Tuesday, June 30, 2015

ADSS 1.53 Maglione notes: Mussolini a moderating influence on Hitler

ADSS 1.53 Luigi Maglione, Sec State, Notes.

Reference: AES 2992/39

Location and date: Vatican, 29.05.1939

Summary statement: Mussolini could be a moderating influence on Hitler. Maglione has urged the French ambassador to find an amicable settlement over French-Italian differences. (1)

Language: Italian


For the sake of peace it would be very helpful if the Head of the Italian Government, Mussolini, would use his great influence with Chancellor Hitler and the German Government to ensure that the Danzig question is dealt with calmly, especially on account of the very delicate international situation.

The Cardinal Secretary of State of His Holiness has, by order of the Holy Father, repeatedly recommended to the French Ambassador to the Holy See (2), to beg his Government to do everything possible to settle the outstanding issues between Italy and France by proper negotiations in a friendly way. (3)

(1) On top of this note Domenico Tardini wrote: “30.05.1939.  Today Fr Tacchi Venturi SJ was received by the Holy Father.  This note was given to him by the Holy Father to be delivered to Mussolini.”  See ADSS 1.58n1.  Tacchi Venturi makes mention of the audience with Pius XII on 30.05.1939.
(2) Andre Francois-Poncet (1887-1978), French Ambassador to the Holy See 1938-40.

(3) See ADSS 1.50.  Other communications must have taken place but no records have been found in ASV.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

ADSS 1.52 Osborne to Secretariat of State: UK negotiations with USSR

ADSS 1.52 D’Arcy Osborne, UK Minister to Secretariat of State

Reference: AES 3214/39, aide memoire.

Location and date: Rome, 27.05.1939

Summary statement: Overtures to USSR do not mark any departure from UK policy.  It is to aid the smaller states of Europe from future aggression.

Language: English



The impending association with the Soviet Government does not represent any departure form the fundamental policy of His Majesty’s Government. (1) That policy is to aid the smaller States of Europe to defend their independence against possible aggression.  His Majesty’s Government have given guarantees to certain States, and in order to give effect to this policy nothing must be neglected that would facilitate the furnishing of assistance to these States of guard against their isolation in the face of possible enemies.

It is for these purposes that His Majesty’s Government are entering into a purely defensive arrangement with the Soviet Government under defined conditions and for a specified period, and the conclusion of the arrangement in no way signified any ideological union or alliance.


(1) After Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in March, the British government began proposing the possibility of an Anglo-Soviet defensive block against Germany.  Negotiations dragged on through the summer. The proposal was rejected by the Soviets when Britain refused to support Soviet demands regarding the Baltic States and the right to send Red Army troops into Poland in the event of a German invasion. 

ADSS 1.51 Godfrey to Maglione: prayers for peace at Walsingham

Volume and Document Number: 1.51 William Godfrey, Ap Del UK to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report 95/29 (AES 3462/39)

Location and date: London, 25.05.1939

Summary statement: Details of a pilgrimage to Walsingham and prayers for peace.  The Archbishop of Canterbury states that the Pope could not call a Conference but could order prayers for peace.

Language: Italian


I hasten to send to your Eminence some details regarding the participation of Great Britain in the crusade of prayers for peace called by the Holy Father. (1)

According to the instructions received from your Eminence this Apostolic Delegation wrote to all Bishops and Superiors of Religious Orders to call all the faithful to prayers according to the Holy Father’s wish.  The Bishops explained with noble words the initiative of the Pope who, as Representative of the Prince of Peace, has no other wish than that peace should reign amongst the nations.

In all churches during this beautiful month of May great multitudes have gathered around the altars to invoke the gift of peace.  The children, especially, have take a prominent place in the prayers as the Bishops have told them that the Pope trusted more in them than in men’s ability.

Pilgrimage to Walsingham.

The volume of prayers for peace rose to its greatest height with the pilgrimage on Sunday (2) to Our Lady of Walsingham.

This is the most famous sanctuary in England dedicated to the glory of Mary, Mother of God, it symbolises, one can say, the history of the Church.  Built with the fervent piety of past generations, the kings of England vied with their humblest subjects to increase its splendour, and its fame spread over all Europe.  The fury of the Reformation diminished but did not extinguish the flame.  After regaining its freedom, the Church re-established the Walsingham Sanctuary, and there, near the ruins of its past splendour the cult of Mary sprang to new life.  Now more than forty thousand pilgrims a year visit the shrine.

Interpreting the Holy Father’s intentions, the Catholic newspaper Catholic Herald launched the idea of a national pilgrimage.  Last Sunday the small town of Walsingham was invaded by thousands of pilgrims brought there by all means of transport from all over the kingdom.

An enormous procession was formed and proceeded, chanting hymns to the glory of Mary, to the Slipper Chapel, two kilometres outside the town.

The Rev. Scott James, who explained with impassioned words the significance of that national gathering at Mary’s feet to invoke peace, brought the Holy Father’s benediction to the pilgrims.  The pilgrims prayer for a long tine in the sanctuary and the Eucharistic benediction closed a manifestation which will remain memorable.

Statement of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In the Upper House (of the Convocation of Canterbury) yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury made a few statements regarding the call to prayers. (3)

He repeated the difficulties, which arise when a common action of the Christian Churches is promoted.  Regarding the Pope’s proposal for a Christian Conference to be held he said: “It would not be courteous or useful to invite the Pope to call such a conference, when one is sure that it would be impossible for him to accept.”  He concluded buy saying that the only ground upon which it was possible to obtain unity was that of prayer, the importance of which he exalted.

A discordant note was introduced buy the Bishop of Birmingham, Dr Barnes (4), who again voiced the usual criticism of the Holy See’s attitude during the Ethiopian and Spanish wars, and during the occupation of Albania.  He ended by protesting even against the use of the title of “His Holiness” in addressing the Pope. (5)

The Archbishop of Canterbury, with great good sense, reacted against his Birmingham colleague, although adding that a difference must be made between prayer and politics.

All of this I have felt it my duty to communicate to your Eminence.

(1) See ADSS 1.15.
(2) Sunday 21.05.1939.  Walsingham was the premier English Marian pilgrimage site prior to the destruction of the sanctuary during the 1530s.  Pilgrimages were restored in 1897.  See also The Tablet, 27.05.1939, p28.  This was last major pilgrimage before the war.  Walsingham lay in a restricted zone during the war years.  American servicemen organised the first Catholic Mass since the Reformation in the grounds of the former Augustinian Priory on 17,05,1945.
(3) William Cosmo Lang (1864-1945), Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury 1929-42.  The Archbishop’s statement was enclosed.  It was a cutting from The Times of 24.05.1939 “Dangerous Drift. Primate on tension in Europe.”
(4) Ernest Barnes (1874-1953), Anglican bishop of Birmingham 1924-53.

(5) Cuttings from The Daily Telegraph and Morning Post, Monday 25.05.1939, contained a report of the speech of the Bishop of Birmingham in the Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury.  The bishop criticised Pius XI and Pius XII for not having protested against the war Ethiopia and against the attack in Albania.  The Bishop also criticised the title of His Holiness used by the Archbishop of Canterbury: “No man is holy although some men may be gracious”.

ADSS 1.50 Maglione's notes on meeting with French Ambassador

ADSS 1.50 Luigi Maglione, Sec State, notes.

Reference: AES 2705/39 – written personally.

Location and date: Vatican, 20.05.1939

Summary statement: Conversation with French Ambassador. French Press and the pope’s initiative.  Opposition of French Government to the proposed Conference.  Intentions of the Italian Government. Dangerous course of public opinion in France and in Italy.

Language: Italian


M. Charles-Roux (1) – after greeting me asked:

(C-R) Has your Eminence read the information, from Rome, published by an English newspaper, regarding a conversation the Holy Father is reported to have had with the Italian Ambassador, Count Pignatti, and with our Ambassador to the Quirinal, M. François-Poncet? (2) The newspaper states that the Pope invited the two diplomats and received them together and discussed with them the means to end the state of tension between Italy and France.

(M) Yes, I read the article and I thought – I added smiling – that your Excellency, troubled by the news, went to the telephone to obtain a denial or at least an explanation from your colleagues François-Poncet.

(C-R) No.  He himself called me up to draw my attention to the strange article.

(M) It should not have troubled your Excellency, being aware what a certain Press is capable of.

(C-R) Yes. On the subject of newspapers, your Eminence noted last week that the French newspapers had take a curious attitude regarding the Pope’s initiative and you complained about it.  You must have seen that the French newspapers have spoken favourably about the Holy See’s step.

(M) Yes Some newspapers.  The Temps on the same day of your last visit had an article, which seemed satisfactory to the Holy Father.  After your visit and the complain which I took the liberty of mentioning to you, I have seen some other papers, the Figaro for example, follow the Temps example. I believe that your Excellency was not unaware of this … and I thank you.

(C-R) You will understand Eminence that the idea of finding ourselves alone to confront Italy and Germany at a conference table did not appeal to us.

(The Ambassador must have read a sign of surprise on my face caused by his too ingenuous words: he knew, as I did, that France would have had British and Polish support.  He therefore quickly corrected himself, saying:

(C-R) We prefer to negotiate our affairs directly, and lone, with Mussolini.

(M) That is just what I have been saying to you these two months, every time I had the pleasure of seeing you, I have also several times in the past expressed the conviction that Mussolini also wanted to have a meeting alone with the French Government.  I can no affirm this with greater assurance.  Unfortunately many good opportunities have been missed, however, there is still time.

(C-R) But does Mussolini really want peace?

(M I am convinced that he does.  His speech in Turin should have appeared, even to the French, as a proposal to maintain peace; a discreet invitation to solve the outstanding issues by diplomatic negotiations.  He said very clearly that he did not believe that any question could not be settled peacefully. (3)

(C-R) In fact Mussolini’s speech was a moderate one.  But do intentions tally with words?

(M) I have no reason to doubt it.

(C-R) But the people’s state of mind perhaps is not reassuring.  A word from the Pope on the moral issue would be more helpful than a Five Power conference.  We cannot be put on the same level as the others as far as peaceful intentions, moral issues and the uprightness of our attitude are concerned.  The Holy Father could make the Italian people understand the necessity of peace.

(M) The Holy Father cannot suppose that the desire for peace exists in one nation or in one group of States only.  When he addresses himself to the Governments and to the peoples to inculcate the idea of peace, he cannot and he must not make distinctions … Anyhow the Holy See’s step has had an important effect, the one needed, to determine the intentions of all Governments concerning peace and to support it.  Regarding the means for decreasing or abolishing the tensions, His Holiness did not point them out in a precise or detailed manner:  ho only asked the Governments to study them and decide.

(C-R) Your Eminence mentioned the opportunity of calming the Italian people.

(M) The news of the Holy Father’s initiative, which appeared in the newspapers without having been arranged by us, has reassured the Italian people who desired and were anxiously asking the Holy Father to do something on behalf of peace.  Before an initiative was taken we received many, many letters invoking the Pope’s intervention.  Afterwards we received none.  This means that the Italian people believed in the effectiveness of the Pope’s initiative.

As you mentioned something about the state of mind of the Italian people I will tell you frankly that I am beginning to be concerned about the change, which is taking place in France.  I think that in your country the persuasion is taking hold and expanding that now the balance of power – in the military preparations – is already tipping in your favour and that was is inevitable: hence the opinion that if this is so, war is preferable to the present state of deadly uncertainty and anguish.  (The Ambassador did not say a word or make any sign of denial.)  All this is dangerous.  In a situation like this a small incident can cause an explosion.  On the other hand, even admitting that you have sixty or even eighty chances out of 100 to win, you must agree that the game is dangerous and that a war even a victorious one, would be a terrific trial for you. The sacrifice of one or two million young lives would be such a loss for the nation that it would hardly recover.  It is better then to study all peaceful means to get out of the present situation; it is better to grasp all opportunities for negotiating, and it is necessary to rise above the so-called questions of prestige.

(C-R) Does your Eminence think that Italy would remain on Germany’s side in case of war?  Have you any information on the extent of the Italo-German alliance?

(M) I have no particular information.  I think that Italy is willing to enter into, or has already entered into a defensive alliance.  Yet I think that if war broke out on account of the unfortunate Polish-German issues it would be very difficult to prevent the conflict from spreading; Great Britain and France would intervene on Poland’s side and Italy on Germany’s.  Inevitably we would have a world conflict. I think that in everybody’s interest France should give advice of moderation to Warsaw and try to improve its relations with Italy, which is the only power capable of influencing and restraining Germany.

(C-R) But how is it possible to deal with Italy when the Italian Press is so excited and unfair towards France?

(M) Italy thinks and says the same about the French Press.  It seems that the newspapers on both sides have lost all control.   Wouldn’t it be better that both Governments let them shout as they liked (if they cannot control them) and started to act with their own heads?

On these last words the conversation was concluded: the Ambassador did not add anything: he simply said that he was very pleased to have heard what I thought and that he would report to his Government I full. (3)

(1) François Charles-Roux (1879-1961), French Ambassador to the Holy See 1932-40.
(2) Bonifacio Pignatti Morano di Custoza (1877-1957), Italian Ambassador to the Holy See 1935-39.  Andre François-Poncet (1887-1978), French Ambassador to Italy 1938-40.
(3) See the article from The Western Australian, Tuesday 16.05.1939. The article follows at the end of this document.
(4) In his 1947 memoirs Huit ans au Vatican 1932-1940, Flammarion, Paris, Charles-roux does not explicitly mention this conversation.  He alluded, however, to a conversation, which he had at that time with Cardinal Maglione, who told him “that the Franco-Italian disputes, added to the German-Polish controversy, were not likely to clear the air and that, according to his knowledge, the Italian Government was inclined to settle them without great cost to us”. (p 324).  Maglione must have spoken about this conversation with D’Arcy Osborne, the British minister. See DBFP, Series 3, Volume 5, n661, p 718.


Special interest attaches to the speech which Signor Mussolini delivered at Turin on Sunday. It was the first important public utterance by the Duce since the Ciano-Ribbentrop announcement, a week ago, of the impending Italo-German political and military alliance. It was reasonable to expect that the head of the Italian Government might give some lead to his own people, if not also to the outside world, as to how far the formal military commitment to Germany would carry Italy in the event of German provocation of war in Danzig or in any 'other region where Italian interests were non-existent or negligible. Precise definition of the terms of an agreement which is as yet unsigned was not called for, but if the Italo-German alliance were as firm as German commentators would have the world believe, Signor Mussolini was provided with every excuse for a bellicose speech by the fact of the announcement of the Anglo-Turkish agreement shortly before he left for Turin. In the circumstances, the relatively mode rate tone in which the Duce cast his remarks may be some encouragement for those who hope that Italy will not fight unless she is forced to do so by pressure of internal difficulties or by a conviction that national development, by other means than war, is permanently denied to her by the democratic Powers. 

It was inevitable that the speech should have emphasised the continuation of Italo-German co-operation, the substantial gains which Italy would eventually obtain from this and the absurdity of foreign forecasts of "bends or breaks" in the Axis. It seemed from an early account of Signor Mussolini's speech that he had underlined the military co-operation between the two countries more heavily than was necessary. The first cabled reports, published in yesterday's issue, made the Duce say: "We shall march with Germany on every question in Europe." The official report of the speech, as published this morning, modifies the earlier unofficial account. The new version of the Duce's remarks-"We will march with Germany to give Europe that peace with justice which is the profound desire of all peoples"--is different both in the spirit and in the letter. The implication of this correction in the cabled reports should not be exaggerated; the omission of the phrase "on every question" does nevertheless suggest that Italy has not given Herr Hitler a blank cheque which he may fill in and draw in Danzig, or in any other part of Europe, in the confident expectation that it will be honoured promptly when presented in Rome. 

Even the original report of the Duce's speech was in certain passages surprisingly reassuring. The statement that "an objective review of the situation shows that at present there do not exist in Europe problems of such magnitude as to justify a war which would be come universal" might have been made in London, Birmingham or Paris rather than in Rome or Turin. Something of the bluster in other parts of the speech may also have been designed for home consumption or for friends in Berlin. No objection will be taken in the democratic countries to the Duce's emphasis on the defensibility of Italy's northern frontier since the only country which might have designs upon that frontier is Germany; the references to Italy's internal -situation, though obviously ironic, were surprising, and may be taken to indicate that the Duce is aware of the economic difficulties under which his people are living. Foreign ob servers who are tempted to make much of these difficulties should, however, recognise that while they may restrain Signor Mussolini from committing Italy to German ventures which offer no assurance of Italian gains, they may, also in the long run incline him to take risks unless he feels that a more cautious role may produce results worth having. For this reason perhaps the most reassuring part of the Duce's speech was his remark that in order to sever a knot "It is not always necessary to use the sword."