Wednesday, July 8, 2015

ADSS 1.68 Valeri to Maglione: French criticism of the Pope

ADSS 1.68 Valerio Valeri, France to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report 8495/194 (AES 4035/39)

Location and date: Paris, 21.06.1939

Summary statement: Certain sections of French public opinion are critical of the Pope’s initiative for peace – cite lack of papal protest when Albania was bombed earlier in 1939 – attaches press clippings.

Language: Italian


As your Eminence has had occasion to observe, a certain change has taken place in French public opinion, including unfortunately, some Catholic circles, regarding the Holy See.

It had already been murmured that the Holy Father had not said anything when Albania was bombed on Good Friday and that he showed disproportionately high favour to Franco. (1) The displeasure has increased when the Pope’s initiative on behalf of the threatened peace leaked out.  The public, badly informed about the real intentions and the exact contents of the Holy See’s proposals by a hostile Press, are generally not inclined at the present moment to accept with sympathy any offer of mediation has seen in them an endeavour to help the totalitarian States.  The Government, for their part, have not contradicted such interpretation probably to use it in support of their attitude against proposals considered inopportune, at least for the moment.

A characteristic example, of this way of thinking is the speech pronounced by M. Prezet, Vice-President of the Foreign Affairs Committee, before the Assembly of the National Council of the Popular Democratic Party (2), sent by me to your eminence with my yesterday’s report (No. 8484/190) (3) M. Pezet, in fact, has no qualms, as your Eminence must have noticed, to criticise with short but irreverent phrases, the Holy See’s proposals for a peaceful solution of the issues that imperil the peace in Europe.

This morning I had the opportunity to show to Canon Desgranges (4), a deputy sympathising with M. Pezet’s group, how painfully surprised I was at such a statement made by Catholics and how wrong it is to give such an interpretation to the Holy See’s action.

There have been also, here and there, a few articles appearing in the Press meant to twist the ideas and the intentions of the Holy See.  Leaving aside the Juvenal - a weekly Parisian satirical publication – followed by an insolent article against the Pope, I shall mention especially the last issue of the magazine Mercure de France which I enclose together with the April issue. (5) I do so with great regret because both two are really shocking articles.  But your Eminence has read many others … and therefore will not be surprised. Cardinal Baudrillart, whom I say on this subject, came last evening to tell me that M. Canet wrote these articles. (6) The Cardinal was quite certain.  To tell the truth, I had this suspicion myself, but I did not care to voice it.  Certain onomastic and technical errors, therefore, were inserted to conceal the author.

In any case, there is no doubt, all told, that this attitude towards the Holy See must stem from the secret powers of Freemasonry and of the extremist currents, still very potent in the country.  These powers exploit the patriotic and nationalist spirit of the French people, that lately has awakened again in all sectors of the population, including Catholic ones, which explains why, amongst the latter, there are a few who criticise the Holy Father’s efforts, wrongly believed to be against France’s interests.

On my part, it is not necessary to tell your Eminence that I do not miss any opportunity to repeat, both to Bishops and clergy and to the laity, the necessity to support and defend the Pope’s efforts on behalf of peace, efforts that are prompted by him only through care for the well-being of the people and not be vested interests.

In any case, as I wrote in my report number 8346 of 30.05.1939 (7), it is comforting to see that notwithstanding these campaigns in more or less political circles, the Holy See’s initiative in favour or peace has impressed the people in general who look to the Holy Father with hope and confidence, and look only to him for a comforting word in these moments of grace danger.

(1) Italy invaded Albania on Good Friday, 07.04.1939. On 16.04.1939 Pius made a radio broadcast sending the Apostolic Blessing to Franco’s newly triumphant forces in Spain.
(2) Ernest Prezet (1887-1966), co-founder of the Popular Democratic Party (1924), was Vice-President of the Foreign Affairs Committee 1928-40.
(3) The nuncio’s letter of 19.06.1939 to the Secretariat included the text of Pezet’s speech where he said: “The Vatican also, it is said, would be prepared to make great gestures and to launch proposals about which the least one can say is that they can assist only the States which claim to be menaced.  The Vatican is carrying out soundings, more or less secretly, which embarrass London, Paris and Warsaw.”  Pezet had sent a copy of the speech to Valeri.
(4) Jean-Marie Desgranges (1874-1958), priest of Limoges diocese (1891), deputy for Morbihan 1924-40.
(5) “The Last Conclave”. Mercure de France, 01.04.1939, pp43-48; and “Pius XII”, Mercure de France, 15.06.1939, pp599-605.  The two article maintain that Pius XI and Cardinal Pacelli’s policies had always been carried out in favour of German nationalism and against French nationalism.
(6) Alfred-Henri-Marie Baudrillart (1859-1942), Rector of the Catholic Institute of Paris 1907-42, auxiliary bishop of Paris 1921-42.  He was created Cardinal in 1935. Louis Canet (1883-1958), Religious Affairs advisor to the French Foreign Ministry 1920-46. Canet was a devout Catholic with a strong Gallican leanings, i.e. asserting French independence from Rome in many aspects of Church life.

(7) Valeri’s report contained another selection of French media comments: Jean Le Cour Grandmaison (1883-1974), “Avec le Pape pour la Paix”, Figaro, 29.05.1939.  The Pope is a father who tries to reconcile his children, not a judge to condemn some for the benefit of the others.”

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