Inside the Vatican of Pius XII: The Memoir of an American Diplomat during World War II

By Sánchez, José M. | The Catholic Historical Review, April 2005 | Go to article overview

Inside the Vatican of Pius XII: The Memoir of an American Diplomat during World War II


Sánchez, José M., The Catholic Historical Review


Inside the Vatican of Pius XII: The Memoir of an American Diplomat During World War II. By Harold H. Tittmann Jr. Edited and with an Introduction by Harold H. Tittmann, III. (New York: Doubleday. 2004. Pp. xiii, 224. $12.95 paperback.)

The career diplomat Harold H. Tittmann, Jr., was the assistant to Myron Taylor, President Franklin Roosevelt's personal representative to Pope Pius XII. He lived in Rome until Italy declared war on the United States, in December, 1941, and then moved into Vatican City along with all of the other Allied diplomats accredited to the Holy see. There he stayed until the liberation of Rome in the summer of 1944. These memoirs, edited and annotated by his son, who as an adolescent shared his Vatican exile, are the observations of his service and impressions of the Pope, the other Allied diplomats, and daily life in the Vatican. Since Taylor came to Rome only three times during the war, Tittmann had to bear much of the responsibility for American actions that displeased the Pope and his diplomats.

The memoirs provide interesting insights into the daily activities of and the camaraderie among the Allied diplomats exiled in Vatican City and unable to go around in Rome. The issues that Tittmann negotiated concerning relations between the United States and the Holy see were, first, the Pope's concern with trying to keep Italy out of the war; second, the Pontiff's fear of Communism, and therefore Soviet Russia, and his belief that Roosevelt was naïve about the survival of religion in the Soviet Union (although the Pope authorized a statement softening American Catholic opposition to aid to the Soviets); third, the Holy see's diplomatic recognition of Japan right after Pearl Harbor; and then as the Allied armies invaded Italy, the Pope's fears of Allied bombing of Rome's churches and artistic treasures and his attempts to have Rome declared an open city. None of these were resolved satisfactorily for the Vatican, and despite cordial relations between Roosevelt and the Pope, Vatican officials appeared to share the sharp 1942 observation of Monsignor Domenico Tardini, secretary of the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, that "hardly any American understands the European situation, and . …

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