Sunday, February 19, 2017

ADSS 1.265 Pius XII to President Roosevelt: Pius is encouraged by the presence of Myron Taylor.

ADSS 1.265 Pius XII to President Roosevelt

Reference: AES America 259; FRUS 1940 Volume 1, pp 127-28; Wartime Corresspondence (1947), pp 33-34.

Location and date: Vatican, 16.03.1940

Summary statement: Pope encouraged by the presence of FDR’s representative.  Endeavours for peace.

Language: English


The text is readily found in the online edition of Wartime Correspondence at

ADSS 1.264 Notes of the Secretary of State: conversation with Myron Taylor and Maglione

ADSS 1.264 Secretary of State, notes

Reference: AES 2466/40

Location and date: Vatican, 15.03.1940

Summary statement: Conversation of Myron Taylor with Maglione.

Language: Italian


The Ambassador thanked His Eminence for all the courtesies shown to him on his arrival in Rome (1).

Speaking then about Mr Sumner Welles’ next visit to Rome, the Ambassador asked His Eminence to submit the wish to the Holy Father that the honour of an audience with the Holy Father be granted to Mr Welles.  If possible, Monday would be perfect, as Mr Welles is also engaged during Saturday and Sunday with M. Mussolini and Count Ciano; furthermore it would be proper that the last conversation which Mr Welles had in Europe would be with His Holiness “thus Mr Welles’ mission would be concluded in a worthy manner and he could return to America with this thoughts elevated on to a spiritual plane” (2).

At the end of the audience Mr Welles would like to introduce Mr Moffat, Chief of the Western European Affairs Section at the American Department of State, to the Holy Father, and Mr Johnson, private secretary to Mr Welles. (3)  Ambassador Taylor expressed the wish to be present during the Audience for the prestige of his own mission’s sake.  He kept on insisting on this point.

Mr Taylor then went on to propose two points to His Eminence on which he would like to have the Holy See’s advice.

1. His Excellency, after having obtained information from all sides, is firmly convinced that for the moment everybody believes that nothing can be done regarding an initiative in favour of peace.  He would like to know if the holy See, in order to prevent the extension of the war or at least to confine it, could make a useful suggestion to be taken by the President alone, with the support of the Holy Father, or by a group of neutral states, in particular the American ones.

2. In case nothing could definitely be done at present, how could President Roosevelt help to protect Italy from the danger of being dragged into war on Germany’s side?  The Ambassador thinks that Italy’s neutrality will be very important should the war last a long time, and he would like to work in this direction.

His Eminence will bring these two points to the attention of the Hoy Father and give his considered reply to the Ambassador.

(1) On 27.02.1940 Myron Taylor was received by Pius XII in “solemn audience” and he handed to the Pope a letter from FDR. See ADSS 1.264.  After the meeting with the Pope, Taylor had a meeting with the Secretary of State for 45 minutes during which the international situation was discussed.  See FRUS 1940 Vol 1, pp 126-27.
(2) See ADSS 1.268.

(3) Jay Pierrepont Moffat (1896-1943), Chief of European Affairs 1937-40.  Hartwell Johnson (1902- ?)

ADSS 1.263 Valeri to Maglione: Ribbentrop's visit to Holy See; end of war in Finland

ADSS 1.263 Valerio Valeri, France, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report number 1059/509 (AES 3112/40)

Location and date: Paris, 14.03.1940

Summary statement: Ribbentrop’s visit to the Vatican came as a great surprise.  Some see it as a peace plan devised by Hitler.  Peace imposed on Finland has disappointed public opinion; criticism of Allied inactivity.

Language: Italian


The journey of the Reich Foreign Minister, von Ribbentrop, to Rome has not failed, as Your Eminence knows, to give rise here in France to a great deal of comment.  His visit to the Vatican has caused great surprise and amazement.  The newspapers, however – excluding a few of clearly anti-Catholic tendency and a few more who do not have a large distribution such as the Petit Bleu which covers the interest of certain financial groups – have abstained from openly criticising the affirmative reply of the Holy See to the request of the Reich Foreign Minister to be received by the Holy Father.  On the other hand various hypotheses have been expressed as to the aims of this visit and the bitter sweet tone of the Press lets one feel that some displeasure has been created by this action which could be interpreted as a success for German diplomacy.

The Press, however, instead of criticising has tried to explain with more or less credible reports, that the visit of von Ribbentrop to the Vatican will not bring Nazism the advantages, which were anticipated.  Nor could it be otherwise, because the Hoy See could not support Hitler’s plans in favour of peace, if this peace is not founded on justice and the wrongs committed by the Reich against the conquered nations are not put right.  The newspapers have delved particularly into these points and some of them, like Populaire yesterday morning have again quoted the Christmas address of the Holy Father on the peace conditions.

People here think in fact that one of the principal aims of Ribbentrop’s visit to Rome was that of preparing a new German peace offensive which could be harmful to the Allies, by influencing public opinion in the neutral countries and in particular that of the United States of America and Mr Roosevelt’s decisions, while his representative is going to meet Signor Mussolini again in a few days (1).

I must add furthermore that the peace which Finland was forced to sign the day before yesterday with the Soviets, has been a blow to French public opinion, and they ask what the Allied Governments are doing (2).  M Daladier was obliged to answer a question in Parliament on this point during Tuesday’s session.  Parliament is in a bad mood regarding the trend that international political and diplomatic events are taking.  A rumour is going around that new ministerial changes will take place.

On the whole the situation is rather confused especially because France cannot break away form the decisions and dispositions of Great Britain.

(1) Reference to Benjamin Sumner Welles visit to Rome, Berlin and London in March and April 1940.
(2) The Russo-Finnish war (13.11.1939-13.03.1940) ended with Finland signing the Treaty of Moscow.  Finland had held the Red Army at bay for over three months.  Britain and France pledged to send troops to Finland via Scandanavia.  Part of the Allied plan was to secure Swedish iron ore deposits and Norwegian coastal ports, especially Narvik, and deny them to Germany.  This would effectively end Swedish neutrality and Norway’s ambition to stay out of the war.  However, Norway, Denmark and Sweden announced in February 1940 that they would not give permission for Allied troops to pass through their territory.  The USSR took 11% of Finnish land space and about 30% of Finnish economic power.

ADSS 1.262 Alfredo Pacini to Maglione: Ribbentrop's visit to the Holy See

ADSS 1.262 Alfredo Pacini, Charge d’Affaires Poland (1), to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report 13/40 (AES 2476/40)

Location and date: Paris, 13.03.1940

Summary statement: Polish reaction to Ribbentrop’s visit to the Vatican.

Language: Italian


I hasten to draw Your Eminence’s attention to an article on the visit paid to the Holy Father by the German foreign Minister, von Ribbentrop, which appeared today, 13 March, in the newspaper Glos Polski (The Voice of Poland), official paper of the Polish government in Angers.

This article, which I translate word for word, expressed the general feelings of the Polish people living in France and especially in Paris.

Many of them by word of mouth have expressed more or less the same feelings to me; while I for my part tried to quieten these unfortunate people who, because of the situation in which they find themselves and their state of mind, which is full of bitterness and fear, are frightened by the rustle of a leaf.

I have not, these last few days, seen any Government officials or members of the National Council, as they are all at Angers, but I shall not fail to see some of them and to inform Your Eminence about these meetings.


(1) Alfredo Pacini (1888-1967), Charge d’Affaires, Polish Nunciature. Filipo Cortesi, the nuncio left Warsaw in mid-September 1939 and the nunciature was closed.  Pacini made his way to France where a Polish government in exile was established in Angers in January 1940.  The Polish government fled to Britain after the German invasion in May.

ADSS 1.261 William Godfrey to Maglione: Sumner Welles visit to London; Ribbentrop's visit to the Holy See

 ADSS 1.261 William Godfrey (1), Ap Del UK, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report number 550/40 (AES 2540/40)

Location and date: London, 12.03.1940

Summary statement: Visit of Sumner Welles to London well received by the British.  FDR’s peace efforts well received. UK critical of US neutrality.  Ribbentrop’s visit was a surprise – possible peace move by Hitler?

Language: Italian


I think it opportune to report to Your Eminence the comments on Mr Sumner Welles’ visit to London and of Minister Ribbentrop’s visit to Rome.

With reference to the former I think I am able to say that President Roosevelt’s effort to co-operate in some way in settling the European dispute has been well received here in England.

His special envoy, Mr Welles, has been received with great courtesy; but even before his arrival the Press affirmed that all the Franco-British points of view had already been well defined and known by the entire world.  However, all possible information will be given to Roosevelt’s representative; but it will consist only of details to explain the situation.

Since the start of the war the possibility that the American republic would enter the conflict has never been seriously discussed.  Here and there, and from time to time, there has been a certain criticism of the American attitude, on the assumption that it reflects the trend of “neutrality at all costs”.

It is generally remembered that after Munich the United States reproached France ad Great Britain for having yielded to Hitler.  Now that both nations have taken up arms to block the progress of German hegemony, the United States is completely disinterested in Europe.

It does not seem, therefore, that the British nation expects the United States to enter the war.  On the other hand no responsible personality of British politics has made any request of this kind.

Yesterday’s and today’s newspapers give great publicity to Ribbentrop’s visit to the Holy Father.  Taken unawares the Press indulges in speculations on what could have been the motives and aims of the visit.

The particulars of this visit have received great attention from radio and newspapers and it has been noticed that there were not Swastikas on the Vatican motorcars, and Pope Pius XI’s words have been recalled when he said that this emblem in not Christ’s cross.

“Ribbentrop” writes the Evening News, “could during this visit to the Pope try to excuse Nazi brutalities against Poland: Pius XII will not be easily convinced by mere words, not matter how sweet”.

Another newspaper, the Evening Standard, insinuates that the aim of the visit could be that of asking the Pope to support the recent peace plan of Hitler.  German diplomacy would try to line up Berlin-Rome-Vatican over a peace plan, ready for the return of Sumner Welles to Rome.

Other newspapers think that Ribbentrop’s visit is designed to persuade Italy to see a simple economic alliance in the relations between Germany and Russia.

I thought it my duty to report all this to Your Eminence.


(1) William Godfrey, (1889-1963), Apostolic Delegate to the United Kingdom 1938-53.