Friday, June 26, 2015

ADSS 1.46 Valeri to Maglione: meeting with Bonnet

ADSS 1.46 Valerio Valeri, France, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State

Reference: Report number 8238 (AES 2607/39)

Location and date: Paris, 16.05.1939

Summary statement: Valeri reports on meeting with Georges Bonnet, French Foreign Minister: divided opinions in France over papal initiative; international situation; problems with French press.

Language: Italian


As mentioned to your Eminence in my report number 8209 of 11 May (1) I had abstained from calling again on M. Bonnet (2) to avoid comments of the Press.  Yesterday, however, I met him at a dinner given by the President of the Municipal Council (3) in honour of Cardinal Verdier. (4) I took the opportunity of expressing to him my surprise on seeing that the newspapers had given publicity to an initiative, which should be protected by diplomatic secrecy.  M. Bonnet replied that public opinion had been struck by the unexpected journey of the Berlin Nuncio to Berchtesgaden (5) and that, anyway, the first and real indiscretions had appeared in the Daily Mail of London.  He added: “I have spoken about this matter only with the President and at a meeting of the Council of Ministers, and I do not believe that the indiscretions appearing in the French Press originate form those sources.”

I think, instead, that, at least form a certain point of view M. Bonnet was mistaken because shortly before seeing him I had been visited by M. Paul Lesourd (6) of the Figaro who came to tell me in confidence that certain newspapers had received directives form the Quai d’Orsay to write against the Pope’s proposal.  However, according to M. Lucien Romier (7) of the same Figaro, and as your Excellency knows, the directives apparently came from M. Leger’s office and not from M. Bonnet. (8) But it is practically the same thing.

For this reason I pressed my point, mentioning to M. Bonnet that such Press campaigns, even when faintly sketched, could only turn to the detriment of the interests of the Holy See and of France and, what is more important, of peace.

It is true that there is a current of opinion not in favour of agreements, probably shared by some of the Minsters.  In fact, it has been reported to me that one of them, M. Campinchi (9), has been putting it about that Mussolini had suggested the Holy See’s proposal.  I do not know if this rumour, accepted as truth in certain circles, originated form the fact that a year ago, according to what was said to me the other day by M. de Chambrun, late Ambassador to Rome (10), the Italian Government had proposed to the French Government a Five Power conference.

As it is, it cannot be denied that the first and real indiscretions on the proposal, mentioning in detail a Conference between France, Great Britain, Poland, Germany and Italy, came from London.  It is strange, in fact, to note that a newspaper of that great city, affirmed that British statesmen were not obliged to keep the secret because the approach of an Apostolic Delegate cannot be considered to be at diplomatic level!  I am rather inclined to think that some Protestants would not like to see an increase of the Holy See’s prestige, which would certainly take place if the Holy see were able to guide Europe towards a new era of collaboration and peace.

 At the end of the short conversation M. Bonnet, who is a nice person, expressed again, with his regrets about what I had told him, his confidence and his hopes that the Holy See could at the proper moment and if the situation deteriorated, carry out its task of peacemaker successfully. (11)

(1) See ADSS 1.39.
(2) Georges Bonnet (1889-1957), French Foreign Minister 1938-39.
(3) Gaston le Provost de Launay (1874-1957), President of the Municipal Council 1938-July1939
(4) Jean Verdier (1864-1940), Archbishop of Paris 1929-40.
(5) See ADSS 1.29.
(6) Paul Lesourd (1897-1981), journalist with Figaro, wrote sympathetic articles about the Holy See.
(7) Lucien Romier (1885-1944), editor of Figaro 1925-27, 1934-42. Member of Vichy government 1942-43.  Died of a heart attack while being arrested by the Gestapo.
(8) Alexis Leger (1887-1975), Secretary General of the Foreign Office 1932-40.
(9) Cesar Campinchi (1882-1941), Minister of the Navy 1938-40.
(10) Charles Pineton de Chambrun (1875-1952), French Ambassador to Italy 1933-35.

(11) See ADSS 1.40, 42.

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