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

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From National Book Award finalist David I. Kertzer comes the gripping story of Pope Pius XI’s secret relations with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. This groundbreaking work, based on seven years of research in the Vatican and Fascist archives, including reports from Mussolini’s spies inside the highest levels of the Church, will forever change our understanding of the Vatican’s role in the rise of Fascism in Europe.

The Pope and Mussolini tells the story of two men who came to power in 1922, and together changed the course of twentieth-century history. In most respects, they could not have been more different. One was scholarly and devout, the other thuggish and profane. Yet Pius XI and “Il Duce” had many things in common. They shared a distrust of democracy and a visceral hatred of Communism. Both were prone to sudden fits of temper and were fiercely protective of the prerogatives of their office. (“We have many interests to protect,” the Pope declared, soon after Mussolini seized control of the government in 1922.) Each relied on the other to consolidate his power and achieve his political goals.
In a challenge to the conventional history of this period, in which a heroic Church does battle with the Fascist regime, Kertzer shows how Pius XI played a crucial role in making Mussolini’s dictatorship possible and keeping him in power. In exchange for Vatican support, Mussolini restored many of the privileges the Church had lost and gave in to the pope’s demands that the police enforce Catholic morality. Yet in the last years of his life—as the Italian dictator grew ever closer to Hitler—the pontiff’s faith in this treacherous bargain started to waver. With his health failing, he began to lash out at the Duce and threatened to denounce Mussolini’s anti-Semitic racial laws before it was too late. Horrified by the threat to the Church-Fascist alliance, the Vatican’s inner circle, including the future Pope Pius XII, struggled to restrain the headstrong pope from destroying a partnership that had served both the Church and the dictator for many years.
The Pope and Mussolini brims with memorable portraits of the men who helped enable the reign of Fascism in Italy: Father Pietro Tacchi Venturi, Pius’s personal emissary to the dictator, a wily anti-Semite known as Mussolini’s Rasputin; Victor Emmanuel III, the king of Italy, an object of widespread derision who lacked the stature—literally and figuratively—to stand up to the domineering Duce; and Cardinal Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli, whose political skills and ambition made him Mussolini’s most powerful ally inside the Vatican, and positioned him to succeed the pontiff as the controversial Pius XII, whose actions during World War II would be subject for debate for decades to come.
With the recent opening of the Vatican archives covering Pius XI’s papacy, the full story of the Pope’s complex relationship with his Fascist partner can finally be told. Vivid, dramatic, with surprises at every turn, The Pope and Mussolini is history writ large and with the lightning hand of truth.
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About the author

David I. Kertzer is the Paul Dupee, Jr. University Professor of Social Science and professor of anthropology and Italian studies at Brown University, where he served as provost from 2006 to 2011. He is the author of twelve books, including The Pope and Mussolini, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and the American Historical Association prize for best book on Italian history, and The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, a finalist for the National Book Award in 1997. He has twice been awarded the Marraro Prize from the Society for Italian Historical Studies for the best book on Italian history and in 2005 was elected to membership in the American Association of Arts and Sciences. He and his wife, Susan, live in Providence, Rhode Island.
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Random House
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Published on
Jan 28, 2014
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History / Europe / Italy
History / Europe / Western
Religion / Christianity / History
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Pope and Mussolini takes on a pivotal, untold story: the bloody revolution that stripped the pope of political power and signaled the birth of modern Europe.

Days after his prime minister was assassinated in the middle of Rome in November 1848, Pope Pius IX found himself a virtual prisoner in his own palace. The wave of revolution that had swept through Europe now seemed poised to end the popes’ thousand-year reign over the Papal States, if not to the papacy itself. Disguising himself as a simple parish priest, Pius escaped through a back door. Climbing inside the Bavarian ambassador’s carriage, he embarked on a journey into a fateful exile.

Only two years earlier Pius’s election had triggered a wave of optimism across Italy. After the repressive reign of the dour Pope Gregory XVI, Italians saw the youthful, benevolent new pope as the man who would at last bring the Papal States into modern times and help create a new, unified Italian nation. But Pius was caught between a desire to please his subjects and a fear—stoked by the conservative cardinals—that heeding the people’s pleas would destroy the church. The resulting drama—with a colorful cast of characters, from Louis Napoleon and his rabble-rousing cousin Charles Bonaparte to Garibaldi, Tocqueville, and Metternich—was rife with treachery, tragedy, and international power politics.

David Kertzer is one of the world’s foremost experts on the history of Italy and the Vatican and has a rare ability to bring that history vividly to life. With a combination of gripping, cinematic storytelling and keen historical analysis, rooted in an unprecedented richness of archival sources, The Pope Who Would Be King sheds fascinating new light on the end of rule by divine right in the West and the emergence of modern Europe.

Advance praise for The Pope Who Would Be King

“In this original—and even thrilling—book, David Kertzer gives us a brilliant and surprising portrait of the role of Pius IX in the making of a new democratic reality in the West. Engaging, intelligent, and revealing, The Pope Who Would Be King is essential reading for those seeking to understand the perennial human forces that shape both power and faith.”—Jon Meacham, author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

“In this riveting tour de force, Kertzer shows how and why Pope Pius IX turned Roman Catholicism into the nemesis of modernity, with drastic consequences not only for the church but for the West.”—James Carroll, author of The Cloister
Výjimečná kniha, která získala Pulitzerovu cenu!

Papež a Mussolini vypráví strhující příběh dvou mužů, kteří se dostali k moci v roce 1922 a společně změnili běh dějin 20. století. V mnoha ohledech nemohli být rozdílnější. První byl učený, řádný a zbožný, většinu dospělého života trávil pročítáním starých rukopisů. Toužil po středověkých časech, kdy o církevních pravdách nikdo nepochyboval. Druhý byl násilnický surovec a ze své podstaty antiklerikální štváč. I přesto měli Pius XI. a italský „duce“ mnoho společného: Ani jeden nevěřil v demokracii, oba z duše nenáviděli komunismus a byli výbušné povahy. Oba byli tím druhým rozčarovaní, přesto se děsili, co by nastalo, kdyby jejich spojenectví zaniklo. Potřebovali totiž jeden druhého k tomu, aby si udrželi moc a dosáhli svých politických cílů.


Kertzer ve své nové knize přináší překvapivé důkazy o tom, že Pius XI. hrál klíčovou roli v upevnění Mussoliniho moci a pozice diktátora. Výměnou za podporu Vatikánu navrátil Mussolini církvi mnoho privilegií, o které přišla. A tak církev nejenže neprotestovala proti tomu, že se s Židy zachází jako s občany druhé kategorie, naopak ducemu poskytla nejpádnější možné argumenty, proč proti nim přijmout takto přísná opatření.


Kniha je doplněna množstvím zajímavých portrétů dalších osobností pohybujících se jak při Svatém stolci, tak kolem duceho a nechybí ani detaily z Mussoliniho soukromého života či podrobnosti týkající se vztahu s německým Vůdcem a dalšími fašistickými pohlaváry.



Rozhodnutí autora napsat tuto knihu se zrodilo v roce 2002, poté co Jan Pavel II. schválil otevření archivů týkajících se pontifikátu Pia XI. Roku 2003 byly badatelům zpřístupněny materiály o stycích Vatikánu s Německem a o tři roky později následovalo všeobecné zveřejnění vatikánských archivů. Během sedmileté archivní rešerše nashromáždil Kertzer digitální kopie pětadvaceti tisíc stran dokumentů, jež se v archivech nacházejí. Rovněž pročetl tisíce stran publikované italské, francouzské, britské, americké a německé diplomatické korespondence, včetně deníků a memoárů. Čerpal rovněž z archivu Mussoliniho špionů ve Vatikánu.






David I. Kertzer je univerzitní profesor společenských věd a profesor antropologie a italských studií na Brownově univerzitě. Od roku 2005 je členem Americké akademie umění a věd.

Napsal jedenáct knih a získal mnoho významných ocenění: Kniha The Popes Against the Jews se dostala do závěrečného kola ceny Marka Lyntona za historii, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara byla finalistou National Book Award. Od Společnosti pro studium italských dějin obdržel dvakrát cenu Helen a Howarda Marrarových za nejlepší dílo o italské historii. Kniha Papež a Mussolini byla v roce 2015 oceněna Pulitzerovou cenou.

David Kertzer žije se svou manželkou Susan v Providence v Rhode Island.





„Kertzer má smysl pro příběh, cit pro jazyk a vnímá lidskou tragédii. Tato kniha je důmyslná

Joseph J. Ellis, držitel Pulitzerovy ceny za knihu Revolutionary Summer


„Kniha, která si plně zaslouží hodnocení jako průlomová, odvážná, svěží, poučná a fascinující.
Kevin Madigan, profesor církevní historie, Harvard University

„Fascinující a tragický příběh.“
The New Yorker

„Vrcholné a zásadní dílo Davida Kertzera Papež a Mussolini výmluvně a pečlivě předkládá bolestivou, leč holou pravdu o vatikánských snahách splnit svou největší morální zkoušku.“
James Carroll, vítěz National Book Award

 Vencedor do Prêmio Pulitzer revela de forma inédita o papel da Igreja Católica no regime fascista


Em muitos aspectos, Pio XI e o “Duce” não poderiam ter personalidades mais diferentes. No entanto, havia muito em comum. Não acreditavam na democracia e abominavam o comunismo. Eram propensos a ataques de cólera e protegiam com todas as forças as regalias dos cargos que ocupavam. Além disso, contaram um com o outro para consolidar seus poderes e alcançar objetivos políticos.

Desafiando a narrativa histórica convencional que retrata a Igreja Católica como forte opositora do regime fascista, David I. Kertzer mostra como o papa Pio XI foi crucial para que Mussolini instaurasse sua ditadura e se mantivesse no poder, estabelecendo uma aliança que garantiu à Igreja a restauração de posses e privilégios. Em uma rigorosa investigação, que envolveu o estudo de relatórios dos espiões de Mussolini na Santa Sé e se beneficiou sobretudo da abertura, em 2006, de arquivos secretos do Vaticano, Kertzer não só constata a nebulosa relação dos dois líderes, como também analisa a resistência encontrada pelo pontífice quando, já com a saúde debilitada e à beira da morte, passou a atacar Mussolini, suas leis antissemitas e a aproximação com Hitler. O medo dos prejuízos advindos do rompimento com o regime fascista mobilizou as mais expressivas autoridades do Vaticano, entre elas o futuro papa, Pio XII.

Vívido e dramático, O papa e Mussolini traz uma visão cruelmente verdadeira sobre um capítulo obscuro da história mundial, fartamente documentada, narrada com extrema perícia e reconhecida, em 2015, com o Prêmio Pulitzer de biografia.

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