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EDITORIAL
from issue no. 05 - 2009

Towards the Popes


So those who arbitrarily conclude that there was a radical opposition between Pius XII and De Gasperi, deducing it from opposing positions taken on single issues, are on the wrong track


Giulio Andreotti


Alcide De Gasperi in the Vatican on 11 February 1949, the twentieth anniversary of the Lateran Pact

Alcide De Gasperi in the Vatican on 11 February 1949, the twentieth anniversary of the Lateran Pact

I don’t know whether the invitation to Alcide De Gasperi to attend the extremely exclusive performance of the theatrical work by Paul Claudel, staged in the apartment of Pope Pius XII came from the Pope himself or the author. But I do remember the great kindness with which the President was welcomed. So those who arbitrarily conclude that there was a radical opposition between Pius XII and De Gasperi, deducing it from opposing positions taken on single issues, are on the wrong track. I mention this episode because I experienced it personally and noted the warmth in attitudes and tones.
Each of the two, in their spheres, certainly held different positions on individual issues. And I would set the point of maximum difference in the attitude towards the Communists: mindful of two violent incidents brought about by the Communists themselves, respectively in the nunciatures in Munich and Berlin, the Pope was instinctively and strongly against. And when the cenacle of Franco Rodano, inspired by the Jesuit Father Prosperini, went beyond the reasonable the Pope’s response was very tough. I have spoken elsewhere of an initiative I took, crossing perhaps the limits of prudence: in 1943, when it was announced that the Pope would make a speech precisely on the relations between Catholics and Communists, I allowed myself to write him, begging him not to mention our friends (who were in prison). He didn’t say a word and a few days later, in a group audience, asked me in a severe tone: “Was that all right?”.
Those who did not live through those times find it hard to understand the difficulties there were, even among ordinary Catholics, not to let themselves be disoriented by the very different points of view that existed amongst us. We of the Federation of Italian Catholic University Students, for example, were very careful to distinguish ourselves from political opposition to communism, from which derived a little difficulty on the part of the Pope in understanding those of us who were engaged in politics and, specifically, De Gasperi. And there was no lack – on the contrary! – of those who took it upon themselves to highlight the non-obedience of De Gasperi himself.
In that period, the President, while alien to facile deploration, did not escape the criticism of those who, confusing, as I have said, diverse spheres, went around expressing condemnation and reservations.
De Gasperi himself saw in the political collaboration of the Communists with us Catholics a tool for the apostolate. Unfortunately others rejected it as heresy, or in the usual sense of the term, as lukewarmness. The maxim that those who love the Lord always offer something good is not easy to accept.
Benedict XVI with Giulio Andreotti, 
President of the Fondazione Alcide De Gasperi, Sala Regia, 20 June 2009  [© Osservatore Romano]

Benedict XVI with Giulio Andreotti, President of the Fondazione Alcide De Gasperi, Sala Regia, 20 June 2009 [© Osservatore Romano]

I would not like to go beyond what is permitted by asking myself the theoretical question whether, after this earthly life, Catholics will be in a position to assess the positiveness (or not) of their contributions. It is worth pointing out however, forgive me – that for the “righteous” it is easier to find friendships with the others than amongst themselves.
All this seems remote from the situation today, and maybe it is. There were, however, phases of difficult choices and particular awkwardness in coming together. It is particularly positive to note that now for then – differentiation in attitude is positively – indeed often in exemplary fashion – assessed.
I seemed to feel an invitation to these reflections also in the words with which Pope Benedict XVI recently replied to the tribute from us indomitable followers of De Gasperi.
No few things have changed (and not just tangential ones), but there are situations and tendencies that have only one possible evolutionary updating. Perhaps now more than ever, among so many uncertainties and troubles, the image of De Gasperi helps us and gives us direction. To get him well understood by young people is our mission.


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