius was deeply concerned about the threats of Socialism and Communism. Both, he (and many of the Curia at that time) saw those movements as the evil efforts of an international alliance between Jews and Freemasons. Who better to combat those evils than the imperial Mussolini?
Over time, however, the political landscape changed. Mussolini and his cohorts became enthralled with Hitler and the Nazi party that had taken over Germany and was encroaching on its neighbors. Unlike Mussolini, Hitler was unwilling to make peace with the Church. The Nazis arrested thousands of German priests and nuns, accusing them of foul sexual sins and endangering the morals of German youth.
Then the Nazis began disenfranchising Jewish Germans. And Mussolini followed suit.
Eventually, Pius XI saw how bad things had gotten. He tried to rein in Mussolini, but his advisers and intermediaries worked behind his back to soften the tone of his criticism.
At the very end, the Pope wrote up a document utterly condemning the racist excesses of both the Fascists and the Nazis. He called all the Italian bishops to the Vatican, where he planned to read the document to them and to circulate it to priests across the nation. Except that he died the day before the planned announcement. (No foul play has been suggested; he was old and had been very sick for a long time.)
His Secretary of State, Cardinal Pacelli, succeeded him to become Pius XII. All copies of the document were destroyed, as was the text of the speech Pius XI had planned to deliver. An encyclical on the topic (whose authors had managed to delay for many months) was never completed.
It's a sad, sad story. ( )
  dickmanikowski | Feb 13, 2016 |
The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe by David I. Kertzer
598 pages


This book is about Mussolini and Pope Pius XI, in case the title didn’t give that away to you. The came into power in Italy at the same time and boy would those two butt heads over the next several years. And well, that’s pretty much the book in nutshell.

This is one of those books that won all kinds of awards and acclaim for being amazing. I found it to be alright. Maybe too many years of critical thinking as a history major long ago or reading too many history books have left me jaded. Maybe it’s because the only time I’d get to this book was at the crack of “why am I still awake” hour so I wasn’t always 100% coherent. Either way, this book seemed to drag on which sucked because I was really looking forward to those one. Interesting enough people and well researched, I think I just expected too much going into this.
( )
  UberButter | Feb 9, 2016 |
This is the second book I have read that is centred on the co-operation between the Fascist regimes and the Papacy, and it does dwell on the theme of the likeness of the totalitarian regimes, Spain, Italy, Germany and Catholicism. If you are looking for reasons to dislike the present drive to grant Pius XII sainthood, the evidence against his sainthood is easily seen here. Along with the Cornwell book on Pius XII, Mr. Kertzer has added to the evidence of the overall revisionist tendency of Vatican history. Though several priests and nuns resisted the Fascist tide, the overall approach of the European church as well as that of South America was pro-fascist and this should be understood by modern Catholics. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Nov 8, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812993462, Hardcover)

From 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 1922, and together changed the course of twentieth-century history. In most respects, they could not have been more 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 1922.) 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.
Advance praise for The Pope and Mussolini
“David Kertzer has an eye for a story, an ear for the right word, and an instinct for human tragedy. They all come together in The Pope and Mussolini to document, with meticulous scholarship and novelistic flair, the complicity between Pius XI and the Fascist leader in creating an unholy alliance between the Vatican and a totalitarian government rooted in corruption and brutality. This is a sophisticated blockbuster.”—Joseph J. Ellis, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Revolutionary Summer

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:48 -0400)

Analyzes the relationship between Pius XI and the notorious Italian dictator, tracing how after coming into power in the same year they forged covert ties to one another to consolidate power and pursue political goals.

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