Julie's Reviews > The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe

The Pope and Mussolini by David I. Kertzer
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it was amazing
bookshelves: europe, first-reads, history, world-war-ii

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 willingness to censor books and cinema, to restrict the dress codes of women, and to prevent Protestants from proselytizing. Through Mussolini he saw religious education re-introduced in schools, crosses placed in government buildings, and ultimately the recognition of Vatican City as an independent nation. He had no issue with the absence of freedoms for the people under Mussolini because he believed that democracy, especially freedom of speech, was inconsistent with the absolute power required by the Church. He looked upon the Medieval times when the Church was without rivals as the high point of history. Mussolini in turn was willing, in spite of his strong anti-clerical upbringing and his disdain for religion, to take small steps to appease the Church in exchange for its support for his fascist government. The two men occasionally clashed over issues - especially the Catholic Action group which Mussolini saw as having too much influence that was outside of his control, and usually concessions could be found. However, as Mussolini became more megalomaniacal and infatuated with Hitler and Nazi Germany, the pope realized that he had less and less influence on what was happening in Italy and Europe.

This book was fascinating. I love a well-written and informative history book and this was both of those things. Kerzer spent close to a decade researching and writing this book. Nearly 100 pages of notes at the end show how meticulous and broad his research was.

I received this book as a goodreads first-reads giveaway.
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Reading Progress

May 23, 2015 – Started Reading
May 23, 2015 – Shelved
May 26, 2015 – Shelved as: europe
May 26, 2015 – Shelved as: first-reads
May 26, 2015 – Shelved as: history
May 26, 2015 – Shelved as: world-war-ii
May 26, 2015 – Finished Reading

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