Sunday, July 23, 2017

Vatican Commission agrees to disagree on Stepanic

The Catholic News Agency reported on 18 July, on the latest meeting of the international historical commission set up in 2016 to examine the war-time record of Aloysius Stepinac (1898-1960), Archbishop of Zagreb 1937-60.  Readers may remember an earlier post about the commission and some of the areas of concern expressed.  The outcome of this meeting does not appear to have resolved the areas of greatest concern, namely Stepinac's action or inaction regarding the genocidal behaviour of the UstaĊĦe regime in war-time Croatia although the Serbian Orthodox delegation praised Pope Francis for the opportunity to meet and discuss the Archbishop's life and legacy.

Reaction to the commission's work has been generally positive, though some in Croatia have raised fears that the Serbian Orthodox Synod has presented a distorted picture of Stepinac.  

The CNA article:

A commission of Catholic and Orthodox leaders tasked with examining the wartime record of Bl. Aloysius Stepinac concluded their final session last week, agreeing to disagree about the Croatian cardinal’s cause for canonization.

The Secretariat of the Holy See prepared a joint statement, adopted by both sides, at the conclusion of the commission’s sixth and final round of meetings at the Vatican July 12-13.

The document states that the opinions of either side remain unchanged, but also acknowledges that ultimately the competency for approval of the cardinal’s cause falls under Pope Francis.

“It has come to the conclusion that various events, speeches, writings, silences, and views are still subject to different interpretations. In the case of Cardinal Stepinac, the interpretations that were predominantly given by Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs remain divergent,” it states.

It included their thanks to Pope Francis for establishing the commission, which he did in May 2016 after receiving a letter from the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Irinej, who stated his opposition to the cardinal's canonization.

They also expressed their gratitude for the atmosphere of the discussions which allowed “full freedom of expression.”

“From the commencement of the commission's work, the members were aware that the process of canonization of Cardinal Stepinac was in the exclusive competence of the Pope. They also admit that each Church has its own criteria for the canonization process,” it continued.

The Secretariat of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, accepted the outcome of the commission, which was led by Fr. Bernard Ardura, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences.

With the conclusion of the commission, the path to the canonization of Cardinal Stepinac is fully open. The proper requisites in place, it is in the hands of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and then will go to Pope Francis for approval. It is believed the announcement of his canonization could take place soon.

Cardinal Stepinac, who is hailed as a hero in Croatia, has been a target of decades-long communist smears and disinformation. Despite this, he was beatified as a martyr by Pope St. John Paul II in October 1998.

Many in the Serbian Orthodox community are deeply skeptical of the cardinal's wartime record. Though one researcher of the period says the facts counter false claims about the beatified cardinal's record.

“What you have is a false narrative created by Soviet agents,” Prof. Ronald J. Rychlak told CNA/EWTN News in 2016.

Cardinal Stepinac was the Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 until his death in 1960 at the age of 61. In Yugoslavia during the Second World War, the pro-Nazi Ustashe movement came to power under leader Ante Pavelic after the Axis occupied the country.

“Stepinac's sermons against the Ustashe were so strong. They prohibited them from being published, because they were so strong against the Ustashe,” Rychlak said. Instead, his words were secretly printed and circulated and occasionally broadcast over the radio.

He also severely condemned the Ustashe’s destruction of Zagreb’s main synagogue in 1941 and in an October 1943 homily, the archbishop condemned notions of racial superiority.

In 1946, Stepinac was put on trial for allegedly collaborating with the Ustashe’s crimes. The trial drew critical coverage from Western media like Time and Newsweek and protests from those who saw it as a show trial.

Archbishop Stepinac was denied effective representation and only met with his attorney for an hour before the trial. The government’s witnesses were told what to say, and the archbishop was not allowed to cross-examine them.

In 1953, Pope Pius XII made him a cardinal, although he was never allowed travel to the Holy See to be officially elevated. He died in 1960 of an alleged blood disorder, which was said to have been caused by the conditions he endured in jail. Recent tests of his remains by Vatican investigators show evidence he was also poisoned.

In June 2011 Pope Benedict XVI praised Cardinal Stepinac as a courageous defender of those oppressed by the Ustashe, including Serbs, Jews and gypsies.

He said the cardinal stood against “the dictatorship of communism, where he again fought for the faith, for the presence of God in the world, the true humanity that is dependent on the presence of God.”

Monday, July 17, 2017

ADSS 1.275 Pacini to Maglione: Glos Polski incident

 ADSS 1.275 Alfredo Pacini, Charge d’affaires, Polish Nunciature, Angers, France, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report 21/40 (AES 3267/40)

Location and date: Angers, 02.04.1940

Summary statement: Members of the Polish government condemn the article in Glos Polski and precautions have been taken.  Pope’s concern for Poland has been mentioned in many official statements.

Language: Italian


I reply with some delay to message 2476/40, regarding the article of the Polish newspaper Glos Polski (Voice of Poland) – on the visit of the German Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Vatican (1).  The delay is due, in part, to the slow nature of the Polish people, who always say jutro, “tomorrow”, and partly to the scattered location of the various offices and of responsible people who reside anywhere between Paris and Angers and are difficult to meet.

And now, here is what I report to Your Eminence.

The Glos Polski  is printed in Paris, where all its writers and editors live.  The paper is in contact with the Propaganda Ministry – a beehive of ultranationalist elements.  Because of these contacts and also because the paper prints public notices about Government officials and audiences of the Polish President, it has gained a sort of semi-official character.  Moreover, in Paris the Polish writers often meet the French newspapermen with left wing tendencies: this explains the tinge of certain opinions and feelings.

As soon as I arrived in Angers I Immediately considered what would be the best way to call the attention of the Government to the article in Glos Polski.  However, I found a very different climate here than the one I noticed in Paris and the article either had not been noticed or had already been censured.  (The Polish papers, of which a considerable number are published, are read very little by the Polish people themselves, who prefer the French papers, even when they only have a little knowledge of this language).

The first person to be surprised when I spoke to him about it, was the Foreign Minister as I had the honour to mention in my report 14/40 of 19 March (2)  the article – he said – “has escaped me and I am very sorry, because all of us here are convinced that the Holy Father has a great love for Poland”.  The Welfare Ministry, mentioned in my report 16/40 of 27 March, expressed similar thoughts.  Many other persons were also surprised.

On 28 March, as soon as I received your message, 2476/40 (3) I went to the office of the President of the council of Ministers, where there is also the Press Relations office, to protest the incident.  The Director General, Count Romer, who frequently deputises for General Sikorski who mainly looks after military affairs and is always busy with inspections, received me (4).  Count Romer had not read the article in question and was shocked when I read it to him.  He declared wonderment as to how such an article could have been written, saying they would ask for immediate satisfactory explanations.

He in fact wrote a letter to the Propaganda Ministry in Paris at once, asking for explanations and how they proposed to remedy the matter.  He also enquired about the writer of the article, severely criticising the Editor of the paper.

The Propaganda Minister replied deploring the article – which had also escaped his notice and he apologised for that (5).  He has reprimanded the Editor in chief of the newspaper for not having shown the article to him first, since it dealt with such a delicate matter; he has also expressed in stronger terms, a reprimand for the writer, instructing that articles of his should no longer appear in the newspaper which is now being put under the direct control of the Propaganda Ministry.  A Polish censor will examine it (up until now only a French censor examined it) with instructions to watch carefully that nothing that offends Polish feelings be printed.  He mentioned that distribution of Glos Polski has been forbidden to soldiers.  Finally the Propaganda Minister has ordered a series of articles be written to offset as far as possible the painful impression which the article might have given to public opinion.  I enclose the most important paragraphs of the first such articles with this report.

Furthermore, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, M. Zaleski, addressed words of respectful homage and thanks to the August Pontiff on behalf of the entire Polish nation in a speech he made to the Polish National Council on 28 March.  I reported this in my submission Number 20/40.  On 31 March the Propaganda Minister broadcast a speech where he spoke about the benevolent attitude of the Holy See towards Poland and of the affection of Poland for the Holy See.  At its General meeting in Angers on 2 April, the Polish National Council unanimously acknowledged the work done by the Holy Father in favour of Poland and addressed to him devoted words of homage, thanks and filial affection.  M. Paderewski, Vice-President of the Council, who does not participate actively at the meeting because of his age and ill health and now lives mostly in Switzerland, reported these matters to me personally (6).

I hope these manifestations of filial devotion to the August Pontiff from the highest Polish Authorities can alleviate the distress felt by the Holy Father.

(1) ADSS 1.273
(2) Not published in ADSS.  August Zaleski (1883-1972) Polish Foreign Minister in Exile 1940-47.
(3) ADSS 1.273
(4) Tadeusz Romer (1894-1978), Director General in Exile 1939-42; Wladislaw Sikorski (1881-1943), Polish Prime Minister in Exile 1939-43.
(5) Polish Propaganda Minister

(6) Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941), Chief of the National Council of Poland 1939-41.

ADSS 1.274 Borgongini Duca to Maglione: Meeting with Ciano

ADSS 1.274 Francesco Borgongini Duca, Italy, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report 7679 (AES 2793/40)

Location and date: Rome, 31.03.1940

Summary statement: Reports meeting with Ciano who revealed that Muissolini had ‘committed himself excessively’; but Ciano continues to do everything possible to preserve neutrality.  Nuncio invited minister to act with prudence.  Ciano warns Nuncio not to trust information sent by the ambassadors to their gov’ts.

Language: Italian


Last Friday, 27 March, at 12.15, Minister Ciano, who had just come back from the palazzo Venezia, received me.

The purpose of my visit was to converse with him on the matters which Your Eminence had instructed me to settle (about ten arguments, more or less thorny, regarding which I had reported to you in the last few days) and also to take advantage of the occasion to obtain some information about political events.

The Minister, who always listens kindly to me (without ever taking his eyes from the pile of Notes which I am instructed to hand to him), told me when I thanked him, as Your Eminence told me to, for the information which he had sent to you through the Ambassador before the Brenner meeting (1), that: “Certainly it was a big commitment; but I am still doing everything to put a stop to it.  He (Mussolini) committed himself excessively. I cannot say if there will be war or not but ertainly I am working hard and you cannot have any idea of what I have done and am still doing.  But god helps me.

“When will you see the Holy Father?”  (I replied that I had already asked for an audience and hoped that His Holiness would consent to me soon.)  “Well, ask him to think about me from time to time and to pray for me and to send me his blessing because I need it very much”.

Then we started dealing with the business in hand, as I have already mentioned.

At the end, when we got up and were walking towards the door, I returned to the subject hoping to obtain a little more information.

He told me again that it is a great commitment.

I took courage and added: “Excellency, take good care of yourself and do not expose yourself too much”.

He replied: “You are right, I always go about without a bodyguard.  Certainly, the Germans would shoot me if they could” (2).

I insisted: “Be on guard not only against the Germans but also against the Italian people because among them there could be ill-intentioned people”.

He replied: “The Italian people love me and know that I am working for them”.

In the end he gave me a warning: “Do not trust the diplomats accredited to the Holy See who in their telegrams and reports give information about Italy as heard in the Vatican and also mention my name.  We read everything, and Mussolini also reads everything.  You must consider my position, otherwise I shall be obliged not to tell you anything more”.

I replied that we should not give too much credit to the statements of diplomats who want to make themselves look bigger by increasing the importance of the news they send, sometimes adding something of their own.

The conversation ended with these words: “What I told you is meant for the Holy Father and for His Excellency Cardinal Maglione”.

The Minister’s warning makes me fear that the Foreign Embassies have secret informers in the Vatican, besides those the Italian Government itself has.

(1) ADSS 1.272.

(2) There were rumours among some German diplomatic circles that Ciano was an Anglophile. See DGFP, Series D, Volume 9, n179, pp197-98.

ADSS 1.273 Maglione to Pancini: Pope "saddened" by article in Glos Polski

ADSS 1.273 Luigi Maglione, Sec State, to Alfredo Pacini, Charge d’affaires Polish Nunciature in Angers, France.

Reference: AES 2476/40

Location and date: Vatican, 22.03.1940

Summary statement: Pope saddened by article in Glos Polski.  Pacini to make appropriate representations.

Language: Italian


I immediately brought to the Holy Father’s attention the article of the newspaper Glos Polski, which you sent us with your report Number 13/40 of 13 March 1940, regarding the visit of the German Minister for Foreign Affairs (1).

As you can easily imagine, this article was a painful surprise for the August Pontiff.  The author of the article in fact not only shows lack of understanding for the Holy See’s attitude in dealing with grace international problems, but also shows that he is unaware of forgetful of what His Holiness has done so far to help Poland, and his paternal, eager, incessant concern to bring moral and material assistance to Poland.

The Holy Father has been even more grieved by the fact that the article was published in the semi-official publication of the Polish Government in Angers.

I ask you therefore to lodge a complaint to the competent authorities asking for an explanation.


(1) ADSS 1.262

ADSS 1.272 Maglione - notes on Italian situation

ADSS 1.272 Luigi Maglione, Sec State, notes

Reference: AES 2822/40

Location and date: Vatican, 20.03.1940

Summary statement: Dino Alfieri, Italian ambassador, reported on the meeting between Mussolini and Hitler; respective positions remain unchanged.

Language: Italian


The Italian Ambassador informs me that the conversation between Hitler and Mussolini at the Brenner Pass (the meeting was requested by Hitler and lasted two and a half hours) has not modified their respective points of view (1).

The conversation consisted mainly in a “tour of the political horizon”.  Hitler again mentioned the forthcoming offensive, and declared ghimself once again certain of victory.

The subject of peace was not mentioned (2).

Count Ciano remained under the impression that Hitler was less intransigent than usual.

Count Ciano himself asked the Ambassador to tell me that he remains firm in his well know policy. 

He must, naturally, act with prudence on account of the Duce’s temperament and personality.

But he is no more worried than before.

(1) Dino Alfieri (1886-1966) Italian Ambassador to the Holy See 1939-40 wrote a report to Italian Foreign Minister, Galeazzo Ciano, that evening giving an account of the meeting with Maglione.  His impression was that the Vatican was preoccupied by the event without exaggerating its importance.  See DDI, Series 9, Volume 3, n596, p522.

(2) See DDI, Series 9, Volume 3, nn503-07; DGFP, Series D, Volume 9, n1.  In these documents Hitler speaks about the war he intended to wage against the Western Powers, but he did not insist on Italy’s immediate entry into war.  Ciano wrote in his diary: “As far as we are concerned the meeting has not substantially changed our position”. Diario, Volume 1, p 239.

Amazon SearchBox