The Pope and Mussolini: The Church's role in the rise of European fascism

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini circa 1920. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images) Pope Pius XI circa 1922. (Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)


A strange letter from the poet Ezra Pound to Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King is just one of the newly uncovered documents that illuminate a very dark period of recent history. We hear about many surprising discoveries in the Vatican's archives.

We began this segment in 1937 Berlin. Even when Benito Mussolini was screaming in German, it was the same old rhetoric... all of it fighting words and the world was about to suffer.
The Italian dictator relied on many people and techniques to fulfill his dreams of conquest.

But one of his most controversial relationships during the 1920s and 30s was with the Pope: Pius the Eleventh. As the present Pope prepares to visit Israel this spring, memories of the Vatican's failure to fight the persecution of European Jews in fascist Europe loom large.

And newly unsealed Vatican documents shed new light on that time ... and the fraught, often complicated, alliance between Mussolini and the Holy See. David Kertzer has studied those once-secret archives. He's a professor of anthropology at Brown University. And his new book is called The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius X1 and the Rise of Fascism in Europe. David Kertzer joined us in Toronto.

This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal.
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