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The Election of Pius XI and the Advent of Fascism in Italy

Giovanni Sale, SJ-La Civiltà Cattolica - Wed, Jan 11th 2023

The Election of Pius XI and the Advent of Fascism in Italy

Pius XI, Catholic Politicians and the Fascists

In the conclave following the death of Benedict XV, the “pope of peace,” which began on February 2, 1922, and ended just four days later (February 6), the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Achille Ratti, was elected pope on the 14th ballot, beating the two candidates considered most popular: Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val, of the conservative wing, and Cardinal Pietro Maffi, of the progressive wing.[1] One hundred years have passed since that event, which strongly marked the history of the contemporary Church.

Achille Ratti’s pontificate was controversial, because of the difficult period in which it took place. It was very intense from the religious point of view (many devotions and liturgical celebrations that are still alive in the Church were promoted by this pontiff) as well as in the political and cultural spheres. In this article we will deal only with the beginnings of the pontificate of that courageous pope who, even if much loved by the Catholics of those years, is unlikely, in contrast to many of his successors, to be  raised to the honors of the altars.

The new pontiff chose the name Pius probably to mark the continuity of direction with Pius X and to reassure the supporters of the Spanish cardinal. He confirmed Cardinal Pietro Gasparri as his Secretary of State, thus satisfying the progressives. His first act as pontiff was very significant: he gave his blessing from the external loggia of the Vatican Basilica, something that had not happened since the days of the capture of Rome by the army of united Italy. It was interpreted by many as a conciliatory gesture, and as a good omen for the settlement of the Roman Question.

In the early days of his pontificate Pius XI did not depart, in political matters, from the policy followed by his predecessor, Benedict XV.[2] For him, too, the Italian People’s Party (Partito Popolare Italiano, PPI) was viewed as the political party of Italian Catholics, in particular the instrument through which the rights of religion and the Church could be asserted at a political-parliamentary, and therefore social, level. Achille Ratti[3] came from the Milanese conciliatorist and moderate clerical tradition.[4]

His idea of a “Catholic party” differed from  Fr. Sturzo’s vision of a secular and non-denominational party, acting in the field of politics autonomously, inspired by the great social principles of Christian tradition and doctrine, but without the intention of serving the interests of the Church or representing it. In the early days of his pontificate, he supported the PPI and recommended it to Catholics eager to participate in political life.[5] To the activists of the Milanese Popular Party, who visited him immediately after his election, he said “that the members of the PPI should be Catholics in everything.”[6]

Pius XI wanted the bishops, as well as the priests, not to concern themselves too much with political matters. With the passing of time – when the national political situation became more difficult, especially after the March on Rome, and in the light of the continuous violence perpetrated by the Fascists, even against Catholic associations – the idea of separating the sphere of politics from that of Catholic action in general, without, however, asking Catholics to take no interest in public affairs, grew stronger and stronger in him.[7] To his successor in the Ambrosian diocese of Milan, Cardinal Eugenio Tosi, who asked him for advice on how to behave in the diocese with the Popular Party, he replied resolutely: “You must be a religious pastor,” but added that without the support of the Popular Party activists, the action of the Church would have been less significant in the diocese, and so he invited him, discreetly, to support them.[8]

How did the new pope judge the rapid rise of the Fascist Party to power in 1922, and what did he think of its leader, Benito Mussolini? It is not easy to know Pius XI’s thinking in that period and, by referring to documentary sources, to give precise answers to such questions. The pope’s thoughts on those political and social issues  can however be gathered from some of his private conversations or,  indirectly, from articles in L’Osservatore Romano and La Civiltà Cattolica.

Catholics viewed with some concern the rise of Fascism within Italian society, as well as its rapid rise to political power, which came about by “semi-legal” means and through squad violence. Although Mussolini – in particular since his first speech to the Chamber of Deputies on June 21, 1921 – had declared himself respectful of religion, and publicly pledged to defend Catholicism as the “national” religion, this did not entirely reassure the ecclesiastical hierarchy. This was not least because, while in words Mussolini said he wanted to protect the Church and meet its material needs, his henchmen, often under the command of local leaders called “ras,” made frequent assaults on the offices of Catholic associations and committed acts of individual violence against their members, in the provinces, even those not too far from the capital. Meanwhile, Mussolini’s party companions often engaged in blasphemous gestures of irreverence toward the “things dearest and most sacred to Catholics.”

Fascism was considered by many churchmen at that time “a Masonic movement,” as dangerous to civil society and to religion as subversive socialism. Even its manifestations of deference – often only outward – to traditional religion were viewed with some suspicion by the more sensitive Catholics. According to one important Milanese activist, Roberto Faino, “the Fascists,” so he wrote to the editor of Civiltà Cattolica, in order to inform the pope, “crowned their arrogance by imposing, by means of the stick, mourning on the town for their declared martyrs who had died in a small demonstration. At the funerals they then displayed the ceremonies that delude many weak Catholics. They do not see that such ceremonies are of D’Annunzio’s invention. (Just remember the handing over of the dagger to D’Annunzio that he organized during a mass in Florence!) Those weak Catholics are accustomed to say: here the Fascists admit the priest at funerals, therefore they are religious! That is  enough to legitimize them! One man made this incredible claim: ‘For me Mussolini goes to mass; that’s enough for me.’ Mussolini didn’t  go to mass, so that man was dreaming… So we forget the procession blocked in Pisa, the priests beaten, the religious circles invaded, the Catholic newspapers assailed, the more ridiculous than blasphemous definition of Christianity made just now by Mussolini in his newspaper; one forgets the obscene chants of the Fascists with the refrain ‘what do priests do? (chorus) … dirt,’ they forget the white organizations and popular town halls assaulted, simply because they belong to the ‘party of the priests,’ and they even forget that the catechism forbids murder practiced by them.”[9]

A precious testimony about the attitude of the pope toward the new political events can be found in a letter sent by Faino to the editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, Fr. Enrico Rosa: “Fr. Gemelli, finding himself alone with the Holy Father last month, asked him how he should behave toward the Government. The Holy Father replied: ‘Praise, no. It is not convenient to be in open opposition, since there are many interests to be protected. Eyes open!’”[10] The brief conversation between Pius XI and Fr. Agostino Gemelli well illustrates the position the pope took on the new government and, more generally, on what was happening in Italy at that time. Although he also had his own ideas on these events, he did not give in to political or ideological evaluations, making it clear that a definitive judgment on those events would depend fundamentally on how the new government would safeguard Catholic interests in Italy. For the moment, the pope suggested, Church leaders should remain vigilant and wait.

Catholic Action, making good use of the directives given by the pope, from the days immediately following the March on Rome, took an attitude toward the new government and Fascism that was far from any explicit acceptance, but also from any clear rejection. The Marchesa Maddalena Patrizi, at that time president of the Union of Catholic Women of Italy, recounts having received from the Vatican Secretariat of State the recommendation “not to take any attitude, either of approval or [of] disapproval of what was happening in government,” but to “wait with benevolent reserve.”[11]

For a more in-depth look at the thinking of the Holy See, and of the pope himself, on the phenomenon of Fascism, as well as on the important political events of the time, one can read the pages of La Civiltà Cattolica devoted to the ideological-political debate and the chronicle of those days.

The Jesuits, the March on Rome and the advent of Fascism

In an editorial published before the March on Rome, La Civiltà Cattolica adopted a rather critical attitude toward Fascism, which it described as a “phenomenon, rather than a party, […] mutable and multiform.” “If at the beginning it was a simple movement of rebellion or reaction […] against the violence […] of the socialists and communists […], it was soon swept into a completely different direction, violent and anti-Christian, led by dubious men and misled by troublemakers. So Fascism is now the paroxysm of the disunity of the Italians; it is the impotent effort of the old liberalism, of Freemasons, agrarians, enriched industrialists, journalists, politicians and the like,”[12] for which, the editor concluded, it can have neither the following nor the approval of Catholics, not least because its morality appears in many ways irreconcilable with the Christianity .[13]

The editorial, which appeared – because of the fortnightly publication  of the magazine – in the days of greatest political tension, met with the strong disapproval of the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. W?odzimierz Ledóchowski, even though it had the placet of the Secretariat of State. Ledóchowski feared, and not wrongly, a possible reaction or censure by the new government against the Italian Jesuits. He wrote to Rosa, the author of the article: “I read the first article in the latest issue of Civiltà Cattolica and I was very saddened. This tone is really not convincing in itself and in the present conditions could do more harm than good. I believe that for the present there is nothing else to do but trust in Divine Providence, but I beg you to be more cautious for the future.”[14]

After the March on Rome, the magazine had to modify, or rather mollify its orientation in political matters, and a new editorial, even more critical than the previous one toward Fascism, which was to come out the day after the formation of the new Mussolini government, was replaced – it seems on the instructions of Pius XI – by another more conciliatory one, in which the orientation that the Jesuit magazine was to maintain toward Fascism for several years was set out, though still in embryonic form. “When a form of government is legitimately constituted,” the editorial read, “though initially defective or even questionable in various respects […], it is a duty to submit to it, in what concerns the public order or the common good of society; nor is it licit for individuals or parties to plot to overthrow it, supplant it or modify it by unjust means.”[15] Little by little La Civiltà Cattolica, while denouncing the violence of the Fascist squads, engaged in the work of legitimizing Fascism in the eyes of the Catholic world.[16] Its professed aim was that of “correcting” and at the same time “Christianizing” this new phenomenon.

To tell the truth, it should be remembered that the magazine continued in its current events sections to record all the violence carried out by the Fascists in Italy, both against Catholics and against others. In a report of November 11, 1922, it denounced the killing of a Communist and a worker by the Fascists, as well as the “ransacking” of the homes of the politicians Bombacci and Nitti. “In the same morning,” continued the report, “some Fascists came across Lemmi, Bombacci’s secretary, and led him to the headquarters in Via degli Avignonesi; they made him swallow half a liter of castor oil, shaved his beard and hair, and painted the tricolor on his head, loaded him into a truck and drove him to Via Tritone and the Corso, making him carry a sign that read ‘Long live the Fascist Party,’ words that he was made to shout every so often. Luckily for him he was seen by General De Bono, who, moved to pity, put an end to the atrocious mockery.” The writer commented on what was reported by saying that it was to be hoped that such deplorable  acts would not be repeated and that the spirit “of industriousness and moderation” would prevail. “To wish to rage against the vanquished,” he asserted, “while not generous, is not even useful in strengthening the fruits of victory. With oppression, with beatings, with humiliating mockery, one does nothing but sow hatred; and one who sows hatred dangerously undermines the ground on which one wants to raise one’s own edifice.”[17]

Mussolini’s ‘outstretched hand’ to the Church

One of the first important political choices made by Mussolini, as soon as he had consolidated his power, was to promote a policy of “rapprochement,” or of “outstretched hand,”[18] toward the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and in particular toward the Holy See, as he had anticipated in his first speech to the Chamber of Deputies on June 21, 1921.[19] On that occasion Mussolini affirmed – openly and shamelessly disavowing one of the fundamental principles of Sansepolcrist propaganda and of his own activity as a “priest-eating” journalist – that Fascism neither preached nor practiced anticlericalism and that it was even less linked to Freemasonry, whose aims it condemned. He maintained “that the Latin and imperial tradition of Rome today is represented by Catholicism.” “I think,” continued the new Member of Parliament, quoting the German historian Theodor Mommsen, “that the only universal idea that exists in Rome today is that which radiates from the Vatican.”[20]

To think that some years earlier, from the columns of the Giornale d’Italia, of which he was editor, Mussolini had loudly thundered against the pope, the priests and the Vatican, writing that it was necessary to clear the political slate of religion, “to free Italy from this rubbish,” and that the only way to resolve the Roman Question was to get the pope out of the Vatican, accompanying him across the border. Now, putting aside that all too tumultuous and agitated revolutionary past, he intended to make Roman Catholicism one of the guiding ideas informing his national policy.

According to the historian Emilio Gentile, the Catholic Church “was not venerated by Fascism as the repository of revealed divine truths, but was recognized and respected as a hierophany of Romanity, a creation of the Italian race and essential heritage of its tradition.”[21] The new head of the government expected from the Italian Church and its hierarchy an active collaboration in this sense: it would have to put at the service of the new national idea, i.e. of the Fascist State, its great moral influence on the people, still very attached to the traditional religion.[22] In return, he would have eliminated 50 years of anticlerical legislation put in place by past liberal governments – concerned with removing any influence on civil society coming from the Church, confining it to the spiritual sphere, understood as a private matter – and favored its religious and social mission in every possible way.

This idea of an “active collaboration” between Church and Fascism had been made explicit by Mussolini himself in the speech to the Chamber already mentioned: “I think that if the Vatican,” he said, “renounces definitively its temporal dreams – and I believe it is already on this road – Italy, profane or secular, should provide the Vatican with the material aid, the material facilities for schools, churches, hospitals or other services, that a profane power has at its disposal. For the development of Catholicism in the world, the increase of the 400 million men and women, who in all parts of the earth look to Rome, is of interest and pride also to us who are Italians.”[23]

At that time, however, the ecclesiastical authority preferred not to change its negative judgment on Fascism, condemning both its doctrine, tainted by statolatry and irrationalist theories, and its method of political struggle, based on squad violence and blackmail. While noting with a certain favor the “surprising” words pronounced by Mussolini on “national” Catholicism, the Church preferred for the moment to keep silent, judging it more convenient to ignore the advances made to it by those same men who were ordering the devastation of the Catholic Action circles, as well as of the PPI and of the white cooperatives, and the aggression of its members. In any case, for the time being, the Church considered it opportune not to expose herself with hasty declarations of any kind, but, as Pius XI said to Fr. Gemelli some time later, “keep your eyes open!”

Having come to power, Mussolini sought to present himself to national and international public opinion as a moderate politician, respectful of statutory rights and a lover of order and religion. In Lausanne, on November 21, 1922, about a month after the March on Rome, he told a group of journalists – with no sense of embarrassment or shame – that he was a “deeply religious” spirit and declared that religion was a fundamental force for the nation and therefore should be defended and respected. “I am therefore opposed,” he continued, “to anti-clerical and atheistic demagoguery […]. I affirm that Catholicism is a great spiritual and moral power and I trust that relations between the Italian State and the Vatican will henceforth be very friendly.”[24]

As soon as he came to power, Mussolini took personal interest in ensuring that in religious matters everything proceeded as he had foreseen, even overcoming the opposition of some of his fellow party members, still imbued with anticlerical ideas, as well as of the liberal officials of the state administration, loyal to an already tried and tested strictly “separatist” practice. In the first months of government, he soon ordered administrative measures favorable to the Church (especially in economic matters) and also began to think about a general legislative reform in ecclesiastical matters. The Catholic hierarchy limited itself, for the moment, to thanking the new head of government and commenting positively on the measures.

But what was the purpose that Mussolini envisioned with this policy of an “outstretched hand” toward the Church? What was it that prompted him to change so abruptly the traditional “separatist” and secularist policy – inspired, that is, by the doctrine of the separation of Church and State – that liberal governments had always observed toward the Holy See? Certainly not religious sentiment, of which, despite his assertions, he was entirely devoid, but motives of an eminently political nature.[25] He knew that the Church had great power in shaping the conscience of the people and that it would be very difficult to fight it on this level (as the maximalist socialists theorized), by taking away those functions that it had always had and that the majority of Italians recognized as its own, such as the training of young people. It was just as well then – the new head of government realistically thought – to come to an agreement with it and have it on one’s own side.

Mussolini and the myth of national-popular Catholicism

Mussolini thought that Fascism, presenting itself as a party of order, respectful of social hierarchies and of the “rights of owners,” and therefore anti-subversive and anti-socialist, would have no difficulty in finding points in common with the Church. It was necessary, however, to prune the party of the dead branches of the old anti-clericalism, and he would do so as soon as possible. If the party was to expand and become truly “national-popular,” it had to engage, and thus absorb, the Catholic masses of both the South and the North, otherwise it would remain a small to medium party, destined to retain power through the use of force or blackmail, but not with the consent of the masses. To become a true party of the people, Fascism had to secure the benevolence – or at least the tolerance – of the pope and the Catholic hierarchy in general. In a word, the aim of the ecclesiastical policy pursued by Mussolini in those early years of government was to integrate the Church and the ecclesiastical hierarchy within his political system of “national regeneration.”[26]

But to achieve this, it was necessary first of all to strip the PPI of its Catholic supporters and this could be done only by trying to “uncouple” it from the ecclesiastical hierarchy, in such a way that the latter no longer supported it as a Catholic party.[27] Mussolini favored this operation in two ways: first of all by getting the PPI to abandon the government and to align itself with the opposition parties (in particular the socialists); and then by borrowing the PPI’s program of religious policy and beginning to put it into practice, confirming  for the Catholic Church certain privileges that the old liberal governments had always denied it.

In this way Fascism took on, for the Italians, and in particular for the Catholic hierarchy, the role of defender of national religious interests. The Holy See immediately realized that this self-investment suited it, and in fact allowed it to go on. It did not, however, immediately “uncouple” itself, as some scholars believe,[28] from the Popular Party to move toward Fascism; it tried to maintain a certain formal equidistance between the two political forces – by then one in government and the other in opposition – even though it considered only the Popular Party truly as “its own people.” In the moments when the political battle became more violent, she protected them – trying, however, not to expose herself too much – from Fascist violence, and welcomed into the Catholic organizations some of the trade unions or associations of the Popular Party destined for dissolution.

If one looks at the events of those years and at the role Catholics have today in politics in Italy, after the period of the post-war “Catholic reconquest” by the Christian Democrats of De Gasperi and others, it seems that the century that has passed in the meantime has seen the withering of the influential role of the Catholic and the progressive policies of that time. It seems that politics no longer concerns the religious sphere, or that it is something decisively different from what public and social commitment requires. In fact it is not so. The believer lives in human history and in a world that has become globalized, internationalized. Believers cannot be uninterested in what is happening in our country, in the social, economic and religious spheres, and in the rest of the world, both because of the new war that began months ago in Europe – Pope Francis speaks of a Third World War already underway – and because of the food, energy and environmental crisis, which affects the poorest countries above all. All these global issues must interest and concern believers, prompting them to mobilize themselves in politics and the social sphere, at the national level and beyond.

DOI: La Civiltà Cattolica, En. Ed. Vol. 7, no.1 art. 9, 0123: 10.32009/22072446.0123.9

[1].    Cf. F. Margiotta Broglio, “Pio XI”, in Storia dei Papi, Rome, Istituto Nazionale dell’Enciclopedia Italiana, 2000, 620; Y. Chiron, Pio XI. Il papa dei Patti Lateranensi e dell’opposizione ai totalitarismi, Cinisello Balsamo (Mi), San Paolo, 2006.

[2].    Cf. G. Sale, Popolari e destra cattolica al tempo di Benedetto XV, Milano, Jaca Book, 2006; J. F. Pollard, Il papa sconosciuto. Benedetto XV (1914-1922) e la ricerca della pace, Cinisello Balsamo (Mi), San Paolo, 2001, 183 f; M. Casella, L’azione cattolica del Novecento. Aspetti, momenti, interpretazioni, personaggi, Rome, Ave, 2003, 22-23.

[3].    On the pontificate of Pius XI, and in particular his relationship with Fascism, there is abundant historical literature. We recall here the most significant works: C. A. Biggini, Storia inedita della Conciliazione, Milan, Garzanti, 1942; C. Falconi, I papi del XX secolo, Milan, Feltrinelli, 1967; E. Rossi, Il manganello e aspersorio, Florence, Parenti, 1958; A. C. Jemolo, Chiesa e Stato in Italia negli ultimi cento anni, Turin, Einaudi, 1975; G. Rossini, Il movimento cattolico nel periodo fascista, Rome, Cinque Lune, 1966; F. Margiotta Broglio, Italia e Santa Sede dalla grande guerra alla Conciliazione. Aspetti politici e giuridici, Rome – Bari, Laterza, 1966; Id., “Pio XI”, in Storia dei Papi, Rome, Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana, 2000; G. Spadolini (ed), Il cardinale Gasparri e la Questione Romana, Florence, Le Monnier, 1973; S. Rogari, Santa Sede e fascismo. Dall’Aventino ai Patti lateranensi, Bologna, Forni, 1976; D. Veneruso, L’ Italia fascista (1922-1945), Bologna, il Mulino, 1981; P. Scoppola, “La Chiesa e il fascismo durante il pontificato di Pio XI”, in Coscienza religiosa e democrazia nell’Italia contemporanea, Bologna, il Mulino, 1966; Id., La Chiesa e il fascismo. Documenti e interpretazioni, Rome – Bari, Laterza, 1971; Id., “Patti lateranensi”, in Dizionario del fascismo, Turin, Einaudi, 2003; G. Miccoli, “La Chiesa e il fascismo”, in G. Quazza (ed), Fascismo e società italiana, Turin, Einaudi, 1973; V. Ferrone (ed), La Chiesa cattolica e il totalitarismo, Florence, Olschki, 2004; E. Fattorini, “Pio XI”, in Dizionario del fascismo, op. cit.; Id., Pio XI, Hitler e Mussolini. La solitudine di un papa, Turin, Einaudi, 2007; G. Zagheni, La croce e il fascio. I cattolici italiani e la dittatura, Cinisello Balsamo (Mi), San Paolo, 2006; D. I. Kertzer, Il patto col diavolo. Mussolini e Papa Pio XI. Le relazioni segrete fra il Vaticano e l’Italia fascista, Milan, Rizzoli, 2014; Y. Chiron, Pio XI. Il papa dei Patti Lateranensi e dell’opposizione ai totalitarismi, op, cit.

[4].    Cf. F. Margiotta Broglio, Italia e Santa Sede dalla grande guerra alla Conciliazione. Aspetti politici e giuridici, op. cit., 149; P. Scoppola, “La Chiesa e il fascismo durante il pontificato di Pio XI” , op. cit., 377.

[5]. G. Miccoli, “La Chiesa e il fascismo”, op. cit., 189f, is of a contrary opinion.

[6].    Archives of Civiltà Cattolica (ACC), Fondo Rosa, 34, 7, 5.

[7].    Cf. F. Malgeri, Chiesa, cattolici e democrazia. Da Sturzo a De Gasperi, Brescia, Morcelliana, 1990, 59f.

[8].    See ACC, Fondo Rosa, 34, 7, 21.

[9] .   This letter, sent by Faino to Fr. Rosa on August 8, 1922, illustrates well the state of mind of many Catholics committed to Fascism at the time of the March on Rome; cf. ACC, Fonda Rosa, 34, 7, 21.

[10].   Ibid., 34, 7, 3.

[11].   M. Casella, L’Azione Cattolica nell’Italia contemporanea, 1919-1969, Rome, Ave, 1992, 190.

[12]. “L’unità d’Italia e la disunione degli italiani”, in Civ. Catt. 1922 IV 106.

[13].   Cf. G. Sale, “A 100 anni dalla marchia su Roma”, in Civ. Catt. 2022 IV 10-23.

[14].   ACC, Fondo Rosa, 15, 3, 1. The letter is dated October 31, 1922. Even earlier the Superior General of the Society had urged Fr. Rosa to greater moderation in dealing with political questions, for fear that some of his positions could harm the Order: “Various observations were made to me,” writes Fr Ledóchowski, “on his [Fr Rosa’s] article of February 4 of this year, in which Your Reverence speaks too violently against France, naming the Treaty of Versailles ‘a masterpiece of barbarism,’ ‘a combination of enormity,’ ‘moral monstrosity,’ etc., and in which he speaks of the ‘moral monstrosity’ of the French Church. It is feared that such arguments will do great harm to the Society in France, and, as it seems to me, not without reason. I too am convinced that the whole policy of the entente is not inspired by just principles, but in expressions one must be more modest; too vehement attacks are rather harmful.” The letter is dated April 8, 1922: cf. ACC, Fondo Rosa, 15, 3, 2.

[15].   E. Rosa, “Crisi di Stato e crisi di autorità”, in Civ. Catt. 1922 IV 204. On this subject, cf. G. Pireddu, “Padre Enrico Rosa ed il fascismo”, in Rassegna di Teologia 41 (2000) 677-713.

[16].   Cf. P. Scoppola, “La Chiesa e il fascismo durante il pontificato di Pio XI”, op. cit., 374 f; G. Miccoli, “La Chiesa e il fascismo”, op. cit., 190 f; F. Traniello, Città dell’uomo. Cattolici, partito e Stato nella storia d’Italia, Bologna, il Mulino, 1990, 314; S. Rogari, Santa sede e fascismo. Dall’Aventino ai Patti Lateranensi, op. cit., 27f.

[17].   “Cronaca contemporanea”, in Civ. Catt. 1922 IV 352.

[18].   See F. Perfetti, “L’Italia fra le due guerre”, in R. De Felice (ed), Storia dell’Italia contemporanea, vol. 3, Naples, Edizioni scientifiche italiane, 1984, 229.

[19].   P. Scoppola, “La Chiesa e il fascismo durante il pontificato di Pio XI”, op. cit., 52f. On the echo that Mussolini’s speech of June 21,1921, had in the Catholic world, cf. S. Tramontin, “Mussolini la questione romana e i rapporti con i popolari in un documento inedito”, in Humanitas 25 (1970) 469-475.

[20].   P. Scoppola, “La Chiesa e il fascismo durante il pontificato di Pio XI”, op. cit., 53.

[21].   E. Gentile, Il culto del littorio, Rome – Bari, Laterza, 2005, 128.

[22].   Cf. G. Zagheri, La croce e il fascio. I cattolici italiani e la dittatura, op. cit., 31.

[23].   P. Scoppola, “La Chiesa e il fascismo durante il pontificato di Pio XI”, op. cit., 53.

[24].   Ibid., 63.

[25].   Cf. A. C. Jemolo, Chiesa e Stato in Italia dal Risorgimento ad oggi, Turin, Einaudi, 1955, 269. According to the philosopher Armando Carlini, Mussolini was interested in “only the human and historical side” of religion, because “he is a layman, a most pure layman” (A. Carlini, Filosofia e religione nel pensiero di Mussolini, Rome, Istituto nazionale fascista di cultura, 1934, 9). According to Amedeo Giannini, Mussolini’s collaborator, Mussolini strongly felt “the strength of Catholicism and the impossibility of going against the tide, but, on his own account, he had never gone beyond a vain theism, as a negation of atheism, rather than a living and operating force of faith” (A. Giannini, Il cammino della Conciliazione, Milan, Vita e Pensiero, 1946, 42).

[26].   On this note, some historians speak of a “syncretic strategy of convenience,” used by Mussolini to absorb Roman Catholicism into the totalitarian Fascist project. Cf. E. Gentile, Il culto del littorio, op. cit., 121.

[27].   Interesting in this regard are the suggestions given to Mussolini by some of his trusted advisers, in particular by Undersecretary Giannini, future architect of the project for the reform of ecclesiastical legislation. Cf. A. Giannini, Il cammino della “conciliazione”, op. cit., 42 f; R. De Felice, Mussolini il fascista, I, Turin, Einaudi, 1966, 494.

[28].   Cf. L. Salvatorelli – G. Mira, “Storia d’Italia nel periodo fascista”, Turin, Einaudi, 1956, 423; P. Scoppola, “La Chiesa e il fascismo durante il pontificato di Pio XI”, op. cit., 378 f; G. Miccoli, “La Chiesa e il fascismo”, op. cit., 190f.

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