ROME, AUG. 27, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Newspaper claims that Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Paul VI, was a source of secret information for what became the CIA are exaggerated, says a cardinal.
On Tuesday the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera published an article claiming that Monsignor Montini, an aide in the Vatican Secretariat of State and one of Pope Pius XII’s closest collaborators, was a “point of reference for the secret services of the United States” beginning in 1944.
Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, 79, who began to work in the Secretariat of State in 1953, said that the conclusions in the article by journalist Ennio Carreto contain “elements that are not real.”
The article, based on research carried out in Washington’s National Archives, took its idea from Pius XII’s audience in July 1944, a month after the liberation of Rome, granted to William Donovan, director of the Office of Strategic Services. The OSS was the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency. Donovan was also a personal emissary of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.
Following that audience, the U.S. government succeeded, with the Pope’s consent, in having Monsignor Montini offer from then on a “service of reserved information,” according to Il Corriere della Sera.
In particular, the monsignor reported on the liberated part of Italy and the part occupied by Germans in the north; on the Italian Communist Party; and on dispatches from Berlin and Tokyo, the newspaper said.
The newspaper published several documents which it said reflected U.S. officials’ admiration of Monsignor Montini’s intelligence and efficiency. The article concluded that the future Paul VI made this “choice” for the good of Italy, to help guarantee its social peace and democracy at a delicate time.
But in statements published today in the newspaper Avvenire, Cardinal Silvestrini explained that in reality the documents quoted by Il Corriere della Sera do not say Monsignor Montini was an “informer who gave secret indications on persons and situations.”
Rather, “he gave evaluations on the European and Italian situation at the time, as all Foreign Offices worldwide do,” the cardinal explained. He suggested that these documents should be compared with those of the government of General Charles de Gaulle, whose ambassador was Jacques Maritain.
Cardinal Silvestrini explained that those documents merely confirm what was already known: “It is evident that, no sooner Rome was liberated, the Allies contacted the Holy See. Pius XII asked that they discuss ordinary issues with Montini, his trusted man.”
Moreover, the cardinal said, two elements must be taken into consideration: “the Holy See’s concern over the Soviet Union’s advance,” as well as “the clearly anti-Nazi option.”
Cardinal Silvestrini added: “It was quite logical that Montini should give information to the Americans on what was happening in Italy, above all in the north, where the Allies did not know what was going on, while the Holy See was informed, thanks to the bishops.”
As a further example of what he called “fantasy” in the article, the cardinal noted that Il Corriere della Sera claimed Montini was an informer for the United States for the next 20 years. The paper failed to consider that in 1954 Montini was appointed archbishop of Milan, a post where he no longer had access to the type of information he had handled during the war.