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The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,634 ratings  ·  267 reviews

From National Book Award finalist David I. Kertzer comes the gripping story of Pope Pius XI’s secret relations with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. This groundbreaking work, based on seven years of research in the Vatican and Fascist archives, including reports from Mussolini’s spies inside the highest levels of the Church, will forever change our unde/>
Paperback, 592 pages
Published January 6th 2015 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2014)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  1,634 ratings  ·  267 reviews

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Oct 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: european-history
Kertzer shows how the relationship between Pope Pius XI and Benito Mussolini played into the rise of Fascism and anti-Semitism. Mussolini demanded absolute power and the pope demanded a dominant position for the Church. Both men were headstrong adversaries who cooperated as needed. Both sacrificed principle to achieve their goals. Their fears, desires, deals and surrounding intrigues would weigh heavily on Italy’s fate particularly that of the nation’s Jews.

Mussolini started his poli
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, italy, wwii
The result of David Kertzer’s research is that there is no longer reason to wonder about the Vatican’s position regarding Mussolini and the rise of Fascism. This well documented narrative tells how a very limited, backward looking, authoritarian Pope gave inches and then feet and miles in order, as he saw it, to protect the church.

There is plenty to show Pope Pius as an enabler to Mussolini. It begins his withdrawal of support for the Center Catholic Party which hobbled Mussolini’s s
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I highly recommend this book for serious history buffs who read a lot of nonfiction and enjoy a high level of detail about the many people who played a part in historical events. I also recommend it for more casual readers of nonfiction who have a strong interest in this subject and time period. I say that with the warning that there are a lot of people involved, and it can be difficult to keep track of them and their roles and backgrounds.

Kertzer is a meticulous researcher with expe
Aug 31, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first impression of this book surprised me because I felt a glimmer of sympathy for Mussolini for having to deal with such an intractable man as Pius XI. That sympathy quickly dissipated under the barrage of Mussolini's Facist policies.

Unfortunately, I never felt any sympathy for Pius XI at all. He may have meant well, but knowing that he could have helped with the downfall of Mussolini in the early days, instead, he lent his considerable support to the Duce which led me to questi
Czarny Pies
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who believe that buggery, fornication and anti-Semitism are organically linked.
Shelves: european-history
In "The Pope and Mussolini", David Kertzer informs the reader that while the deceased Pius XI was lying state in February 1939, Benito Mussolini chose to visit his mistress Clara Petacci and made love to her not once, not three times but twice. In other words, the book is lurid and in many instances Kertzer chooses to trust some highly sleazy sources. Nonetheless, despite its rather disreputable approach, I am giving the book it four stars because the author David Kertzer marshals much impressiv ...more
Richard Moss
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
The Pope and Mussolini is David Kertzer's fascinating account of the secret dealings between the Italian dictator and Pius XI.

These were uncomfortable bedfellows. Mussolini had shown no signs in his early career of wanting to revive the Catholic Church's fortunes - in fact as he started off as a socialist, the opposite was true. His fascist lackeys had also spent much time beating up and terrorising hostile priests.

Pius XI also showed no great personal enthusiasm for Il D
Carl R.
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
[CAVEAT: As I reread this piece, it struck me that people might interpret it as anti-Catholic. It's certainly negative as far as Vatican City and its corrupt operations during the time period involved is concerned, which is true to the book under review. However, like most American Catholics, I see a huge gulf between my Catholic parish life and what happens in Rome, so I didn't intend it as a screed against the church as a whole.]

Kertzer struck a bonanza when the Vatican released de
Apr 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
I won this book through a Goodreads Giveaway!

I knew nothing about this subject at all, but had recently done a concentrated read on WWI, so this book picked up close to the end of WWI.

I'm not Catholic so don't know much about it's history, and this book did a great job of explaining what was going on in the Vatican during a very tumultuous time in between WWI and WWII and the rise of Fascism and Nazism.

I continue to be dumbfounded at the racism that existed toward the Je
Vikas Lather
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
David Kertzer can simply be regarded as one of the most finest historians of the Twentieth Century. This book should be more widely known than it is. It is quite difficult to come up with another name who could justice to illustrate extremely complicated relationship between Benito Mussolini and the Pope Pius XI, and how Catholic Church supported the rise of Fascism in Italy.
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a history of the relationship between Pope Pius XI and Benito Mussolini, anchored around the Lateran Accord of 1929, which made peace between the Italian government and the Papacy and which helped legitimate Mussolini's fascist regime. This is not a flattering account of the Pope or the Catholic Church generally and it fuels arguments about the importance of the Church in legitimating both the Fascist regime in Italy and the Nazi regime in Germany, although that came more after the ...more
Feb 10, 2014 marked it as wish-list  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bettie by: Jeanette "Astute Crabbist"
to hunt down, now where's my sleuthing kit...
Thoroughly researched and expertly written this book details the relationship between Pius XI and Mussolini in the run up to WWII. It does not present a flattering picture of the pope who was anxious to see the development of a Fascist Catholic Italy. He saw that through Mussolini the Church could regain much of the power it had lost in the previous century, and Mussolini realized that with the support of the Church he could become very powerful, very quickly. The pope appreciated Mussolini's wi ...more
David Eppenstein
It's been quite awhile since I've read anything about the history of the Catholic Church. While it is one of my favorite subject areas the older history of centuries past is much more entertaining as it is removed from present day considerations and affect. Reading the history of the Church in the 19th and 20th centuries isn't quite as amusing as that history and its consequences live with us today. Nevertheless, I do read it as it is very informative and can, at times, be amusing and entertaini ...more
Eleanor Cowan
Apr 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I imagine Historian David Kertzer as the now grown child once featured in 'The Emperor's New Clothes.' He details the collaboration between two crafty weavers, Pope XI and Mussolini, who deceive their way to unearned power. Kertzer reasons they could never have subsidized such massive evil without the usual two key factors:
a) utterly vacant inner lives of those eager to be 'led'
b) crowds of frightened followers unable to think or act for themselves.
Kertzer parades their conniving.
Jun 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"If there is a totalitarian regime – in fact and by right – it is the regime of the Church, because man belongs totally to the Church." - Pope Pius XI, September 1938

"It is impossible for the Catholic fascist to renounce that antisemitic conscience which the church had formed through the millennia." - Italian Fascist Roberto Farinacci

THE POPE AND MUSSOLINI is a damning account of Vatican complicity in the rise of fascism, not out of cowardice or hypocrisy but in the name
Seriously surprising history.
Pius XI could not be more unlike Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Both vowed to protect the church through the turbulent 30s and 40s, but their approaches could not have been different. Bonhoeffer challenges me because I doubt I could muster his courage. Pius XI challenges me because I could very well be the appeasing coward he was.
Learn the things.
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Today, I visited St. Peter’s Basilica, where over a hundred popes are entombed. This book exhumes two of them and confesses their sins to his readers. In 2006, the Vatican archives were opened for the period of Pius XI’s reign, including daily logs of meetings and thousands of other documents. Records of the Italian fascist regime are also now available. The author of this book conducted seven years of records research, including the collection of over 25,000 pages of documentation.

Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The book sheds a light on a period often forgotten about, the relations between the Holy See and the rising Fascist regime in Italy, focusing on the years from Mussolini's March on Rome to 1938, the death of Pope Pius XI.
While showing that the initial support of the Fascist movement by the early papacy turning into disappointment as the papacy develops, the author also demonstrates that Pius XI was surrounded by dignitaries who opposed the Pope's desire to publicly denounce the actions of
(My review from BookTV; spoiler included)

When I listened to David Kertzer present his book on BookTV, I found it to be a unique picture of a turbulent period that became frightening, and it had a fascinating panorama of people often forgotten in history. It is a well-researched history, and "The Pope and Mussolini" was not presented as anti-Christian (& not anti-Christian Catholic). It is solely recapturing the time period of the 1920s & 1930s in Italy mostly prior to Hitler'
This is not about the pope and the Holocaust; that's the next pope, Pius XII.

For the unfamiliar, Pius XI is the pope who signed the concordat with Mussolini which gave Vatican City official recognition by Italy and the RC state church status in Italy. In exchange, the Pope agreed to officially support the disbanding of Italy's Catholic-oriented political party and to agree for restraints on the broad social involvement of Catholic Action, a rough equivalent to a souped-up Knights of
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very detailed review of how Achille Ratti, Pope Pius XI, came to aid and abet Benito Mussolini in gaining control over the Italian State in the early twenties. They both came to power in the same year, 1922 - the one of a temporal realm, the other of a spiritual one and found a use to which they could put one another. The Pope used Mussolini to reach an agreement on the permanent return of, at least, the Papal States as an independent state and, in return, agreed to back Mussolini's Fascist di ...more
Julian Douglass
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Fantastic History that describes one of the darkest chapters in not only the Vatican's history, but Europe's History as well. Mr. Kertzer combs through many pages of archives in the Vatican to retell the story of how the Pope sold out European's and the Jews in Europe for some semblance of stability in Fascist Italy, which was never fully calm until the Church kowtowed to Mussolini. Great job casting all the characters involved and helps explain what their objectives were in the period from the ...more
Kristi Thielen
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sobering account of the distasteful relationship between Mussolini and his fascist government and the Vatican, during the time of Pius XI.

The book makes use of recently opened Vatican archives and serves to put the lie to any notion that the Vatican can excuse, much less erase, its involvement with the rise of fascism and the anti-Semitism that steamrolled to the Holocaust.

The Pope was most anxious to distinguish the Catholic Church's anti-Semitism - which insisted that converted Je
Linda Romer
The Pope and Mussolini by David l. Kertzer

A fact based account of the Vatican's role in the rise of fascism in Europe.

An extremely interesting fact based account of the relationship of the Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini and Pope Pius Xl.

The book tells us how Pope Pius Xl played an important role in making Mussolini's dictatorship possible and keeping him in power in exchange for Vatican support.

My thoughts:

David l. Kertzer spent ma
Oct 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Kertzer seems to have a thing for "Secret Histories" (or is it his publisher?). In spite of the sensationalism, this is a well-researched book about the parallel rise of Mussolini and Piux XI (who both rose to power in the same year), the resolution of the Roman question through the Lateran Accords, the fate of the Jews in Italy, and the eventual downfall of Italian fascism.

The book makes clear that the Catholic Church's unfortunate history of anti-Semitism provided the support Musso
The Pope and Mussolini is a fascinating account of two strong-willed, flawed men who were at the height of their power during the 1920s and 30s in Italy. The two had much in common - they were both tyrants with an absolute belief in their own power. Though they disagreed with the philosophy of the other they still made use of the other for their own ends, a situation both were happy with for awhile. Pius XI made a deal with the devil which he eventually lived to regret but he was held in check b ...more
Joseph Raffetto
May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
The Pope and Mussolini have quite a bit in common. Neither believed in freedom of speech or press. They both banned books and controlled the media. Mussolini was deeply immoral in his personal life. The Pope was surrounded by pedophiles and perverts. They were both fascists (the Pope a Catholic fascist). They were both anti-semitic and passed laws that took away the most basic rights of Italian citizens who were Jewish.

Mussolini wanted to make Italy "great again." The Pope wanted to
Sep 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
The Pope and Mussolini is a very thorough look at the rise of Pope Pius XI and Benito Mussolini in the years leading up to World War II. Detailed are the Lateran Accords, the rise of Fascism in Italy, the strained relationship between the two men and their relationship with King Emmanuel, the many loves of Mussolini, and their eventual deaths. The author uses the fairly new release of Vatican and Italian documents from the period as resources. There is a lot of surprising detail and it is obviou ...more
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a well researched and an amazing book.

The book deal with the gripping story of Pope Pius XI’s secret relations with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. The story tells the Pope 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.

The book touches on the thin
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe examines the role played by the highest levels of the Catholic hierarchy in the rise of Mussolini and fascism in Italy. It is a fascinating account of religious and political dogmatism, power, abuse of power, subterfuge, and cult of personality. The parallels between the tactics of the fascist leader and contemporary anti-democratic movements are remarkable. It is certainly an admonition against complacency.
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“A tyrant remains a tyrant no matter how benevolently he may philosophize and smile,” 4 likes
“There is no past, memory paints it,’ ” the pope recited. “ ‘There is no future, for hope shapes it. There is only the present, but it is always escaping us.” 2 likes
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