Saturday, July 15, 2017

ADSS 1.269 Maglione to Orsenigo: conversation with Ribbentrop

ADSS 1.269 Luigi Maglione, Sec State, to Cesare Orsenigo, Germany

Reference: AES 2360/40

Location and date: Vatican, 19.03.1940

Summary statement: Maglione informs Orsenigo of his conversation with Ribbentrop.

Language: Italian


I take pleasure in sending Your Excellency, for your information and guidance , some notes on the two meetings – one in the Vatican and the other in the German Embassy to the Holy See – which the German Foreign Minister had with me on the 11.03.1940, soon after his audience with the Holy Father (1).

The Minister affirmed his pleasure, several times, in having been able to see the Holy Father and to talk with him about the religious position in Germany taking advantage of his time in Rome to settle a few questions with the Italian Government.

He also told me that he was able, during the audience, to note with great satisfaction that the Pope still has his heart in Germany, and a great wish to reach a firm and lasting agreement with Hitler.

He added that Hitler also wants a sound and lasting settlement.  He has already given proof of his goodwill by stopping, by the hundreds, the proceedings against the clergy.  But Hitler is a man with far-sighted plans and thinks more of the future than of the present.  We cannot therefore think that we can reach the desired settlement at present.  Germany is now engaged in a terrific struggle for its own existence and greatness. Hitler has all Germans on his side: their energy is devoted to the attainment of victory; it is not possible to think about other problems.  Afterwards we will negotiate.

I did not fail to point out to the Minister that religion is also concerned with the present and it is therefore not possible to set aside the current problems which hamper it and cause sorrow, pain and grace danger to souls.  Replying to one of his frequent allusions to the so-called political activity of the German clergy, I recalled to him the Holy See’s instructions on this subject, instructions which the German clergy, at least generally speaking, obey scrupulously.  If in some particular instance these instructions have not been obeyed, the only thing to do would be to inform the competent ecclesiastical authority which would immediately remedy it.  But it would be a grave error, I added, to see political motives in the overall activity of clergy and people.

From here, passing to more concrete points, I recalled the particular attention of the Minister to some of the many facts which the Church has lately been compelled to deplore: these have already been communicated to the German Embassy to the Holy See with our note of last July which so far has not been replied to, and in particular other more recent notes, as for example the closing down of Seminaries and Theological Faculties, without even informing the Holy See although this is a matter which comes under the Concordat.

Regarding Poland – as the Minister handed to me an official publication on the Polish atrocities against the Germans and mentioned the political activity of the Polish clergy – I told him that the Holy See wishes to be accurately informed and therefore they have several times asked Berlin for permission to send a trusted clergyman to Poland namely Monsignor Colli, Counsellor of the Nunciature in Germany, but until now they have not had a reply in the sense desired; and in the meantime, the various reports which circulate on the situation in Poland, some of which cannot be confuted, are becoming very distressing.  We can ask the Polish priests to abstain from creating difficulties to the occupying authority, but it is not possible to pretend that they should renounce their love of their own country.  The presence of the Holy See’s envoy, I added, would help in clearing misunderstandings and in assisting the priests in their undertaking to devote themselves exclusively to their pastoral ministry.  He could, by keeping in touch with the German authorities, give useful directives and good advice to help the Bishops to bring the religious situation back to normal.  But I only received a vague reply.

I spoke also of the necessity of helping the poor Polish population and I reminded him of the request already made for the consent of the Berlin Government for organising assistance under the control of the Holy See’s envoy in agreement with the occupying power.  But I did not get a satisfactory reply.

At Villa Bonaparte I spoke again of the advantage of having a representative of the Holy See in Warsaw, in the interest of Germany itself.  He replied that he would think about it but added explicitly that he could not promise anything.  He spoke again about Hitler’s goodwill (who is looking to the future) and about the necessity of setting aside particular questions.


(1) ADSS 1.257, 258.

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