Sunday, July 19, 2015

ADSS 1.73 Martin Stanislaw Gillet OP to Pope Pius XII: discussion in Paris

ADSS 1.73 Martin Stanislaw Gillet OP, Master General of the Dominicans (1), to Pope Pius XII

Reference: AES 4329/39, handwritten letter.

Location and date: Paris, 26.06.1939

Summary statement: Gillet had discussion with French Foreign Minister (2) who appreciated the Pope’s steps on behalf of peace, but thinks the moment not opportune.  A new Munich is not possible unless the old frontiers are restored to Czechoslovakia.  The Pope could with advantage persuade Hitler and Mussolini that a new violation of treaties would lead to way and he could also call the attention of the peoples to the Church’s doctrine on international morality.

Language: French


Holy Father,

As your Holiness has authorised me [sic] I report to you as faithfully as possible the long conversation I had this morning with the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the subject of peace and of the initiatives which Your Holiness could be called upon to take for its preservation.

The Minister told me that he was very pleased, as is the French Government, about the first step which you thought necessary to take with the principal European Heads of State of behalf of peace.  He acknowledged that no other person in the world has greater moral authority. But he thought that at the time Your Holiness took the generous initiative the European political situation was not so critical nor peace in such a great danger to justify the various Governments agreeing on consulting each other through diplomatic channels.

Our Minister though that if during the next month a new tension should arise, similar to the one last year, the Holy See would be the only moral authority to which one could appeal to avert war.

But he did not think a new Munich was possible, as the Munich Treaty signed by the four great Powers has been broken, without even an advance notice, by one of them.  By seizing Czechoslovakia and taking away for force its national independence Germany has broken the Munich pact, and broken the confidence of the other Powers who signed it.

To make a second Munich possible, Czechoslovakia would first have to regain its independence, as guaranteed by the Munich Treaty.

Now nobody believes Germany would really consent to this act of justice which would re-establish confidence.

For this reason neither France nor Great Britain, our Minister told me, can accept in the present circumstances the idea of another conference similar to that of Munich.

On the contrary he thinks that it is necessary that the Führer should know that any threat to the independence or to the rights of any nation, big or small, would fatally unleash war, and only this conviction can put a temporary brake to the Lebensraum, which is in fact, to desire war.

Otherwise if the “peace front” gives the Führer, in one form or another, the impression that people want to avoid war at all costs and all would, for the second time, accept le fait accompli, then war would be inevitable.

According to the Minister it would be desirable that Berlin knew what is in the minds of France and Great Britain on this point.

The only certain thing is that the peoples do not want war and, on this account, the totalitarian governments, who call themselves popular governments, should do their utmost to renounce recourse to violence in international relations.

No person in the world, repeated the Minister, has any authority comparable to that of the Supreme Pontiff to address the people and to call them back to the peace doctrine of the Church.  It is firmly believed that an Encyclical of Your Holiness or, if one had to wait too long (?) a speech in which the Church’s doctrine would be explained on all the points where it is in danger – on the one hand on the dignity and liberty of the human being, on the other on the political and social heresies that endanger them – it is believed, as I say, that an Encyclical letter of a speech of this type would have a considerable effect.  They would find a deep response in people’s minds, in all nations that have only confidence in the Church and its Head to bring all peoples together and to compel those who govern them, and who pretend to base themselves on them, to renounce violence. (3)

It is also believed that after the manifestation of such a doctrine which would relieve minds, comfort hearts and appease oppressed consciences, Your Holiness would be chosen by all, at the moment of new diplomatic tension, to approach the Governments and to call on them in the name of God to listen to the pleas of their people and to get together for re-establishing peace.

I apologise, Holy Father, for having taken up so much your time and attention.  But I thought it my duty, as a humble son of the Church, to submit to its Head, whom I revere and love much more than myself, to report as faithfully as possible my conversation with the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, who has the greatest admiration for Your Holiness and for the magnificent way in which you understand and accomplish your high mission.

(1) Martin Stanislaw Gillet OP (1875-1951), Master General of the Dominicans 1929-46.
(2) Georges Bonnet (1889-1957), French Foreign Minister 1938-39.

(3) Pius XII issued his first encyclical Summi Pontificatus, on 20.10.1939.

Martin Stanislaw Gillet OP

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