The Vatican and Mussolini’s Italy

University of Rome professor Lucia Ceci presenting a lecture at Catholic University this week. Courtesy of Abby Anderko

By Abby Anderko

Pope Pius XI’s struggle to defend and protect Catholicism from the totalitarian regime of Mussolini in the late-1930s was discussed by University of Rome professor Lucia Ceci in a lecture at Catholic University this week.

Ceci argued that Pius is often wrongly accused of collaborating with the leader of fascist Italy Benito Mussolini. In her book “The Vatican and Mussolini’s Italy,” Ceci says that he was actually defending Catholics around the world.

“New records of the Vatican archives show that the position of the pope moved against the war of Mussolini in Ethiopia,” Ceci told the audience in the Happel Room in Caldwell Hall.

In her lecture, Ceci touched upon her work with the Vatican archives, in particular how the pope is perceived to have acted and what she uncovered in the Vatican archives.

“Previous books, articles always underline the complete coordination between the position of the pope and the position of Mussolini on the Ethiopia War. I showed that the pope wasn’t for the war, (he) was against the war.”

She believes because the pope wanted to protect Catholic missionaries in Africa and English territories and he was worried that Mussolini’s aggression could start a war in Europe.

The event was put on the University’s Institute for Human Ecology (IHE), a group dedicated to the study of the relationships among living things and their environment, especially those between humans and their communities.

These ideas are emphasized by Joseph Capizzi, the Executive Director of the Institute of the of Human Ecology, in his reasoning why the IHE brought Ceci in to speak.

“She works in the area of nationalism, fascism, populism, racism and these are some things we are seeing percolate throughout Western Europe and arguably the United States and other parts of the word,” said Capizzi, “so getting historically updated and informed about these things, especially as it relates to Italy and Germany is very important to all of us.”

Capizzi also stressed the importance of students learning about events like this or history in general so they will be more prepared to understand how the world works. “Students need to study this history. They need to know about these moments, so they can perceive trends in their own world and see to what extent these changes are dangerous or not by virtue of comparing them to history.”

The next event by the IHE is a lecture on “Being a Faithful Catholic as a Public Servant” featuring U.S Representative Dan Lipinski (D-IL) on September 27 at 6:30pm in the Happel Room in Caldwell Hall.

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