Mussolini's 'Great & Good Friend'
Men in Black

The "Man in Black"

I originally intended to arrange my posts more or less chronologically in this series on Rome and European Fascism but the need to address current events and also to follow the threads of particular issues means that we will have to depart from this course on occasion. Now we must pursue the career of Father Tacchi-Venturi as far as the record will take us.

The role of Father Tacchi-Venturi, Mussolini's "Great and Good Friend," was described by his fellow Jesuit, Pierre Blet:*

"Father Tacchi-Venturi served as the Vatican's official intermediary not only with Mussolini but also with the various governmental departments, including the heads of police as well as the general board for demographics and race, which was responsible for foreigners especially the Jews."

Twenty-one years after we first encountered Tacchi-Venturi in 1922, his sphere of influence remained undiminished - he was still the emissary between the Italian State and the Vatican, but now under Eugenio Pacelli: Pope Pius XII.

After the fall of Mussolini in July 1943, Italy's new anti-Fascist Government of Marshal Badoglio was expected to rescind the most extreme laws of Fascism.

On August 18 1943, Tacchi-Venturi suggested to Cardinal Secretary of State Maglione that it would be a good idea to take advantage of the overthrow of the Fascist regime and ask for a change in the anti-semitic legislation. He did not intend to ask for its repeal, as had happened in the south and in Sicily where the new Allied military government had completely abrogated all anti-semitic legislation introduced under the old Fascist regime, but merely for the abrogation of three minor provisions of the law which dealt with Catholic converts from Judaism. Maglione agreed. But before Tacchi-Venturi could prepare his petition to the new Minister for Interior Affairs,  he was approached by a group of Jews living in terror of the approaching Nazi sweep through Italy. They begged him to intercede on their behalf.

Tacchi-Venturi reported** back to Cardinal Maglione on August 29 stating that the Jews had asked for:

"...the complete return to the legislation that had been introduced by the liberal regimes  and had been in effect since November 1938."

But Tacchi-Venturi reported that he had rejected their pleas:

"...I limited myself, as I was supposed to, to only the three points specified in Your Eminence's praiseworthy message of 18 August...I took care not to ask for the total abrogation of a law [i.e. the racial law] which, according to the principles and the traditions of the Catholic Church, certainly has some clauses that should be abolished, but which clearly contains others that have merit and should be confirmed."

Shortly afterwards, German soldiers began marching down the Italian peninsula towards Rome...

We will take a close look at the situation of Rome's Jews in future posts.

* Pius XII and the Second World War: According to the Archives of the Vatican, Pierre Blet S.J., Paulist Press, New Jersey, 1999, page 156.

** The Popes Against the Jews: The Vatican's Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism, David I Kertzer
Knopf, New York, 2001, page 289.

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