Pope Pius XI

Dafato Team | Jul 12, 2022

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Pius XI (Desio, May 31, 1857 - Vatican City, Feb. 10, 1939) was the 259th bishop of Rome and pope of the Catholic Church from 1922 until his death. From June 7, 1929 he was the 1st ruler of the new Vatican City State.


Achille Ratti was born on May 31, 1857, in Desio, in the house that is now the site of the Pius XI Birthplace Museum and the "Pius XI International Center for Studies and Documentation" (at No. 4 Via Pio XI, then Via Lampugnani). The fourth of five children, he was baptized the day after his birth in the prepositurale of Santi Siro e Materno with the name Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti (the name Ambrogio in honor of his paternal grandfather, his godfather at his baptism). His father Francesco was active-with not much success as attested by his constant transfers-as a director in various silk-processing factories, while his mother Teresa Galli, originally from Saronno, was the daughter of a hotelier.Initiated to an ecclesiastical career by the example of his uncle Don Damiano Ratti, Achille studied beginning in 1867 in the seminary of Seveso, then in that of Monza, currently the site of the Liceo Ginnasio Bartolomeo Zucchi. He prepared for high school at Collegio San Carlo and passed his exams at Liceo Parini. From 1874 he was a member of the Franciscan tertiary order. In 1875 he began theological studies; the first three years in the Major Seminary of Milan and the last in the Seminary of Seveso. In 1879 he was in Rome at the Collegio Lombardo. He was ordained a priest on December 20, 1879 in Rome by Cardinal Raffaele Monaco La Valletta.


He assiduously frequented libraries and archives, in Italy and abroad. He was doctor of the Ambrosian Library and from March 8, 1907 prefect of the same library.

He undertook extensive studies: the Acta Ecclesiae Mediolanensis, the complete collection of the acts of the Archdiocese of Milan, of which he published volumes II, III and IV in 1890, 1892 and 1897 respectively, and the Liber diurnus Romanorum Pontificum, a collection of formulas used in ecclesiastical documents. He also discovered the earliest biography of St. Agnes of Bohemia and for study sojourned in Prague; also in Savona, by chance, he discovered the acts of a Milanese provincial council of 1311, of which he had lost memory.

Ratti was a man of vast erudition; in fact, he obtained three degrees in his Roman years of study: in philosophy at the Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, in canon law at the Gregorian University and in theology at La Sapienza University. He also had a strong passion both for literary studies, where he preferred Dante and Manzoni, and for scientific studies, so much so that he had been in doubt whether to take up the study of mathematics; in this regard, he was a great friend and, for a time, collaborator of Don Giuseppe Mercalli, a well-known geologist and creator of the earthquake scale of the same name, whom he had known as a teacher in the seminary in Milan.


Ratti was also a valuable educator, not only in the school setting. From 1878 he was professor of mathematics at the minor seminary.

Msgr. Ratti, who had studied Hebrew at the archdiocesan seminary course and had furthered his studies with Milan's Chief Rabbi Alessandro Da Fano, became Hebrew lecturer at the seminary in 1907 and held the position for three years. As lecturer he took his students to the Milan Synagogue so that they could become familiar with oral Hebrew, a bold initiative that was unusual in seminaries.

As chaplain of the Cenacolo in Milan, a religious community devoted to the education of girls (a post he held from 1892 to 1914), he had the opportunity to exercise very effective pastoral and educational activity, coming into contact with girls and young women of every status and condition, but especially with Milanese good society: the Gonzagas, the Castiglione, the Borromeos, the Della Somaglia, the Belgioioso, the Greppi, the Thaon di Revel, the Jacini, the Osio, and the Gallarati Scotti.

This environment was traversed by different opinions: some families were closer to the monarchy and liberal Catholicism, others were intransigent, in line with Don Davide Albertario's Osservatore Cattolico. Although he did not express explicit sympathy for either current, the young Don Ratti had very close relations with the Gallarati Scotti family, who were intransigent; he was catechist and tutor (on the advice of his grandfather of the same name) of the young Tommaso Gallarati Scotti, son of Gian Carlo, prince of Molfetta, and Maria Luisa Melzi d'Eril, who would later become a well-known diplomat and writer.

Tensions between liberal and intransigent Catholics were common in the Catholic milieu of the time; suffice it to recall that Achille Ratti had received his tonsure and diaconate from Archbishop Luigi Nazari of Calabiana, the protagonist of the crisis that bears his name. Among his educators he had Fr Francesco Sala, who taught the dogmatic theology course on the basis of strict Thomism, and Fr Ernesto Fontana, who taught moral theology with anti-Rosminian positions. In this environment Fr. Ratti developed an anti-liberal tendency, which he expressed, for example, in 1891 during an informal conversation with Cardinal Gruscha, archbishop of Vienna: "Your country has the good fortune not to be dominated by anticlerical liberalism, nor by a State that seeks to bind the Church with iron chains."

After 1904 Tommaso Gallarati Scotti became a representative of modernism, the doctrine according to which an "adaptation of the Gospel to the changing condition of humanity" was necessary, and in 1907 he founded the magazine Il Rinnovamento. While Pope Pius X published the encyclical Pascendi condemning modernism, Msgr. Ratti tried to warn his friend, acting as a mediator and running the risk of attracting the suspicions of intransigent anti-modernists. Tommaso Gallarati Scotti had already decided to resign from the magazine when he was hit with excommunication. The Holy See investigated Archbishop Andrea Carlo Ferrari's responsibility for the spread of modernist ideas in his archdiocese, and Msgr. Ratti had to defend him before the pope and Cardinal Gaetano De Lai.


Ratti was also a passionate mountaineer: he climbed several peaks in the Alps and was the first - on July 31, 1889 - to reach the summit of Mount Rosa from the eastern face; he conquered, although burdened by the weight of a boy he carried on his shoulders, Gran Paradiso; on August 7, 1889 he climbed Mount Cervino, and at the end of July 1890 he climbed Mont Blanc, opening the route later called "Via Ratti - Grasselli." Pope Ratti was an assiduous and passionate frequenter of the Grigne group and for many years, at the turn of the century, he was a guest of the parish of Esino Lario, the logistical base of his excursions. The future Pope's last climbs date back to 1913. For the entire period Ratti was a member, collaborator and editor of articles for the Club Alpino Italiano.Ratti himself said of mountaineering that "it was not a thing for daredevils, but on the contrary all and only a matter of prudence, and of a little courage, strength and constancy, a feeling for nature and its innermost beauties." As soon as he was elected pope, the Alpine Club of London co-opted Pius XI as its member, motivating this invitation with three ascents to the highest Alpine peaks (the invitation was declined, albeit with the pope's thanks).

Ratti, in 1899, had an interview with the famous explorer Luigi d'Aosta Duca degli Abruzzi to join the North Pole expedition the Duke was organizing. Ratti was not taken, it is said, because a priest, no matter how excellent a mountaineer, would have intimidated his other traveling companions, rough men of sea and mountains.

In 1935, breaking strict Vatican State protocol, he sent a telegram of congratulations during the inauguration ceremony of the Central Military Mountaineering School in Aosta.

Ecclesiastical career

Profound competence in studies brought Ratti to the attention of Pope Leo XIII. Thus in June 1891 and 1893 he was invited to participate in several diplomatic missions following Monsignor Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi to Austria and France. This was at the recommendation of Radini-Tedeschi himself, who had studied with Ratti at the Pontifical Lombard Seminary in Rome.

In August 1882 he was appointed substitute pastor of Barni, where a plaque in his honor is still affixed in the parish church dedicated to the Annunciation.

In 1888 he joined the College of Doctors of the Ambrosian Library, becoming its prefect in 1907. On March 6, 1907, he was appointed prelate of His Holiness with the title of monsignor.

Meanwhile, in 1894 he had joined the Oblates of Saints Ambrose and Charles, a deeply Milanese institute of secular priests rooted in the spirituality of St. Charles Borromeo and St. Ignatius of Loyola. To the Ignatian spiritual exercises Fr. Ratti would always remain attached, for example meditating on the 1908, 1910 and 1911 exercises at the Jesuits in Feldkirch, Austria.

Called by Pius X to Rome, he was a member of the St. Peter's Circle, was appointed on Nov. 8, 1911, vice-prefect with right of succession and, on Sept. 27, 1914, reigning Benedict XV, prefect of the Vatican Library.

Mission to Poland

In 1918 Pope Benedict XV appointed him apostolic visitor to Poland and Lithuania and later, in 1919, apostolic nuncio (i.e., diplomatic representative to Poland), and at the age of 62 he was elevated to the rank of archbishop with the title of Lepanto. He chose as his secretary Fr. Ermenegildo Pellegrinetti, a doctor of theology and canon law and above all a polyglot, who kept a diary of Msgr. Ratti's mission to Poland.

His mission led him to face the difficult situation that occurred with the Soviet invasion in August 1920 because of the problems created by the formulation of new borders after World War I. Ratti asked Rome to remain in Warsaw close to the siege but Benedict XV, fearing for his life, ordered him to join the Polish government in exile, which he did after all other diplomatic posts had withdrawn. He was later appointed ecclesiastical High Commissioner for the plebiscite in Upper Silesia, a plebiscite that was to be held among the population to choose between joining Poland or Germany. There was a strong presence of German clergy in the region (supported by the Archbishop of Breslau Cardinal Bertram), who were pushing for reunification with Germany. The Polish government then asked the Pope to appoint an ecclesiastical representative who would be above the parties and able to guarantee impartiality at the plebiscite.

Ratti's specific task, in fact, was to call the German and Polish clergy to concord and, through them, the entire population. It happened, however, that Archbishop Bertram forbade the foreign priests of his archdiocese (basically the Poles) to take part in the debate on the plebiscite. Moreover, Bertram let it be known that he had the support of the Holy See: the Secretary of State, Cardinal Gasparri, had given support to Bertram and the German clergy, but without informing Ratti. Not only did Ratti have to suffer this discourtesy, but he saw the Polish press unleashed against him, unjustly accusing him of being pro-German. He was therefore recalled to Rome, and on June 4, 1921, Ratti left Poland.

One of his successes was to obtain the release of Eduard von der Ropp, archbishop of Mahilëŭ, who was arrested by Soviet authorities in April 1919 on charges of counterrevolutionary activity and released in October of that year.In early 1920 he made a long diplomatic trip to Lithuania, making pilgrimages to the places dearest to Lithuanian Catholics, and to Latvia. In the latter state he laid the foundations of the future concordat, which was to be the first concordat he concluded after ascending to the papacy. He also took care of the recently reestablished diocese of Riga, which was suffering from a great shortage of clergy and the absence of religious orders; elevation to an archdiocese was also planned.

However, in October 1921, once he became archbishop of Milan, he received an honorary degree in theology from the University of Warsaw. During this period a conviction probably came to form in Cardinal Ratti that the main danger from which the Catholic Church had to defend itself was Bolshevism. Hence the figure that explains his later work: his social policy aimed at challenging the masses against communism and nationalism.

Archbishop of Milan and Cardinal

In the consistory of June 13, 1921 Achille Ratti was appointed archbishop of Milan and on the same day was created cardinal of the title of Santi Silvestro e Martino ai Monti.

He took possession of the archdiocese on Sept. 8. In his brief episcopate he arranged that the Catechism of Pius X should be the only one used in the archdiocese, inaugurated the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart and began the diocesan phase of the cause of canonization of Father Giorgio Maria Martinelli, the founder of the Oblates of Rho.

The conclave of 1922 and the election as pontiff

Achille Ratti was elected pope on February 6, 1922 on the fourteenth ballot of a contested conclave. Voters were in fact divided into two factions: on the one hand the "conservatives," who aimed for Cardinal Merry del Val (former Secretary of State under Pope Pius X), and on the other the "liberals," united in their preference for the outgoing Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Gasparri. The convergence on the name of the Lombard cardinal thus turned out to be the result of a compromise.

Once the election had been accepted and the pontifical name chosen, Pius XI, clad in the choral habit, asked to be allowed to look out from the external loggia of the Vatican basilica (instead of the internal one used by his last three predecessors): the opportunity was granted to him and, once he retrieved a banner to adorn the balcony (specifically that of Pius IX, the most recent of those available), the new pontiff was able to introduce himself to the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square, to whom he imparted a simple Urbi et Orbi blessing, without, however, uttering any words.

His choice to appear with his gaze turned toward the city of Rome and not within the Vatican walls indicated his desire to resolve the Roman question, with its unresolved conflict between its roles as the capital of Italy and the seat of the pope's temporal power. Significantly, from the onlookers who flocked to the Petrine basilica came the cry Viva Pio XI! Long live Italy!!!


This program was completed by the encyclicals Quas primas (Dec. 11, 1925), by which the feast of Christ the King was also instituted, and Miserentissimus Redemptor (May 8, 1928), on the worship of the Sacred Heart.

In the moral field, his most important encyclicals are remembered as the "four columns." In Divini Illius Magistri of Dec. 31, 1929 he enshrines the right of the family to educate children as an original right and prior to that of the state. In Casti Connubii of Dec. 31, 1930, he reaffirmed the traditional doctrine the sacrament of marriage: the first duties of spouses must be mutual fidelity, mutual and charitable love, and the righteous and Christian upbringing of their offspring. He declared the termination of pregnancy by abortion morally illicit and, within marital relations, any remedy to avoid procreation. In the social field he intervened with the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, teaching that "in order to avoid the extremes of individualism on the one hand, as of socialism on the other, one must above all have regard of equal importance to the twofold nature, individual and social proper, as much to capital or property as to labor." These three themes, Christian education, marriage and social doctrine, are summarized in the Dec. 20, 1935 encyclical Ad Catholici Sacerdotii on the Catholic priesthood, "The priest is, by vocation and divine mandate, the chief apostle and indefatigable promoter of the Christian education of youth; the priest in the name of God blesses Christian marriage and defends its sanctity and indissolubility against the attacks and deviations suggested by greed and sensuality; the priest brings the most valuable contribution to the solution or at least the mitigation of social conflicts, preaching Christian brotherhood, reminding everyone of the mutual duties of justice and evangelical charity, pacifying tempers exacerbated by moral and economic distress, pointing out to the rich and the poor the only goods to which all can and should aspire."

He dealt with the nature of the Church in his encyclical Mortalium Animos of Jan. 6, 1928, rebelling the unity of the Church under the leadership of the Roman Pontiff:

Expounding that the unity of the Church cannot take place to the detriment of the faith, he advocates the return of separated Christians to the Catholic Church. Instead, he forbids the participation of Catholics in attempts to establish a pan-Christian Church, lest they give "authority to a false Christian religion, far removed from the one Church of Christ."

According to Roger Aubert with his encyclicals Pius XI had elaborated a "theology for life," dealing with major moral and social problems.

Pius XI instituted an ordinary jubilee in 1925 and an extraordinary one on the nineteenth centenary of the Redemption (April 2, 1933-April 2, 1934).

Pius XI normalized relations with the Italian state through the Lateran Pacts (Treaty and Concordat) of Feb. 11, 1929, which ended the so-called "Roman Question" and made relations between Italy and the Holy See regular again. On June 7, at noon, the new Vatican City State was born, of which the Supreme Pontiff was absolute ruler. During the same period, several Concordats were created with various European nations.

Not prejudicially hostile to Benito Mussolini, Pope Ratti strongly limited the action of the Popular Party by favoring its dissolution, and he repudiated any attempt by Sturzo to reconstitute the party. He did, however, face controversies and clashes with Fascism because of the regime's attempts to hegemonize youth education and because of the regime's interference in the life of the Church. He issued the encyclical Quas Primas where the feast of Christ the King was established as a reminder of the right of religion to pervade all areas of daily life: from the state, to the economy, to art. To call the laity to greater religious involvement, Catholic Action (of which he said "this is the apple of my eye") was reorganized in 1923.

In the missionary field, he fought for integration with local cultures instead of the imposition of a Western culture. Pius XI was also extremely critical of the passive role held in the social field by capitalism. In his encyclical Quadragesimo Anno of 1931 he recalled the urgency of social reforms already indicated forty years earlier by Pope Leo XIII; he also reiterated his condemnation of liberalism and all forms of socialism.

Pius XI returned several times in the encyclical to the link between currency, economy and power.In the encyclical Quadragesimus annus he stated:

In the encyclical Divini Redemptoris Pius XI develops quite usual reflections on the need for forbearance and patience on the part of the poor, who must esteem spiritual goods more than earthly goods and enjoyments. And on the rich as stewards of God, who must give to the poor what they have left over:

The first sign of openness Pius XI had manifested immediately after his election.The new pontiff - in contrast to his immediate predecessors Leo XIII, Pius X and Benedict XV - decided to look out from the external loggia of the Vatican Basilica, that is, over St. Peter's Square, albeit without saying anything, limiting himself to blessing the crowd present, while the faithful of Rome responded to him with applause and shouts of joy. The "due" gesture, but occurring after the events of September 20, 1870, was to be considered of historical significance; this was because Pius XI was convinced that the end of temporal power, albeit in a "violent" manner, was, for the Church's mission in the world, liberation from the chains of human passions.

The Roman Question met not only the concerns and hopes of Catholics in Italy, but also of all Catholics around the world, so much so that it led zealous priests, moreover missionaries, such as Don Luigi Orione, to take personal initiatives and write several times to the head of the Fascist government Benito Mussolini; other priests intervened with their own studies at the Vatican Secretariat of State, in the person of the pope's delegate, Cardinal Pietro Gasparri.

On Feb. 11, 1929, the pope was the architect of the signing of the Lateran Pacts between Cardinal Pietro Gasparri and the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini, which came at the end of a long negotiation process to close the thorniest dossier between Italy and the Holy See. On Feb. 13, 1929, he delivered a speech to the students and faculty of Milan's Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore that went down in history for a definition, according to which Mussolini was "a man whom Providence brought us together."

Despite this, in his encyclical Non Abbiamo Bisogno two years later, Pius XI defined fascism, whose founder was famously Mussolini, as "pagan statolatry." The Holy See by signing a concordat with a state does not necessarily approve its policies, as confirmed, for example, by Pius XII in his address in the consistory of June 2, 1945 (AAS 37 p. 152) regarding Nazism.

As early as 1922, before his election as pope in February of that year, during an interview granted to French journalist Luc Valti (published in full in 1937 in L'illustration), Cardinal Achille Ratti had stated about Mussolini:

In August 1923 Ratti confided to the Belgian ambassador that Mussolini "is certainly not Napoleon, and perhaps not even Cavour. But he alone has understood what his country needs to get out of the anarchy into which an impotent parliamentarism and three years of war have thrown it. You see how he has dragged the nation with him. May he be allowed to lead Italy to its rebirth."

On Oct. 31, 1926, teenager Anteo Zamboni had shot at Mussolini in Bologna, missing his target. Pope Ratti intervened, condemning "such a criminal attack, the mere thought of which saddens us and makes us give thanks to God for its failure." The following year Pius XI extolled Mussolini as the man "who so energetically governs the fortunes of the country, that he justly deems the country itself to be endangered whenever he endangers his person. The prompt and almost visible intervention of Divine Providence made it so that that first storm could immediately be overtaken by a true hurricane of jubilation, of rejoicing, of actions of thanksgiving, for the escaped danger for the perfect, and, one may well say, portentous safety of those who were to be its victims," also expressing "indignation and horror" at the attack.

With the Lateran Pacts, signed in the Palace of St. John Lateran and consisting of two separate acts (Treaty and Concordat), an end was put to the coldness and hostility between the two powers that had lasted for fifty-nine years. The historic treaty gave the Holy See sovereignty over the Vatican City State, recognizing it as a subject of international law, in exchange for the Holy See's abandonment of territorial claims over the former Papal State; while the Holy See recognized the Kingdom of Italy with its capital in Rome. As compensation for the territorial losses and as support during the transitional period, the government guaranteed (Financial Convention, annexed to the Treaty) a transfer of money consisting of 750 million lire in cash and one billion in government bonds at 5 percent, which, invested by Bernardino Nogara in both real estate and productive activities, laid the foundations for the Vatican's current economic structure.

The treaty also recalled Article 1 of the Statuto Albertino, reaffirming the Catholic religion as the sole religion of the state. The Lateran Pacts required bishops to swear allegiance to the Italian state, but established certain privileges for the Catholic Church: religious marriage was given civil effects and the causes of nullity fell under ecclesiastical courts; the teaching of Catholic doctrine, defined as the "foundation and crowning glory of public education," became compulsory in elementary and middle schools; and priests who were spritely or affected by ecclesiastical censure could not obtain or retain any public employment in the Italian state. For the fascist regime, the Lateran Pacts constituted a valuable legitimization.

As a sign of reconciliation, the following July, the pope went out in a solemn Eucharistic procession in St. Peter's Square. Such an event had not happened since the time of Porta Pia. Instead, the first exit from Vatican City territory took place on Dec. 21 of that year when, very early in the morning, the pontiff went, escorted by Italian policemen on bicycles, to the basilica of St. John Lateran to officially take possession of its cathedral. In 1930-a year after the signing of the Lateran Pacts-the elderly Cardinal Pietro Gasparri resigned, being replaced by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII.

Another thorn for Pope Ratti was the strongly anticlerical policies of the Mexican government. As early as 1914 real persecution of clergy began and all religious worship was banned (consequently Catholic schools were also closed). The situation worsened in 1917 under the presidency of Venustiano Carranza. In 1922 the apostolic nuncio was expelled from Mexico. Persecutions against Christians led to the revolt of the "cristeros" on July 31, 1926 in Oaxaca. In 1928 an agreement was sanctioned that readmitted Catholic worship, but as the terms of the agreement were not respected Pius XI condemned these measures in 1933 with the encyclical Acerba Animi. He renewed the condemnation in 1937 with the encyclical Firmissimam Constantiam.

Passionate about the sciences from his youth and a keen observer of technological development, he founded Vatican Radio availing himself of the collaboration of Guglielmo Marconi, modernized the Vatican Library and reconstituted with the collaboration of Father Agostino Gemelli in 1936 the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, admitting non-Catholics and even non-believers.

He was interested in new means of communication: he had a new telephone exchange installed in the Vatican, and although he personally made little use of the telephone, he was one of the earliest users of telecopying, an invention of the Frenchman Édouard Belin that allowed photographs to be transmitted remotely over the telephone or telegraph network. In 1931 in response to a written message and photograph sent to him from Paris by Cardinal Verdier he sent a newly taken photograph of himself.

Instead, his use of radio was more frequent, although not many could understand his radio messages, which were usually delivered in Latin.

Death and the missing speech

In February 1939 Pius XI summoned the entire Italian episcopate to Rome on the occasion of the I tenth anniversary of the "conciliation" with the Italian state, the 17th year of his pontificate and the 60th year of his priesthood. On Feb. 11 and 12 he would deliver an important speech, prepared for months, that would be his spiritual testament and where he would probably denounce the Fascist government's violation of the Lateran Pacts and racial persecution in Germany. This speech remained secret until the pontificate of Pope John XXIII when parts of it were published in 1959. He in fact died of a heart attack after a long illness on the night of Feb. 10, 1939. It is now well established that the text of the speech was made to be destroyed on the orders of Pacelli, at the time Cardinal Secretary of State and responsible for running the Vatican while awaiting the appointment of a new pope.

In September 2008, a conference organized in Rome by the Pave The Way Foundation on Pius XII's actions toward Jews brought the issue of relations between the Vatican and totalitarian dictatorships back into the media's focus. A former leader of the Italian Catholic University Federation, Bianca Penco (vice-president of the federation between 1939 and 1942 and national president along with Giulio Andreotti and Ivo Murgia between 1942 and 1947), gave an interview to the daily newspaper Il Secolo XIX in which she discusses the issue. According to Penco's account, Pius XI is said to have received some leading members of the federation in February 1939, announcing to them that he had prepared a speech that he intended to deliver on February 11, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Concordat: this speech would have been critical of Nazism and Fascism, and would also have contained references to the persecution of Christians that was taking place in Germany in those years.

The pope, according to the interview, was also supposed to announce an encyclical against anti-Semitism, entitled Humani generis unitas. But Achille Ratti died the night before, on Feb. 10, and Pacelli, at the time Cardinal Secretary of State and after a little less than a month elected to the papacy as Pope Pius XII, allegedly decided not to divulge the contents of these documents. Penco also states that after Pope Ratti's death, upon requests from FUCI representatives for information about the fate of the speech they had been able to preview, the very existence of it would be denied.. In fact, the so-called "hidden encyclical" had already been commissioned by Pius XI to the Jesuit LaFarge and two other drafters. The outline of the encyclical, because of the delay with which it reached Pius XI, did not find Pope Ratti in the proper health condition for him to read and promulgate it. In fact, he died a few days after the outline reached his desk.

Pius XII, his successor, did not see fit to promulgate it, certainly not because of sympathies towards fascism and Nazism, but because that encyclical outline contained, along with a clear and sharp condemnation of all forms of racism and in particular anti-Semitic racism, also a reconfirmation of traditional theological anti-Judaism, which, although it had nothing to do, as Jewish scholar Anna Foa believes, with modern anti-Semitism whose origins are instead Darwinian, positivist and theosophical, could easily have been instrumentalized by the Nazi regime. If Pope Pacelli had published that encyclical outline in full, he would then have been accused of lending theological arguments to Hitler's racism. Instead, Pius XII, as a further demonstration of his firm opposition to Nazism and all forms of racism, took up the anti-racist part of that "hidden encyclical" and included it in his first encyclical, the one containing the program of his newly begun pontificate, the Summi Pontificatus of 1939.

On the basis of an alleged memoir by Cardinal Eugène Tisserant found in 1972, the legend took shape that Pius XI had been poisoned on the orders of Benito Mussolini, who having heard of the possibility of being condemned and possibly excommunicated had allegedly instructed the doctor Francesco Petacci, Clara Petacci's father, to poison the Pontiff. This theory was dryly denied by Cardinal Carlo Confalonieri, Pius XI's personal secretary. This theory was also ruled out by scholar Emma Fattorini, considering the thesis to be an excess of imagination that does not find the slightest confirmation in the current documentation.

Relations with the Italian People's Party

On October 2, 1922, shortly before the rise of fascism following the March on Rome, Pope Ratti sent a document in which he called on all clergymen not to collaborate with any political party, not even those of Catholic persuasion. In particular from the archives was found the letter, in which Don Luigi Sturzo was invited to resign from his position as secretary of the Italian Popular Party, a resignation actually given on July 10, 1923. After Sturzo's resignation, Mussolini was able to say that he was the wrong man inside a party of "Catholics who instead desire the good of the State." The Italian People's Party entered a deep crisis that weakened its positions in Parliament and in the country. In 1926 the party was then officially declared dissolved. The Pope had always had little faith in political parties of any orientation and thought it more right to maintain relations directly with sovereign states, especially in Italy, where the National Fascist Party could show ideological affinity in some respects (guaranteeing respect for the values cherished by the Catholic Church through the restoration of order and authority) and furthermore had shown itself ready to collaborate.

In October 1938 a dispute arose in Bergamo between the local federal and Catholic Action: Achille Starace intervened by removing the federal, but obtaining in return the removal of some Catholic Action leaders who were already members of the Italian Popular Party. The Pontiff himself showed amazement that they had been called to the local leadership of the association.

Relations with the fascist regime

Achille Ratti becomes pope in February 1922. The Roman Question was still open and the pope as the first act of his pontificate decided to impart the apostolic blessing from the central loggia of St. Peter's Basilica, which had been closed in protest since the breach of Porta Pia. Nine months after Pius XI's election, Benito Mussolini came to power. As early as August 6, Pius XI had written to the Italian bishops on the occasion of the tumultuous strikes and fascist violence, condemning the "partisan passions" and exasperations that lead "now on one side, now on the other, to bloody offenses." This neutral stance was reiterated on October 30, in the aftermath of the March on Rome, when L'Osservatore Romano wrote that the pope "holds himself above the parties, but remains the spiritual guide who always presides over the destinies of nations."

These were years in which attempts were made on both sides, the Italian and the Vatican, to reach a pacification, a pacification that would actually take place with the signing of the Lateran Pacts in 1929. After 1929, however, relations between the Holy See and the Italian government were not without tensions, some very serious; indeed, relations between the Vatican and Fascism during the pontificate of Pius XI were marked by ups and downs. From 1922 to 1927 Pius XI tried to maintain an attitude of cooperation with the Italian authorities, while disapproving of the authoritarian involution of the state:

In the consistory of December 14, 1925, Pius XI took stock of his relations with the fascist regime:

In 1926 some incidents pitted Catholics against fascist militants: for example, there were clashes at the Corpus Christi octave procession in Livorno, and in August other serious incidents with one death in Mantua and Macerata. The bishop of Macerata wrote to Pius XI to denounce the inaction of the authorities in suppressing the clashes: he responded by canceling in protest the International Congress of Catholic Gymnasts, which was to be held in Rome. According to historian Yves Chiron, "Pius XI always reacted when fascist militants or the Italian government itself attacked the interests of the Church or the social and religious life of Catholics. But he also had the desire, like Mussolini, to resolve the Roman question."

In the aftermath of the signing of the Lateran Pacts, Pius XI referred to Mussolini as a "man whom Providence brought us together," later interpreted as "The Man of Providence"; the exact words were:

According to Vittorio Messori, by these words Pius XI meant to affirm that Mussolini did not have the prejudices that had led all previous negotiators to reject any agreement that provided territorial sovereignty for the Holy See.

According to anti-fascists, the agreement constituted a great moral victory for fascism that gave political legitimacy to the regime and allowed it to broaden its consensus. According to liberal intellectuals, namely Benedetto Croce and Luigi Albertini, Fascist Senator Professor Vittorio Scialoja (who opposed its approval in the Senate) with the Lateran Pacts the state renounced the principle of equality of all citizens before the law. According to Christian Democrats and small Catholic nuclei, the Pacts constituted a strong moment of crisis, as these political figures considered the alliance between the Catholic Church and a regime incompatible with Christian principles inconceivable.

Even before 1929, the fascist regime did not fail to interfere heavily in matters of primary importance to Catholic doctrine, primarily the education of youth.

With the establishment in 1923 of the ONB (Opera Nazionale Balilla) all organizations with a military character or framework had been disbanded. Some prefects applied this classification to scout groups as well, despite the fact that ecclesiastical authorities often intervened in their defense, and many black shirts began committing acts of violence against members of scout groups, including the murder in Argenta of Don Giovanni Minzoni, founder of the local scout group. In order to curb fascist behavior in 1924 the Italian Catholic Scouting Association (ASCI) merged, thanks in part to Pius XI, into Italian Catholic Action while still remaining totally autonomous. On April 3, 1926, the so-called fascistissime laws were approved, which among other things provided for the dissolution of scout departments in towns with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants. This law, precisely because of the fragile relations with the Church, was not implemented until January 1927. It was a severe blow to scouting, which saw the number of its groups drastically reduced. From this point on, scout life became increasingly difficult, until two years later ASCI was officially closed.

Pius XI thus found himself, no more than two years after the signing of the Lateran Pacts, already on a collision course with the Duce first and foremost because of the Church's role in the education of young people, which the regime wanted to reduce more and more. To the government's closure in 1931 of Catholic Action offices - often the object of violence and devastation by fascist groups - the pope responded harshly with the encyclical (written in Italian and not Latin) Non Abbiamo Bisogno, in which, stigmatizing growing statolatry, he highlighted the contrast between fidelity to the Gospel of Christ and fascist ideology. The pope puts it this way in a passage from the encyclical:

The conflict was later healed by renunciations on both sides: on the one hand, the pope reorganized Catholic Action by eliminating the leaders in the odor of anti-fascism, subjecting it to the direct control of the bishops and forbidding its union action; on the other hand, Mussolini dismissed Giovanni Giuriati (since he was most exposed with the forceful action) and accepted the idea that Catholic Action - once reduced to the exclusively religious field - could continue to exist, on the condition, however, that it would renounce the education of citizens and their political formation.

When Mussolini attacked the sovereign state of Ethiopia without a formal declaration of war (Oct. 3, 1935), Pius XI, while disapproving of the Italian initiative and fearing Italy's rapprochement with Germany, refrained from publicly condemning the war. The pope's only intervention of condemnation (August 27, 1935) had been followed by calls and intimidation from the Italian government during which Mussolini himself had intervened: the pope should not speak about the war if he intended to maintain good relations with Italy. From the position of silence officially held by Pius XI on the conflict arose the image of a Vatican alignment with the regime's policy of conquest: if the pope kept silent and if he allowed Catholic bishops, cardinals, and intellectuals to publicly bless Italy's heroic mission of faith and civilization in Africa, it meant that, in essence, he approved of that war and that he let the high clergy say what they could not directly say because of the supranational character of the Holy See.

Fascist Italy's gradual rapprochement with Nazi Germany by copying racist doctrines and policies again chilled relations between the Holy See and the regime. Following the promulgation of the racial laws, the Vatican relied on a rethinking of the regime. The Holy See's stubborn desire to reach an agreement with the Fascist regime originated from a concern not to prejudice the fate of Catholic Action, not to worsen diplomatic relations with Italy under critical circumstances, and finally from a creeping - when not openly declared - sympathy for the discrimination introduced by the Racial Laws on the part of some Catholic circles. The dispute, while focusing mainly on the recognition of mixed marriages, which were, moreover, very few, had as its object the whole issue of racism, which was clearly at odds with the concept of universal brotherhood proper to Christianity. The Decree-Law prevented Aryan citizens from civil marriages with people of other races, and thus that religious marriages could not be transcribed in the civil registers. On July 15, 1938, the day after the publication of the Manifesto of the Racist Scientists, Pius XI, in an audience with the nuns of Notre-Dame du Cénacle, condemned racism as a true apostasy. That address inaugurated a series of Pius XI's very severe interventions against racism.

After the promulgation of the Racial Laws in Italy, Pius XI put it this way in a private audience with Jesuit Father Tacchi Venturi:

And on September 6, 1938, in an audience granted to Belgian Catholic Radio staffers, he uttered the famous words:

This issue would occupy an important place in the late Pius XI's thinking, so much so that he went so far as to plan an encyclical against racism, Humani generis unitas, which, however, would never be published due to the pontiff's death.

Pius XI died on the eve of the day, the tenth anniversary of the Conciliation, on which he was to deliver an important address to the assembly of Italian bishops gathered for the occasion. That speech, of which we know the text as it was made public by John XXIII, while severe on Fascism, was an attempt to give "a shot in the arm," as in 1931, to Fascist violence.

Relations with National Socialist Germany

A few days later, during an address to the cardinals in consistory, Pius XI returned to praise the Führer as a defender of Christian civilization; so much so that Cardinal Faulhaber was able to testify to the bishops of his region that "the Holy Father publicly praised the Chancellor of the Empire, Adolf Hitler, for his stance against communism. "At the Fulda conference in March 1933, in a public statement drafted by Cardinal Adolf Bertram and approved by Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, the German bishops retracted the prohibitions and reservations previously made against Nazism: members of the National Socialist movement and party could be admitted to the sacraments; "uniformed party members may be admitted to divine services and the sacraments even if they appear in large groups." Special services for political organizations in general were to be avoided, but this did not refer to patriotic occasions in general: on such occasions arranged by the state, church bells could be rung with the permission of diocesan authorities.

At a meeting of the Bavarian council of ministers on April 24, the prime minister was able to report that Cardinal Faulhaber had instructed the clergy to support the new regime, which enjoyed the cardinal's own confidence. On July 20, 1933, a few months after Adolf Hitler came to power, a concordat with Germany was ratified after years of negotiations-followed first and foremost by Cardinal Secretary of State Pacelli, who had been apostolic nuncio to Germany for years-but in the following years the Nazis did not comply in the slightest with the clauses of the guarantee concordat. In order to be able to correctly assess the importance that the stipulation of the Concordat between the Holy See and Nazi Germany assumed, it is necessary to remember that the Reichskonkordat was the first important treaty of international law of Hitler's government and a not insignificant success of his foreign policy: if even the Holy See, as an undoubted power in the moral sphere, did not disdain to stipulate treaties with the National Socialists, then even for secular states there would no longer be any obstacles to having relations with Hitler's government. It should be remembered, however, that prior to the signing of the Concordat, the Nazi regime had signed understandings of "cooperation and solidarity" with France, England and Italy, while on May 5, '33, it had renewed a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union and its government had been accredited to the League of Nations.

In this regard, Cardinal von Faulhaber admitted that "Pope Pius XI was the first foreign ruler to conclude a solemn concordat with the new Reich government, guided by the desire to strengthen and promote the existing cordial relations between the Holy See and the German Reich"; Faulhaber continued that "In fact, Pope Pius XI was the best friend, at first even the only friend of the new Reich. Millions of people abroad initially had an expectant and distrustful attitude toward the new Reich, and only thanks to the stipulation of the concordat did they gain confidence in the new German government." Adolf Hitler, too, jubilantly expressed his satisfaction with the conclusion of the Concordat in the Council of Ministers on July 14: even on the day of his seizure of power he judged it impossible to achieve such a result so quickly; he saw in the Concordat an unqualified recognition of the National Socialist regime by the Vatican.

Hitler sought in it an undoubtedly prestigious international recognition, the appearance of an endorsement of his regime, and the avoidance of any diplomatic isolation of Germany; he also pursued a further strengthening of his own power, thanks to the broadening of the Catholic consensus that would follow, and the elimination of the Center as an organized party, supported by the hierarchy and animated by a large clergy presence. With the Reichskonkordat, Hitler asserted, "an opportunity is offered to Germany and an atmosphere of trust is created of particular importance in the decisive struggle against international Jewry." Responding to the misgivings of those who would have wished for a more precise identification and separation of the respective spheres of state and church competence, he reiterated the notion that "this is such an outstanding achievement, with respect to which all critical objections must fail," and repeatedly repeated that even a short time before he would have thought it impossible.

According to Cardinal Pacelli, the signing of the Concordat did not imply a recognition of National Socialist ideology, as such, by the curia. Instead, it was the Holy See's tradition to deal with all possible partners - that is, even totalitarian systems - in order to protect the Church and guarantee spiritual assistance. Immediately after the ratification of the Concordat, the first skirmishes between the Catholic Church and the National Socialist regime began, in the form of protests that were not infrequently decisive and categorical, but always undertaken with the shrewdness on the part of the Catholic clergy's top hierarchies to avoid a head-on clash and an open break with the regime. The ideological elements most frequently targeted were first and foremost violations of the Concordat, followed by the neo-pagan drifts of some bangs of the regime and the attempt to create a national Christian church, unified and detached from Rome. But the recognition granted to the regime in the preceding months - of which the Concordat represents a decisive act - had conditioned these early protests, which ended up being diluted in a series of declarations, silences, acts, and overtures of protest alternating with reticence and attempts at rapprochement.

On Jan. 24, 1934, Hitler delegated the training and education of Nazi youth and all cultural activities of the party to Alfred Rosenberg, appointing him DBFU. A few days later, on Feb. 9, Pius XI placed his major work The Myth of the 20th Century, a best seller at the time, on the Index (however, the Holy See never placed Hitler's writings on the Index, and until the end of his rule the Führer remained a member of the Church, i.e., he was never excommunicated (despite the fact that Hitler did not consider himself a Christian, much less a Catholic). In the book Rosenberg hoped that Germany would return to paganism and attacked the Jewish race and consequently Christianity, the heir of Judaism. The work was studied in Nazi schools and youth organizations. Moreover, the condemnation was exceptionally accompanied by an explanatory statement that made its meaning explicit.

Rosenberg responded with a new book, To the Obscurantists of Our Time. A Response to the Attacks on "The Myth of the 20th Century." This book was also put on the index by Pius XI on July 17, 1935. Shortly before, a Nazi party congress had been held in Münster. Clemens August von Galen, the city's bishop, had unsuccessfully opposed Rosenberg's presence in the city in a letter addressed to the local political authorities. Rosenberg took the opportunity to attack von Galen and the occasional episodes of opposition to certain aspects of National Socialism. But as early as January 1936, a joint pastoral letter went so far as to make it clear that even if the church forbade the faithful from reading certain books, periodicals and newspapers, it did not intend by this to infringe on the prerogatives of the state or the party. And Bishop von Galen himself had declared in 1935 to the deans of the Münster diocese, "It is not our business to judge the political organization and form of government of the German people, the measures and proceedings adopted by the state; it is not our business to regret past forms of government and to criticize the present policy of the state."

In 1936 the pope intervened three times, on May 12, June 15 and September 14, to denounce the "war on the Church" waged by the National Socialist regime. Also in May, on the Holy See's instructions, Catholics were forbidden to join the Dutch Nazi party, the Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging. In the last years of his life, Pius XI viewed Nazism with increasing hostility, going so far as to compare it to communism: "National Socialism, in its aims and methods, is nothing other than Bolshevism," he declared in an audience given to the bishops of Berlin and Münster on January 23, 1937. In 1937, as a result of the continuing interference of Nazism in the lives of Catholics and because of the increasingly evident neo-pagan character of Nazi ideology, the pope issued the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge ("with lively concern"), also written under pressure from the German episcopate and written exceptionally in German rather than Latin, in which he firmly condemned certain aspects of Nazi ideology, followed shortly afterwards by Divini Redemptoris, with a similar condemnation of communist ideology. Protests from the German government were very harsh, such as the one sent by German Ambassador von Bergen on April 12 to which Pacelli replied. The crisis between the Holy See and Germany developed essentially on a spiritual rather than political level.

The indictment against Hitler's Germany is to follow a policy that can weaken the anti-Bolshevik front. At the same time Pacelli worked to ensure that the text of the encyclical was disseminated as widely as possible. In Germany, the government proceeded to close printing presses and diocesan archives by taking much of their material. To this the Holy See responded by giving orders to burn all confidential documents. Relations between the German government and the Vatican reached their most acute phase when on May 18, 1937, Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago George Mundelein during a public speech referred to Hitler as "an Austrian house painter and an inept one at that," following vibrant German protests the Holy See responded about the inappropriateness of the tones used by the U.S. cardinal but being careful not to contradict him..

In May 1938, when Hitler visited Rome, the Pontiff went to Castel Gandolfo after having the Vatican Museums closed and the Vatican lights turned off. On the occasion, L'Osservatore Romano made no mention of Hitler's visit to the capital, and wrote, "The Pope left for Castel Gandolfo. The air of the Castelli Romani is very good for his health." The closure of the museums and access to the Basilica was decided by the pontiff to manifest his own polemical absence from the city. Scholar Emma Fattorini reports that although "on Hitler's part there was not the slightest interest in a meeting," the pope would have been open to a meeting if this had a conciliatory spirit. Pius XI later said, "it is among the sad things this: the raising in Rome, on the day of the Holy Cross, the insignia of another cross that is not the cross of Christ," referring to the numerous swastikas (or hooked crosses) that Mussolini had displayed in Rome in homage to Hitler.

He also planned to issue another encyclical - Humani generis unitas ("the unity of the human race"), which condemned the Nazi ideology of the superior race even more directly. The pope had commissioned for the drafting of the encyclical the American Jesuit John LaFarge, who had already dealt with racial issues pertaining to the situation in the United States of America. The latter, feeling the task beyond his capabilities alone, sought help from his direct superior, Society of Jesus general Father Włodzimierz Ledóchowski, who joined him with German Jesuit Gustav Gundlach and Jesuit Gustave Desbuquois. This encyclical was completed but never signed by Pope Ratti due to his death. However, some concepts from the encyclical were taken up by his successor Pius XII in the encyclical Summi Pontificatus.

Relations with communism

Pius XI's assessments of communism could only be negative, in this reflecting the consistency of the Catholic Church, which has always evaluated communist ideology as antithetical to the Christian message. In 1937, partly as a result of the victory of the leftists in France led by the socialist Léon Blum, but concerned above all about Russia, after being informed by the apostolic administrator in Moscow Msgr. Neveu of the Stalinist purges, and about Mexico, the pope issued the encyclical Divini Redemptoris.

The papal condemnation concerns the "truly diabolical" propaganda, the economic system deemed bankrupt, but above all it concludes that communism is "intrinsically perverse," because it proposes a message of atheistic millenarianism that hides a "false redemption" of the humble. The pope had previously expressed concern about the advances that communist ideology was making in society and particularly among Catholics.

Unlike the text Mit brennender Sorge published a few days earlier, ample documentation is known that allows us to know the different drafts. In all likelihood, as Monsignor Valentini's and Pizzardo's notes attest, the inspiration for the encyclical was a letter from the Jesuit general Count Włodzimierz Ledóchowski, who in any case constantly followed its drafting. The encyclical, already completed on January 31, 1937, was officially published on March 19. Immediately it aroused the enthusiastic appreciation of the various European right-wing movements including Charles Maurras' Action Française, which at that time was excommunicated.

Spanish Civil War

In Spain the Popular Front of Marxist-Leninist inspiration had also openly engaged its forces against the Catholic Church. Pius XI, however, could not, until a late stage in the Spanish conflict, recognize the Francoists and their government, despite the fact that the Popular Front government had promoted a violent persecution of the Catholic Church with devastation of churches, killing and torture of clergymen, and even looting of clergymen's graves. This recognition was also hampered by the fact that the Popular Front was still the only one officially recognized internationally. By its rule, moreover, the Holy See never withdraws its apostolic nuncio from any state unless it is forced to do so.

Being a party to the conflict in that it was attacked by the Popular Front, the Catholic Church could not condemn the violence committed by the faction opposing the Republicans, namely the Francoist side (the bombing of Guernica primarily). After the abolition of the Republicans' anticlerical legislation by Francisco Franco in early 1938, however, relations improved and his successor Pius XII would receive the Falangist fighters in a special audience.

There is a point to be made that in the Vatican documents pertaining to the relations between Pius XI and Francoist Spain, a decidedly negative attitude toward the heavy communist violence of the Popular Front against the Church is clearly outlined, even as the Pope's hostility toward Franco clearly emerges. Spanish historian Vicente Cárcel Ortí has studied and brought to light unpublished documents from the Vatican Secret Archives, showing not only that the Catholic Church clearly manifested hostility toward Francisco Franco, but also succeeded-in the persons of Pope Pius XI and some Spanish bishops-in convincing him to spare the lives of thousands of republicans sentenced to death. The pope had concerns and disagreed with the position of Basque Catholics who already at that time, by claiming autonomy, had in fact allied themselves with the Spanish Republicans.

On May 16, 1938, official recognition of Franco's government took place through the dispatch of the apostolic nuncio to Madrid in the person of Monsignor Gaetano Cicognani.

Jewish relations

Achille Ratti had studied Hebrew with the chief rabbi of Milan, Alessandro Da Fano, and when he became a Hebrew teacher in the seminary, he took the initiative to take his students to the synagogue so that they could hear the Hebrew pronunciation.

As nuncio to Poland in the immediate aftermath of World War I, Achille Ratti expressed considerations of the traditional theological anti-Judaism of Church doctrine that Jewish circles in later decades regarded as hostile. Achille Ratti arrived in Poland at a time when the growing resentment of Polish Catholics toward Jews was leading to an increasingly bitter confrontation until it erupted into open clashes. Achille Ratti did not hint at any reaction in the face of such contrasts.In the report that Ratti sent to the Holy See, following the pogroms, he pointed out the excessive influence that Jews had in Poland: "On the other hand, their economic, political, and social importance is great and maximum." In a later report Ratti identified the Jews as the greatest enemies of Christianity and the Polish people: "One of the most nefarious and of the strongest influences to be felt here, perhaps the strongest and most nefarious, is that which is exercised by the Jews." In other notes sent to the Vatican Monsignor Ratti informed that: "The Jews in Poland, unlike those living elsewhere in the civilized world, are unproductive elements. It is a race of shopkeepers par excellence," and added, "The great majority of the Jewish population is immersed in the blackest poverty." Apart from a relatively small number of artisans, the Jewish race "consists of small traders, businessmen and moneylenders-or to be more precise all three at the same time-who live off the exploitation of the Christian population."

Beginning in the second half of the 1920s, in a climate in which ancient prejudices coexisted with drives for change, the first serious religious and political rift within the Church emerged. In 1928, the condemnation of Action Française is followed by the first major formal condemnation of anti-Semitism, which occurred at the behest of Pius XI (where the term anti-Semitism is used explicitly, which will not be the case in Mit Brennender Sorge, nor during the entire pontificate of Pius XII). These condemnations were followed by the suppression of the Opus sacerdotale Amici Israël (the Priestly Work Friends of Israel). Arising in February 1926, in antithesis to the anti-Semitic spirit of Charles Maurras (founder of Action Française), the association had a program aimed at priests, contained in several pamphlets drafted in Latin, which sought to promote a new, loving attitude toward Israel and the Jews, for whom any accusation of deicide was to be avoided.

In order to effect a reconciliation with the Jews, the association sought to reverse the old stances taken by the Church: the Friends Israël demanded the abandonment of all talk of deicide, the existence of a curse on Jews, and ritual murder. A new sentiment was to involve the heart of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and indeed, by the end of 1927, the association could already boast the membership of nineteen cardinals, two hundred and seventy-eight bishops and archbishops, and three thousand priests. On March 25, 1928, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a decree ordering the suppression of this association following its proposal to reformulate the Good Friday prayer (Oremus et pro perfidis Judaeis) and the accusations of "blinding" contained therein, as well as the proposed rejection of the charge of deicide. The papal suppression decree stated that the association's program failed to recognize "the enduring blindness of this people," and that the Friends of Israel's way of acting and thinking was "contrary to the sense and spirit of the Church, the thought of the holy fathers and the liturgy." In an article that appeared immediately after the suppression, in the Nouvelle Revue Théologique, Father Jean Levie S.J. first recalled the "essential part" of the program of the Priestly Work, pointing out that this program was "clearly praiseworthy" and that it "showed nothing that was not absolutely in conformity with the Catholic ideal."

An important leader of Catholic anti-Semitism was French priest Ernest Jouin (1844-1932) who had founded the anti-Semitic and anti-Masonic publication Revue Internationale des Sociétés secrètes in 1912. Jouin took pains to acquaint the French public with the Protocols of the Elder Saviors of Zion as proof of the alleged Jewish plot aimed at world domination, stating in the preface, "From the threefold point of view of race, nationality and religion, the Jew has become the enemy of mankind," and reiterating his warning about the two goals the Jews set for themselves, "Universal world domination and the destruction of Catholicism." Pius XI, having received Jouin in private audience, encouraged him in his constant denunciation of alleged plots hatched by secret societies, saying, "Continue with your Revue, despite the financial difficulties, because you are fighting our mortal enemy." And he invested him with the honorary office of prothonotary apostolic.

The French historian and sociologist Émile Poulat wrote in a commentary concerning Jouin-a priest with a strong and unanimously respected personality-that his works and activities were praised and encouraged by Benedict XV and Pius XI, who appointed him, the one domestic prelate and the other apostolic protonotary.

On Feb. 11, 1932, on the occasion of Mussolini's visit to the Vatican for the anniversary of the Conciliation, Pius XI reiterated the image of a Church subjected to concentric attacks by Protestants, Communists and Jews. In addition to the danger posed by Protestant propaganda, the pope pointed out to the Duce the existence of a "painful triangle" that was a source of grave concern for the Church and which was represented by Mexico as far as Freemasonry was concerned, Spain where Bolshevism and Freemasonry operated together, and Russia as far as Judeobolshevism was concerned. It was in this last regard that the pope expressed the view that behind the anti-Christian persecution taking place in Russia there was "also the anti-Christian aversion of Judaism." He added a recollection, "when I was in Warsaw I saw that in all the Bolshevik regiments the commissar or commissary were Jews. In Italy, however, Jews were the exception."

In the very difficult climate of the enactment of the Italian anti-Jewish laws, Pius XI had the courage to declare, several times and in an official and solemn manner, his and the Church's opposition to the racial laws. Pius XI produced himself in two public speeches given shortly and immediately after the proclamation of the infamous Fascist laws in defense of race (the first on July 15 and the second on July 28) pronouncing himself sharply against the Manifesto of Racist Scientists (July 15) complaining that Italy, on racism, was "wretchedly" imitating Nazi Germany (July 28). Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano, commenting on these speeches, reported in his diaries Mussolini's reaction as he tried to pressure the pope to avoid blatant protests: "It seems that the Pope made yesterday a new unpleasant speech on exaggerated nationalism and racism. The Duce, who summoned Father Tacchi Venturi for this evening. Contrary to popular belief, he said, I am a patient man. It is necessary, however, that this patience not be made me lose, otherwise I act by being a desert. If the Pope keeps talking, I will scratch the scab off the Italians and in no time make them anti-clerical again." The clearest words of condemnation the pope proclaimed on Sept. 6, 1938, when he delivered an emotional speech--coming to tears--in reaction to Fascist measures that excluded Jews from schools and universities, in a private audience with the president, vice-president and secretary of Belgian Catholic radio, in which he reaffirmed the unbreakable bond between Christianity and Judaism:

Monsignor Louis Picard, president of Belgian radio, transcribed the pope's speech by publishing it in La libre Belgique. La Croix and La Documentation catholique picked it up by publishing it in France, and the pope's words spread.

Later the pope himself was concerned with hiring university professors expelled from Italian institutes in the Vatican and helping them relocate to universities abroad, an action that was continued by his successor Pius XII. Among the best known cases were those of the two distinguished Jewish mathematicians dismissed by the Italian Ministry under the racial laws, Vito Volterra and Tullio Levi-Civita, and appointed members of the prestigious Pontifical Academy of Sciences headed by Father Agostino Gemelli. Church historian Hubert Wolf, in a television interview, recalls how then pope was concerned not only with the expelled teachers but also with the Jewish students who were prevented by law from attending the Italian university system: "When in 1938 Jewish students from Germany, Austria and Italy were expelled from universities because they were Jewish, Pius XI pleaded with the U.S. and Canadian cardinals, through a letter written in his own hand, to make every effort so that students of all faculties could finish their studies in the United States and Canada. He added that the Church has a special responsibility toward them since they belong to the race to which the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, also belongs in his human nature." Mussolini himself, in his Trieste speech in September 1938, accused the Pope of defending the Jews (the famous passage "from too many Chairs they are defended") and threatened harsher measures against them if Catholics insisted.

Nevertheless, in those days almost all Italian bishops gave homilies opposing the regime and racism. However, it was Antonio Santin, bishop of Trieste and Capodistria, who stopped Mussolini at the gates of San Giusto Cathedral and threatened the Duce not to let him enter the church unless he retracted his accusations against the Pope. Moreover, it was Santin himself who was the only Italian bishop who had the courage to go and personally protest to Mussolini at Palazzo Venezia, reminding him of the injustice of the racial laws and that, contrary to legend, there were Jews who were also very poor. Only later did the bishop inform Pius XI of what he had done and obtained his approval.

Pius XI then protested officially and in writing to the king and the head of the government about the violation of the Concordat produced by the racial decrees. The magazine La difesa della razza and its contents praising biological racism were officially condemned by the Holy Office.

In April 1938 Pius XI sent a condemnation of racial theses to all Catholic universities. This document, called the Anti-Racist Syllabus, originated from a draft condemnation of racism, ultra-nationalism, totalitarianism and communism prepared by the Holy Office in 1936. The document condemned eight propositions, six of which were racist. Pius XI asked professors at universities to argue against the condemned propositions. Articles followed in major international theological journals, and studies appeared on the subject. The statement dated April 13, 1938, was made public on May 3, the day of Hitler's visit to Rome, Pius XI wishing thereby "to oppose head-on what he considered the very heart of the doctrine of National Socialism."

Finally, when he re-established the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, he called Jewish mathematicians Tullio Levi Civita and Vito Volterra, who had been expelled from Italian universities as a result of racial laws, to join as its first members.

Upon the publication of the Racial Laws by the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini that ousted all Italians of Jewish origin from public life, the reaction of the Vatican and Pope Pius XI was not long in coming. Among the various initiatives in which the regime's racist policy was rejected in public speeches, documents and homilies was that of the so-called Anti-Racist Syllabus (in reminder of the "Syllabus " or the "Syllabus complectens praecipuos nostrae aetatis errores" in Italian "List containing the principal errors of our time." which Pope Pius IX published together with the encyclical Quanta cura on the occasion of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1864 and which was a list of eighty propositions containing the main errors of that time according to the Catholic Church). In April 1938 Pius XI invited all Catholic universities to draw up a document condemning the racial theses, a sort of "counter-manifesto" of the Catholic intelligentsia in response to the Manifesto of Racist Scientists produced by professors at state universities in deference to the regime. The Pope had thought, in the name of truth and "against the raging of those errors," of a refutation of the racial ideas that were being advocated to justify the introduction of race regulations.

The document, dubbed the "Anti-Racist Syllabus," condemned eight propositions, six of which were racist by counterarguing from a scientific point of view the propositions set forth by the fascists on race. The ideas on which the racial theses of the time were based, many of which took Social Darwinism as their starting point, were deconstructed. Several articles published in major international theological journals followed this elaboration, and studies appeared on the subject.

The statement denying the racial theses wanted by the regime, developed by Catholic scholars and organized in the "Anti-Racist Syllabus," dated April 13, was made public on May 3, a day not chosen at random by Pope Ratti. That was in fact the day of Hitler's official visit to Rome, wanting by this the pope "to oppose frontally what he considered the very heart of the doctrine of National Socialism." This was a clear gesture of defiance and disapproval, underscored also by the fact that the Holy Father decided that day to move to Castel Gandolfo after ordering the closure of the Vatican Museums, St. Peter's Basilica, having all the lights turned off and forbidding the nuncio and bishops to attend any official ceremony in honor of the Führer. He then instructed L'Osservatore Romano not to make any mention of the meeting of the two heads of state (in fact in those days not even Hitler's name appeared in it. Already the day before, the announcement had appeared, again on the front page with a picture, "The Holy Father in Castelgandolfo." The Holy Father left Rome on Saturday, April 30, at 5 p.m. because the air in Rome "hurt" him. As a "welcome," Pius XI had instead published on the front page an article on the false doctrines of racist ideology that presented precisely the "Anti-Racist Syllabus."

Pope Pius XI during his pontificate created 76 cardinals during 17 separate consistories.

Pope Pius XI beatified numerous Venerable Servants of God, a total of 496, and canonized numerous Blesseds, a total of 33. He beatified and canonized Bernadette Soubirous, John Bosco, Thérèse of Lisieux, John Baptist Maria Vianney and Anthony Mary Gianelli, among many others. He also appointed four new doctors of the Church, Peter Canisius, John of the Cross, Robert Bellarmine and Albertus Magnus. In particular, he beatified 191 martyrs who were victims of the French Revolution, which he called "a universal disturbance during which the rights of man were affirmed with such arrogance."

The episcopal genealogy is:

Apostolic succession is:

Honors of the Holy See

The pope is sovereign of the pontifical orders of the Holy See while the Grand Magistry of individual honors may be maintained directly by the pontiff or granted to a trusted person, usually a cardinal.


  1. Pope Pius XI
  2. Papa Pio XI
  3. ^ Fra cui quello del cav. Ernesto Riva a Carugate, come riportato nella biografia di Guido Guida del 1938
  4. ^ Nella Biblioteca Ambrosiana esiste un collegio di dottori, a cui si è ammessi per cooptazione, che dirigono il lavoro dei bibliotecari, portano avanti ricerche erudite e sono al servizio dei lettori e dei ricercatori stranieri. Fra i dottori viene eletto il prefetto, che dirige la biblioteca. Cfr Chiron, op. cit., p. 52
  5. a b c d The Papacy, an Encyclopedia, (p. 1200)
  6. a b The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church, aartsbisdom Milaan
  7. Gepubliceerd in 1913: Missale duplex Ambrosianum
  8. Pius XI: Apostle of Peace (p. 17)
  9. Pius XI: Apostle of Peace (p. 38)
  10. ^ "Studiorum ducem". Vatican.va. Archived from the original on 2 March 2013. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  11. ^ "Vatican displays Saint Peter's bones for the first time". The Guardian. 24 November 2013. Archived from the original on 21 January 2016. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  12. 1 2 3 D’Orazi, Lucio. Il Coraggio Della Verita Vita do Pio XI, pp. 14-27