Pius XII’s canonisation isn’t guaranteed

SIR – Regarding the possible canonisation of Pope Pius XII, Sir Anthony Holland (Letter, May 5) says he is “quite clear that the evidence is overwhelming that in the 1930s the Church and its officials were ambivalent about fascism, particularly in Italy, and that that ambivalence should hinder any drive to canonisation of those responsible”.

Post-Holocaust, fascism has come to be irremediably associated with Nazism, with a variety of interwar groups and individuals being labelled fascist because they failed to denounce fascism, or even evinced a love of order; in hindsight it is easier to be clear about such developments, but initially fascism was seen as “the latest thing”, and even some Italian Jews were involved in the early fascist movement.

Winston Churchill initially saw Mussolini as a counter-force to communism, but whereas the Nazis were obsessed with race – indeed, it was their defining feature – Italian fascism was not markedly anti-Semitic until Germany put pressure on Mussolini, leading to the 1938 racial laws. More Jews were rescued from destruction in Italy where, to Nazi frustration, the anti-Jewish drive was less than wholehearted.

This does not mean that fascism was right; but by the 1930s it was abundantly clear that communism was trying to eradicate Christianity as a religion, while the attempted eradication of the entire Jewish people was in the future. Pope Pius’s canonisation is not a foregone conclusion, since the whole point of the process is to weigh up the evidence on both sides.

Yours faithfully,

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