Lonely Cold War of Pope Pius XII

Lonely Cold War of Pope Pius XII: The Roman Catholic Church and the Division of Europe, 1943-1950

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 358
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    Lonely Cold War of Pope Pius XII
    Book Description:

    In The Lonely Cold War of Pope Pius XII Peter Kent shows how the Catholic Church was able to continue to exist on both sides of the Iron Curtain in spite of the division of Europe after the Second World War. Although Christian democracy became increasingly influential in western Europe, the struggle to preserve the position and rights of the Church in the east was much more difficult. When east European governments, under Moscow's direction, began their offensive against the independence of the Church in 1948, the papacy found that it stood alone, with little assistance from the U.S.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6994-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Peter C. Kent
    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. ix-xvi)
    • Introduction
      (pp. 3-10)

      It was the election of the archbishop of Cracow, Karol Wojtyla, as Pope John Paul II in 1978 that instigated the public process leading to the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the Soviet Union. Working closely with President Ronald Reagan of the United States, the Holy See exerted sufficient pressure on the communist bloc to force a significant reevaluation of its continued effectiveness. When Mikhail Gorbachev became Soviet president, he recognized the need for substantial change as a result of the increasing social and economic paralysis within the Soviet bloc. Decisions were accordingly made to release...

    • 1 The First Cold Warriors
      (pp. 11-18)

      The rhetoric of the anti-communist position in the Cold War had been defined over a century earlier by the Roman Catholic Church in opposition to modern concepts of socialist materialism. In that sense, leaders of the church can be designated as the first “cold warriors.”

      The nineteenth and twentieth centuries had not been easy times for the papacy, beset as it was by the social, political, and theological challenges of liberal anti-clericalism and socialist atheism. The latter had been condemned as early as 1846 , during the reign of Pope Pius IX (1846–1878), and the condemnations had continued throughout...

    • 2 The Church and the Axis Powers
      (pp. 21-32)

      The Second World War rent the fabric of the European community in 1939 , pitting European against European. As a transnational institution, the Roman Catholic Church found itself straddling the divide of the war, with Catholic fighting Catholic. More than any of the Protestant or Orthodox churches, the Roman Catholic Church had been one of the defining institutions of the concept of Europe and, through the development of western Christendom, of European culture and civilization. To the secular powers, the Second World War was a devastating international conflict; to the Catholic Church, it was a brutal European civil war.


    • 3 The Church under Nazi Occupation
      (pp. 33-44)

      The German occupation of other European countries during the Second World War elicited differing responses from the national branches of the Catholic Church. In Poland, following its defeat by the Germans in September 1939 , the church was given no reason to support the occupation authorities and endured the German persecution alongside the Polish people. This was also the case in Bohemia and Moravia, incorporated into Germany in March 1939 , where the church cast its lot with the anti-Nazi resistance from the beginning. In France, on the other hand, the church hierarchy saw advantage in supporting the conservative social...

    • 4 The Church in the Balkans
      (pp. 45-54)

      Unlike the nations of central and western Europe with their predominantly Catholic populations, the nations of the Balkans represented a more complex religious mix. It was in the Balkans that the Catholic west faced the Orthodox east and it was also in the Balkans that the only European frontier between Islam and Christianity was to be found. Religious loyalties were often combined with national and ethnic identities to create a potent brew of hatred and conflict. The involvement of powers external to the area was often used to favour one faction, nation, or religion over others and such was the...

    • 5 The Church in the United States
      (pp. 55-66)

      The Roman Catholic Church in the United States had traditionally been the church of the European immigrants, whether from Ireland, Italy, Poland, Germany, or the nations of eastern Europe. As the offspring of the original immigrants secured education, business success, and social status in the twentieth century, so the social and political status of the Catholic Church changed. The Roosevelt New Deal of the 1930s received strong support from Catholics and from immigrant groups who, almost for the first time, felt that the federal government was deliberately looking out for their interests. The political support which Catholics gave to Roosevelt...

    • 6 The Soviet Union and the Catholic Church
      (pp. 67-73)

      Considering the hostile ideology of communism and the brutal treatment of the Roman Catholic Church inside the Soviet Union during the 1930s, Catholic churches which came under Soviet rule during the Second World War were treated relatively well. In fact, the war resulted not in attacks on Christianity in the Soviet Union, but in a restoration of the position of the Russian Orthodox Church as the official state church and its encouragement to mount a religious offensive against the pretensions of Roman Catholics and the Vatican. The Soviet Union thereby came to offer a double-threat to Catholicism as the traditional...

    • 7 The Papacy and the Second World War
      (pp. 74-84)

      For Pius XII , there were two distinct phases to the Second World War. His initial concern was to end the war or to prevent it from spreading. Like Benedict XV in the First World War, he made himself available to both sides to serve as a mediator who could broker a peace or otherwise limit the war. For the latter part of the war the pope used all his influence to hamper the extension of communism in Europe.

      Pius XII feared the revolutionary destabilization of European society which could result from war. Once the conflict had started in September...

    • 8 Papal Leadership after the War
      (pp. 87-100)

      Historian Modris Eksteins, with the advantage of hindsight, has referred to the year 1945 as “ground zero,” the critical turning point of the twentieth century, the year of total destruction following which none of the structures, certainties or authorities of the past would ever be the same again. With the ending of the Second World War, Pope Pius XII, who was the source of authority and certainty at the pinnacle of the Roman Catholic Church, thought differently. He recognized the threats of the postwar situation to his beliefs, to his followers, and to his church and he entered the new...

    • 9 Early Persecution in the Balkans
      (pp. 101-111)

      From the perspective of the Holy See, the Balkan states of Albania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Romania had two common features after the Second World War: the Communists were firmly in control of the government when the war ended; and in none of these countries were Roman Catholics in a majority. Albania was predominantly Moslem, while the dominant religion of the other Balkan states was Eastern Orthodoxy. Yet in spite of these similarities, the initial treatment which the church received differed radically – from persecution in Albania and Yugoslavia, to benevolence in Romania and Bulgaria.

      While the Vatican were not surprised by...

    • 10 The Catholic Majorities of East Central Europe
      (pp. 112-128)

      By the end of 1945 Communist parties exercised the greatest political control in those east European countries where a minority of the population belonged to the Roman Catholic Church. In Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, on the other hand, which all had majority Catholic populations, Communists shared power to varying degrees with other parties that had worked in the anti-fascist resistance. In these countries the church could count on the allegiance of the bulk of the population and possessed extensive social and cultural power and influence. As the Communists desperately needed popular support, they sought to achieve some accommodation with the...

    • 11 Catholics and European Reconstruction
      (pp. 129-137)

      In spite of the difficulties of the church in most of eastern Europe and the Balkans, there were other countries where, in the early postwar years, Catholics were an inherent part of the reconstruction process. In Czechoslovakia, in France, and in Italy, Catholics had a significant role to play in rebuilding society and restoring the political culture. In these countries, rather than being part of the problem, they were part of the solution to the times of dislocation.

      President Edouard Beneš, leader of the Czechoslovakian government in-exile, recognized that the restoration of Czechoslovakia at the end of the war would...

    • 12 The Catholic Church and the Occupation of Germany
      (pp. 138-152)

      As one of the few German institutions to survive the war intact, the Roman Catholic Church took upon itself the task of representing the German people in their dealings with the postwar occupation authorities. As they acted on behalf of the new Germany, the German bishops spoke with the authority and support of the papacy and were frequently critical of the occupying powers.

      The German hierarchy was unsympathetic to the Allied four-power occupation of Germany. They echoed the pope in rejecting the concept of the collective guilt and responsibility of the German people for the crimes of the Nazi regime...

    • 13 The Martyrdom of Archbishop Stepinac
      (pp. 155-176)

      In order to secure a conciliatory peace settlement for Italy and Germany, the Holy See understood that the postwar credibility of the Soviet Union had to be undermined with the western allies. This was necessary because the Soviet Union had a vested interest in a punitive peace for Germany to assist with the reconstruction of the USSR and also because Stalin’s ally, Tito of Yugoslavia, sought his own advantage from the peace settlement with Italy. The difficulty was that the Vatican had little cause for complaint with the behaviour of the Soviet Union and its supporters immediately after the war....

    • 14 Vatican Resistance to the Division of Europe
      (pp. 177-190)

      In spite of the Italian peace treaty, the Vatican were well satisfied with political developments in Italy in the spring of 1947 . The relationship between the Lateran Agreements and the new constitution had been placed before the Italian Constituent Assembly in 1946 and assigned to a sub-commission for study. The Christian Democrats wanted the Lateran Treaty and the concordat both written into the constitution, while the Communists, although willing to be conciliatory, were only prepared to write in the concordat. On 18 December 1946 the sub-commission had accepted a formula on the Lateran Agreements:

      The State and the Catholic...

    • 15 The Impossibility of Vatican Neutrality
      (pp. 191-202)

      The Vatican deplored the division of Europe which resulted from American policy and Soviet reaction in the summer of 1947 . Initially, the Vatican sought neutrality, not committing itself to one bloc or the other, until it was eventually forced to confront the reality of the developing Cold War. Because the situation in Italy was always of paramount importance to the Holy See, the call for elections in April 1948 and the Communist strength in that country precluded the possibility of the Vatican being politically neutral there. The Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in February 1948 gave added urgency to using...

    • 16 Communist Consolidation and Catholic Division
      (pp. 203-216)

      While Communist parties had secured control in Albania, Yugoslavia, Romania, and Bulgaria immediately after the war, such was not the case in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. The latter three countries had postwar governments drawn from the parties of the resistance coalition, including the Communists. It was only in 1947 and 1948 that the Communist parties were able to secure one-party control of the governments of these three countries: in Poland after the elections of January 1947, in Hungary after the elections of August 1947, and in Czechoslovakia after the coup d’état of February 1948. These takeovers coincided with the definition...

    • 17 The Religious Cold War: The Communist Offensive
      (pp. 217-236)

      The 1948 Italian election campaign represented the high point of cooperation between the Holy See and the American government in the early Cold War. Neither before nor after that event were the goals and interests of the Vatican and Washington in such close alignment. In fact, the close cooperation of the spring of 1948 is often taken by some as clear evidence of the way in which the American government and the Catholic Church worked hand-in-glove as allies during the Cold War¹. Such, however, was far from the case, since the United States and the Holy See had had different...

    • 18 The Religious Cold War: The Catholic Counter-Offensive
      (pp. 237-256)

      The situation in Yugoslavia demonstrated the extent to which the Vatican and the United States were increasingly out of sympathy with each other. Vatican concern about religious persecution in the Communist bloc was not eliciting much sympathy or support from American policy-makers. Nor did the United States see much value in bolstering the position of east European Catholics as leaders of opposition to the Communist regimes in the area. The Vatican realized that, in protecting east European Catholics, they were very much alone, in spite of the Cold War rhetoric of the Americans.

      Ostensibly, from the American perspective, the Cold...

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 257-262)

    The reign of Pope Pius XII began on the eve of the Second World War – a time when he feared that the imminent war would lead to the destabilization of Europe and culminate in the victory of militant atheism. When his services as a mediator were unsought during the war, he tried to galvanize his church to resist the extension of Soviet influence in Europe. At the end of the war Pius XII called for conciliatory peace settlements for Germany and Italy in order to reconstitute Christian Europe. The influence of the Soviet Union, coupled with the discovery of Holocaust...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 263-298)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 299-308)
  11. Index
    (pp. 309-322)