A Twentieth-Century Crusade review: Eye-opening look at the Catholic Church and fascism
Giuliana Chamedes’s new book is revelatory but leaves some key questions unanswered
Nazi leader Adolf Hitler meets with the Vatican ambassador. File photograph: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
“We behold with sorrow,” wrote Achille Ratti (the new Pope Pius XI) in 1922, “society lapsing back slowly but surely into a state of barbarism.” Despite the Treaty of Versailles, the world had not found “true peace”, and the new “merely human” League of Nations was incapable of delivering it. The only institution that could, the pope wrote, was the one that “extends beyond the confines of nations and states” and sat “above all nations”: the Catholic Church.
Between the first World War and the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, the church pursued a diplomatic strategy that sought to arrest the rise of secularism by carving out a new role for itself in the European order. In this eye-opening book, historian Giuliana Chamedes – once a journalist in Rome – reveals how this “Catholic internationalism” has often been overlooked, offering an important new perspective on the 20th century’s tumultuous middle act.