ADSS 1.230 Pius XII to King Vittorio Emanuale and Queen Elena
Saturday, September 24, 2016
Reference: AAS 31 (1939), pp 708-09
Location and date: Vatican, 21.12.1939
Summary statement: The pope greets the King and Queen and congratulates the Italian government on keeping Italy out of the war (1).
The solemn visit that His Imperial Majesty with His August Consort the Queen Empress, shining example to Italian women, and accompanied by such splendid and noble retinue, have deigned to make to Our Person, as they did ten years ago, to Our Venerable Predecessor – Your Majesty being the wise conciliator, between the Church and the Italian State – has appeared to Our mind so much more gratifying because it is illumined by the glow of the imminent and holy solemnity of Christmas, feast of peace, feast of redeeming charity. This visit takes place at a moment when other peoples are dragged into war, and peace and quiet have abandoned so many hearts. Italy on the other hand, though always wary and prepared under the august and wise hand of its King Emperor and the far seeing leadership of its Government, remains at peace, in continued civilised harmony, devoting itself to the promotion of arts, literature, science, agriculture and industry, in sea and air transportation, all in the observance of the solemn rites of the Catholic religion.
The faith which through the centuries has inspired the House of Savoy and elevated some of its sons even to the altar, has today testified to Us how intensely it lives on in the Royal and Imperial Dynasty, whose glory is exalted in the emblem of the white cross. On their Majesties, on the beloved Royal Family, on the Head and Members of the Government, on the persons here present We invoke, as the Christmas festivities approach, Heaven’s most abundant benedictions. May the Omnipotent hand of God guide the fortunes of the Italian people, so near and dear to Us, and the decisions of its rulers, so that they may not only preserve, with far sighted vigilance and with deep wisdom, their internal and external peace, but also contribute to the re-establishment of an honourable and lasting universal peace!
(1) The visit to the Vatican by the King and Queen of Italy was seen by many as the final seal of reconciliation between the Kingdom of Italy and the Vatican. A week later Pius made the first visit by a pope to the Quirinal Palace, formerly the Pope’s official residence in Rome, to the King and Queen. See ADSS 1.237
ADSS 1.229 Luigi Maglione, notes.
Reference: AES 9331/39
Location and date: Vatican, 17.12.1939
Summary statement: German embassy reply to Christmas truce proposal. Subject is under consideration. Also protested reports in La Croix about alleged German atrocities in Poland, Bohemia and Moravia.
The Counsellor of the German Embassy (1) informs me (16.00hrs) that his Government is studying the Holy See’s proposals for a Christmas truce.
He adds that the Ministry has informed the Embassy that the Nuncio (2), who has advanced another proposal regarding air bombardments, has not been informed or at least does not seem to have been informed about the present true proposal for Christmas. The Counsellor says it is natural that the Nuncio was not informed about the latest proposals of the Holy See, as this proposal was communicated confidentially. The Holy See wanted to sound the belligerent Governments.
I replied to the Counsellor that things were just as he thought. The Nuncio was not informed about the proposal of the Holy See for a Christmas truce because the step taken by me was confidential.
I also reminded the Counsellor that the other proposal (abstention from air bombardment of locations near churches at least during the hours of divine service) was about two months old; (that too is under consideration).
P.S. The Counsellor complained about La Croix, the main Catholic newspaper in France, concerning charges of German cruelties in Poland, cruelties in Bohemia, Moravia and even of the imprisonment of Cardinal Kaspar (said to have been in prison for fifteen days) (3). He left me an extract of a letter from von Neurath to von Bergen on this subject.
I replied that I was not aware that Cardinal Kaspar had been detained in prison.
(1) Fritz Menhausen (1885-1958), Counsellor to the German Embassy to the Holy See 1936-45.
(2) Cesare Orsenigo (1873-1946), Nuncio to Germany 1930-45.
(3) Karel Kaspar (1870-1941), Abp Prague 1931-41. Kaspar was repeatedly arrested and harassed by the German occupation forces for refusing to implement anti-Catholic decrees.
(4) Konstantin von Neurath (1873-1956), Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, 1939-43.
ADSS 1.228 Luigi Maglione, Sec State, notes
Reference: AES 9286/39
Location and date: Vatican, 16.12.1939
Summary statement: UK government will not support a Christmas truce. French government confirms its refusal.
The British Ambassador [sic] has communicated to me that his Government deeply regrets being unable – for technical reasons – to accept a truce for Christmas.
The French Ambassador, who had communicated the remarks made by me on Thursday to his Government concerning ther reasons given by his Government for rejecting the truce, informs me that his Government t hinks that the reasons given are still valid (1).
All this was told to me with great courtesy.
(1) ADSS 1.226
ADSS.1.227 François Charles-Roux, French Ambassador to the Holy See, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.
Reference: AES 9331/39
Location and date: Rome, 14.12 1939
Summary statement: Detailed explanation of the French government’s refusal to support the Christmas truce.
In accordance with Your Eminence’s wishes, I hasten to summarise below what I had the honour of explaining to you verbally this morning.
The French Government, while rendering homage to the lofty sentiments which have inspired the Sovereign Pontiff’s initiative, would not be in a position, should the matter be referred to them officially, to give it favourable consideration.
The project, which has been mooted to them by Your Eminence through me, meets with objections of a technical and military nature, of which, of course, I can only give here a few instances.
There is, for example, no means of preventing floating, drifting or magnetic mines, which have been laid profusely by the Germans, contrary to the law of nations, from exploding and causing catastrophes at sea during a period of two days of even of one day. This is true with regard to the effects of such mines, not only on French and British ships, but also on neutral vessels, which are hit by mines just as often, if not more so. No undertaking could give us an absolute assurance that the enemy submarines or even the enemy surface ships, which are now operating far from their bases and do not wish to divulge their positions, would receive an instruction not to attack our ships during two days or that they would strictly abide by such an instruction if it re ached them. On this point to, neutral navigation, which is the object of frequent attacks by German submarines and cruisers under the pretext of counter-blockade, would not be more effectively covered than ours by a guarantee, which in certain waters might prove illusory.
On the other hand, it may be feared that Germany might take such an opportunity to intensify the insidious and, at times, pro-Russian propaganda of which she is the instrument and for which her airplanes and radios are often the vehicles. In this respect, the initiative envisaged might not be without psychological consequences that would be difficult to estimate in advance. Moreover, care must be taken not to give rise to illusions that could not materialise.
Lastly, it is a well-known fact that in the parts of Poland occupied by Germany acts of violence and oppression are committed. This is to the detriment of a people allied to France and whose Government has its seat in France. Any truce would be obviously inoperative for them.
It is therefore necessary to consider that the allied armies are fighting, not for selfish ends, but for the safety of principles of which the Holy See itself proclaims sacred and whose defence, which is becoming increasingly urgent, can brook neither remission nor truce.
Such are the argument, which I had the honour of explaining to Your Eminence this morning in compliance with the instructions, received from my Government. My Government has requested that I reply to you in confidence to the overture sent to them by me from You.
ADSS 1.226 Luigi Maglione, notes.
Reference: AES 9285/39
Location and date: Vatican, 13.12.1939
French Ambassador to the Holy See, Charles-Roux, reports the French gov’t will not support a Christmas truce.
The French Ambassador told me verbally this morning that his Government does not think they are able to agree to a truce during Christmas for technical and psychological reasons.
1. The technical difficulties are enormous; they seem almost insuperable as far as sea hostilities are concerned: it is impossible to warn the submarines, mines cannot be removed etc.
2. If a truce is accepted there is the danger of everybody believing that the French Government would be prepared to accept peace at any price, etc, etc, and in consequence a decrease of effort, etc.
I observed that as far as the war on land and in the air was concerned it could b=not be said that real difficulties existed for suspending the war for two days, or for only one.
As for the war at sea, I was aware that a few days were necessary to pass on information to the submarines. It was precisely for this reason that I insisted on the urgency of the decision. I observed also, as far as the mines are concerned, that, unfortunately, nobody could ask for them to be removed for a two day truce. One could ask, however, that no new ones were laid.
Regarding the psychological argument I observed that everybody, without exception, had properly understood that the truce had been proposed in order to celebrate the birth of Our Lord, to enable all families, to enjoy this holy festivity of the family, to have a little tranquillity, and comfort. Nobody would think about what the Ambassador had mentioned.
The Ambassador could not and would not reply to my arguments and ended by saying: Who could assure us that the truce would not be violated?
I replied that I believed that the Germans, having accepted the truce, would observe it loyally. I did not know if they would accept it: but I believed that once they gave their word before the whole world, they would keep it.
The Ambassador, in reply to my request, promised that he would communicate my observations to the Government in Paris. He promised me, also upon my request, to give in writing – confidentially – whatever reply to me that he received from his Government.
In the margin:
15 December 1939. Up to this evening I have not received the confidential letter that the Ambassador promised to send. (1)
(1) Domenico Tardini said the Pope was waiting for a reply to his truce initiative. DDI, Series 9, Vol 2, n589, p450.