Thursday, September 29, 2016

ADSS 1.234 Cicognani to Maglione: FDR appoints Myron Taylor as his representative to the Holy See

ADSS 1.234 Amleto Cicognani, Ap Del USA, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report number 775/39 (AES 172/40)

Location and date: Washington, 23.12.1939

Summary statement: FDR sent his letter to the Pope to Spellman (New York).  FDR has sent similar letters to leading Protestant and Jewish leaders.

Language: Italian


I have the great honour of enclosing the Letter written personally by the President of the Republic and addressed under today’s date, to His Holiness. (1)

During the last few days the President decided to carry out and accomplish his intention, considered to a long time, and yesterday evening he sent me a telephone message informing me that he would this morning send His Excellency Monsignor Spellman, Archbishop of New York, who had been urgently called to Washington by the President, to see me accompanied by an Assistant Secretary of State.  Monsignor Spellman had a telephone conversation with the president lasting about half an hour.  He arrived in Washington this morning and went to the White House where His Excellency Mr Roosevelt, together with Mr Adolf A Berle Jnr (2), Assistant Secretary of State, received him.  The President handed to them the Letter addressed to the Holy Father with instructions to go to the Apostolic Delegation and give it to me so that I could telegraph it immediately ad litteram to Your Eminence, in an open telegram, subsequently sending the original by post.  Mr Berle also told me that “the Representative of the President of the United States to the Holy See” had already been appointed in the person of Honourable Myron C Taylor, whom the Holy Father had honoured by visiting him in New York.  This Representative as I have already mentioned in my telegram, shall have “rank of Ambassador Extraordinary, but without formal title”; I use the same words repeated to me several times by Mr Berle.  Mr Taylor would have left for Rome immediately if the doctor had not advised him first to take a few weeks rest.  He will leave at the beginning of February.

The White House released the news to the press at 16.00, for publication tomorrow morning, 24 December; the radio will broadcast it this evening at 19.00.

Perhaps, owing to the swift unfolding of events, there are certain apparent departures from normal procedure; to start with an open telegram and publication of the name of the Representative of the President of the United States, without first taking the usual steps, is certainly not the normal way.  But the President desired, indeed, I should say, was very keen, that this matter, which anyhow was according to the wishes of the Holy See, should be carried out here and now, and it is certain that its coincidence with Christmas stresses its importance.  Monsignor Spellman also assured me that Mr Taylor is persona grata and well known to the Holy Father.

I asked His Excellency the Archbishop and Mr Berle to present to the President the warmest and most grateful congratulations for this decision, which ties his name and this nation, by a new and noble bond, to the Holy See; and I thought it right to present the annual Medal of the Holy Father to Mr Berle, which he was very pleased to accept.  Monsignor Spellman returned later to see me and told me that the President, although anticipating some unavoidable criticism, said he was very happy and gratified over what he had done.

The President, as announced by the Press, has sent at the same time as his letter to the Holy Father, similar letters to Dr George A Buttrick, President of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America (3), as Head, so to speak, of the Protestants, and to Rabbi Cyrus Adler, President of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (4), one of the Jewish Heads in this country.   In order to soften eventual reactions and receive greater public acclaim, the President wished to give this action a spiritual foundation of religion and peace, which would please the majority of the American people.  The substantial difference, however, is this: that the President is sending a Representative to the Holy Father, while to the two above-mentioned gentlemen he is extending a simple invitation to call on him from time to time to discuss with him the problems arising from present social conditions.  This Representation of the President of the United States to the Holy See is not, in itself, of a permanent character; to reach that point an Act of the Federal Congress is required.  But everybody understands that, after such a decision, ales iacta est (5) and the only thing is to hope that the problem will be settled as it deserves.

I attach to this report, in addition to the President’s letter, a copy of the three letters written by the President to the Holy Father, to Dr Buttrick and Rabbi Adler (Attachment I) (6), as well as copy of the Statements that Monsignor Spellman and I, according to custom here and the requests of the Press, have published today (Attachments Ii and III) (7)

The Archbishop of New York deserves full gratitude for all he had generously done on this occasion, and I am quite sure that the event will obtain general approval.

(1) ADSS 1.233
(2) Adolf Augustus Berle (1895-1971), Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs 1938-44.
(3) George Arthur Buttrick (1892-1980), President of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America 1939-41.
(4) Cyrus Adler (1863-1940), President of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America 1924-40.
(5) ales iacta est – literally “The die is cast”; a Latin phrase indicating that a decision is irreversible.
(6) Stephen Tyree Early (1889-1951), the White House Press Secretary (1933-45), sent the texts of the two letters, and added that the letters would be published in all newspapers on the morning of 24.12.1939 after being announced on the radio on 23.12.1939 at 19.00.

(7) Statements of Archbishop Spellman and Apostolic Delegate Cicognani.

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