The Pope and Mussolini

The Pope and Mussolini

The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe

Book - 2014
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From National Book Award finalist David I. Kertzer comes the gripping story of Pope Pius XI's secret relations with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. This groundbreaking work, based on seven years of research in the Vatican and Fascist archives, including reports from Mussolini's spies inside the highest levels of the Church, will forever change our understanding of the Vatican's role in the rise of Fascism in Europe.
The Pope and Mussolini tells the story of two men who came to power in 1922, and together changed the course of twentieth-century history. In most respects, they could not have been more different. One was scholarly and devout, the other thuggish and profane. Yet Pius XI and "Il Duce" had many things in common. They shared a distrust of democracy and a visceral hatred of Communism. Both were prone to sudden fits of temper and were fiercely protective of the prerogatives of their office. ("We have many interests to protect," the Pope declared, soon after Mussolini seized control of the government in 1922.) Each relied on the other to consolidate his power and achieve his political goals.
In a challenge to the conventional history of this period, in which a heroic Church does battle with the Fascist regime, Kertzer shows how Pius XI played a crucial role in making Mussolini's dictatorship possible and keeping him in power. In exchange for Vatican support, Mussolini restored many of the privileges the Church had lost and gave in to the pope's demands that the police enforce Catholic morality. Yet in the last years of his life--as the Italian dictator grew ever closer to Hitler--the pontiff's faith in this treacherous bargain started to waver. With his health failing, he began to lash out at the Duce and threatened to denounce Mussolini's anti-Semitic racial laws before it was too late. Horrified by the threat to the Church-Fascist alliance, the Vatican's inner circle, including the future Pope Pius XII, struggled to restrain the headstrong pope from destroying a partnership that had served both the Church and the dictator for many years.
The Pope and Mussolini brims with memorable portraits of the men who helped enable the reign of Fascism in Italy: Father Pietro Tacchi Venturi, Pius's personal emissary to the dictator, a wily anti-Semite known as Mussolini's Rasputin; Victor Emmanuel III, the king of Italy, an object of widespread derision who lacked the stature--literally and figuratively--to stand up to the domineering Duce; and Cardinal Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli, whose political skills and ambition made him Mussolini's most powerful ally inside the Vatican, and positioned him to succeed the pontiff as the controversial Pius XII, whose actions during World War II would be subject for debate for decades to come.
With the recent opening of the Vatican archives covering Pius XI's papacy, the full story of the Pope's complex relationship with his Fascist partner can finally be told. Vivid, dramatic, with surprises at every turn, The Pope and Mussolini is history writ large and with the lightning hand of truth.
Praise for The Pope and Mussolini
"Kertzer has an eye for a story, an ear for the right word, and an instinct for human tragedy. This is a sophisticated blockbuster." --Joseph J. Ellis , Pulitzer Prize-winning author of  Revolutionary Summer
"A fascinating and tragic story." --The New Yorker
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2014]
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9780812993462
Branch Call Number: 322.10945 KER
Characteristics: xxxiii, 549 pages :,illustrations, maps.


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Feb 23, 2018

Fascinating read. Written in very accessible language and style. Thoroughly researched and documented. David Kertzer portrays Pius XI not so much as evil but as naive, bound by the Church's age-old teachings about the Jews, and, when he finally does decide to challenge Mussolini's and Hitler's racial ideologies, thwarted by Vatican figures, including the man who would be his successor, Eugenio Pacelli, Pius XII. This is the first of Kertzer's works that I have read, and it left me eager to read more.

Jun 28, 2016

Excellent history of how fascism came to be in Italy in the 1920's. Great read but a real horror story. Thoroughly researched from the Vatican archives and the Italian fascist government archives. The book examines the relationship between Mussolini and Pope Pius XI. In conclusion, the fascist dictator, Mussolini, used the Vatican to come to power and stay there. The Italian Fascist party might have been another footnote in history, if the Vatican didn't go all in and backed Mussolini (and BTW Hitler idolized Mussolini and copied the Italian fascist playbook to gain power in Germany). Let's be clear, both Il Duce and the Pope were strong supporters of fascism - each for their own purposes. While Pope Pius XI, a power-hungry librarian, was defiant of Mussolini, he only protested to regain his state-sponsored religion - thus the 'Clerico-Fascist' regime. Pius XI had some regrets about the out-right racism of the fascists toward the end of his reign, but he didn't really stand up against Mussolini's anti-Semite laws. Puis was opposed to the German Nazi, if only that Hitler was anti-Catholic. Pius XI was just as evil as Mussolini and maybe worse for enabling the fascists. Yet Pius XI's successor was twice as bad - a complete anti-Semite, totally compliant to Mussolini, and a Nazi collaborator. What a contrast to the current Pope Francis.

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