ROME, JUNE 9, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A letter from August 1943 that Pope Pius XII wrote to U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt has been discovered and published by the Knights of Columbus.
The previously unpublished letter, dated Aug. 30, 1943, asks the president to “spare innocent civil populations and in particular churches and religious institutions.”
The letter was written after a series of Allied bombings of Rome, two occurring within six weeks prior to the Pope’s plea.
Pius XII told Roosevelt that too many people took for granted that Rome was “free to follow the policy of her choice” to promote its own best interests.
Instead, he affirmed his “conviction that this is far from true. Of [Rome’s] desire for peace and to be done with the war, there can be no doubt; but in the presence of formidable forces opposing the actuation or even the official declaration of that desire she finds herself shackled and quite without the necessary means of defending herself.”
The Pope also involved himself firsthand in consoling the victims of the bombings. After an attack on July 19, 1943, he went to one of the sites — St. Lawrence Square — to encourage the people of the area.
The Aug. 30 letter was presented in an exhibition about the Knights of Columbus’ 90-year presence in Rome. The exhibit was opened today by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope’s secretary of state, as well as the mayor of Rome and the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus.
After its discovery in the archives of the Knights of Columbus, the letter was published on the front page of “Il Messaggero,” which accompanied it with an analysis by Franca Giansoldati, a Vatican expert with that Roman newspaper.
Giansoldati suggested that it is not surprising that the letter was found in the archives of the Knights of Columbus, which has been working in Italy since 1920.
“On the diplomatic front, the Roman headquarters of the Knights of Columbus carried out a decisive role during the War, filling the absence of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the United States,” explained Giansoldati.
The letter is printed on Pages 156 and 157 of the exhibit’s program, which is titled “Everybody Welcome, Everything Free” — the motto of the Knights when they arrived in Italy for the first time during World War I.
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On ZENIT’s Web page:
Papal letter: www.zenit.org/article-29550?l=english
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On the Net:
Knights’ exhibit: www.kofc.org/un/eb/en/cap/index.html