Pope And Mussolini At Athenaeum

Pope & Mussolini (4.10) Historian David Kertzer will discuss his book The Pope And Mussolini: the Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe Thursday evening at the Providence Athenaeum.

The Pope and Mussolini tells the story of two men who came to power in 1922, and together changed the course of twentieth-century history. Pius XI was scholarly and devout, “Il Duce” thuggish and profane. Yet they shared a distrust of democracy and a visceral hatred of Communism, were both fiercely protective of the powers of their offices, and each relied on the other to consolidate his power and achieve his political goals. In a challenge to the conventional history of this period, Kertzer shows Pius XI’s crucial role in making Mussolini’s dictatorship possible and keeping him in power. In exchange for Vatican support, Mussolini restored many of the privileges the Church had lost and gave in to the pope’s demands that the police enforce Catholic morality. Yet in the last years of his life—as the Italian dictator grew ever closer to Hitler—the pontiff’s faith in this treacherous bargain started to waver. With his health failing, he began to lash out at the Duce and threatened to denounce Mussolini’s anti-Semitic racial laws before it was too late. Horrified by the threat to the Church-Fascist alliance, the Vatican’s inner circle, including the future Pope Pius XII, struggled to restrain the headstrong pope from destroying a partnership that had served both the Church and the dictator for many years.

Free and open to the public, 7pm, Thursday, April 10, Providence Athenaeum, 251 Benefit Street

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