Home > Archives > 09 - 2004 > So many important events
EDITORIAL
from issue no. 09 - 2004

So many important events



Giulio Andreotti


The first occasion was in mid August in Rome, at the Police School. It was the unveiling of a bust of President De Gasperi and the naming of a hall for the international lectures after him. A touching initiative of Minister Pisanu and something owing to the administration that was one of the pillars on which the democratic State of Italy was constructed after war
Three particular moments have marked my August, otherwise devoted to holidays which, as the great and combative trade-union leader Giuseppe Di Vittorio once told me, are not a right but a duty.
I don’t consider regular attendance at the anniversary mass of Paul VI on the day of the Transfiguration among the extraordinary events. It’s a small homage to the memory of an unforgettable teacher of life.
The first occasion was in mid August in Rome, at the Police School. It was the unveiling of a bust of President De Gasperi and the naming of a hall for the international lectures after him. A touching initiative of Minister Pisanu and something owing to the Administration that was one of the pillars on which the democratic State of Italy was constructed after war.
On the occasion I visited the very handsome chapel of the School and the moving shrine with its list of names – a great many – of those who have fallen in the line of duty. Among them Commissioner Calabresi and Officer Annarumma. The latter was killed in a dark period for Italy, when crazy students in Milan paraded to the slogan: «Not one, but a hundred Annarummas».
That time is long gone but we shouldn’t forget it; at the risk, otherwise, of witnessing a painful return. Principiis obsta, the Romans taught us.
On 19 August I was in Trento – that has splendidly honoured its native son - for the official commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the death of De Gasperi. Remarkable among the speeches were those of Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re during high mass in the Cathedral. The cardinal could not fail on the occasion to recall Archbishop Endrici who helped the president in the terrible moment of the Fascist persecution and who intervened authoritatively to mitigate the sentence inflicted on him.
Two important days were devoted to De Gasperi in Berlin, concluding the exhibition, arranged in the German capital after the same in Rome, Milan and Trento. The President of the Bundesrat Dieter Althaus, the President of the Italian Senate Marcello Pera, Helmut Kohl and – speaking again on the following morning – Minister Franco Frattini and the President of the Adenauer Foundation, Bernhard Vogel, gave speeches in the Bundesrat.
The second day was held at the prestigious Foundation and among the speakers were Maria Romana De Gasperi (there with her sister Paola) and myself.
From the left, Minister of the Interior Giuseppe Pisanu, Senator Giulio Andreotti and the Undersecretary to the Presidency of the Council, Gianni Letta, at the Higher School of Police in Rome, during the ceremony of the unveiling of a bust of Alcide De Gasperi after whom the International Lecture Hall was named, 15 August 2004

From the left, Minister of the Interior Giuseppe Pisanu, Senator Giulio Andreotti and the Undersecretary to the Presidency of the Council, Gianni Letta, at the Higher School of Police in Rome, during the ceremony of the unveiling of a bust of Alcide De Gasperi after whom the International Lecture Hall was named, 15 August 2004

I spoke of how Germany was the center of the political concerns of De Gasperi who, in reaction to the isolation in which the Germans were thrown through Hitler’s fault, set about with Konrad Adenauer (and Robert Schuman) the construction of the democratic Europe that cut down the baleful tree of nationalisms.
In Berlin I could not fail to think of the old Secretary of the Zentrum during the Weimar Republic, Monsignor Ludwig Kaas, who was for years an exile in Rome, even if in a privileged Vatican post (canon of Saint Peter’s and head of the Reverend Fabric of Saint Peter’s). The monsignor would often speak to us of that crushed Popular Party. The two strong opponents of the centrist nucleus (Zentrum) formed an unnatural alliance to bring down the government, both having in mind to get rid of their erstwhile ally once the battle was won. He would add that of the two wreckers in the situation, Hitler’s Nazis, cleverer and more violent, got the better of it and won power, also with the backing of Jewish circles, frightened by the echo of the Russian revolution.
The historic reconstructions of that period are very clear; and there has been a recent well-documented issue of Civiltà Cattolica (Father Sale) from which emerges the remarkable personal pro-Hitler role played by Franz von Papen, who was later to be among the Nazis put on trial; but not among the group shot.
The audience given him by John XXIII caused something on an uproar but an heroic deed of von Papen’s was made known on the occasion: asked by Roncalli, the Pope’s delegate in Turkey, von Papen allowed a trainful of Jews fleeing from Germany and the death camps to pass into safe territory. Von Papen was at that moment the Reich’s ambassador to Ankara.
In Berlin I could not fail to think of the old secretary of the Zentrum during the Weimar Republic, Monsignor Ludwig Kaas, who was for years an exile in Rome, even if in a privileged Vatican post (canon of Saint Peter’s and head of the Reverend Fabric of Saint Peter’s). The monsignor would often speak to us of that crushed Popular Party...
Monsignor Kaas’s meditations reinforced one’s conviction, however, that Catholic politicians, leaving aside their own specific political mission, must seek fitting alliances, never compromising their principles. His view of the ’twenties in Italy hinged on the comparison with the failed operational accord against Hitler, whose guiding tenets were quite evident and nobody should have believed in the moderation that some of his minions ably publicized.
In Italy things had been more complex and the anti-combatants and irreligious urges rapidly provided fodder for Mussolini.
The politicians declared they weren’t frightened given that in the 1921 elections the Fascist deputies came to thirty or so; and hence were numerically impotent. The press assistant of Don Luigi Sturzo told me that don Luigi was still victim of the old system according to which the government headed by Mussolini could be brought down through a vote of no-confidence at any moment. It should be added that in Secretariat of State there was rooted hostility to agreements between Catholics and socialists. They’d already had difficulty in taking on board Benedict XV’s decision to allow the formation of the Italian Popular Party. And then, the Mussolini government, with the participation of Popular Party ministers and undersecretaries (among them Gronchi) but especially of strong military figures like Marshal Diaz and Admiral Thaon di Revel, had considerably more public standing than the image of the early Fascist thugs.
De Gasperi had to suffer this “blessed” pliability of the Group and it was his job to declare the vote in favor (within the Group he had been in the minority of those against), hoping for Mussolini’s return within the bounds of legality. A few weeks after the Popular Party left the government, but Mussolini had already crossed the Rubicon.
... The two strong opponents of the centrist nucleus (Zentrum) formed an unnatural alliance to bring down the government, both having in mind to get rid of their erstwhile ally once the battle was won. He would add that of the two wreckers in the situation, Hitler’s Nazis, cleverer and more violent, got the better of it and won power, also with the backing of Jewish circles, frightened by the echo of the Russian revolution...
Sturzo, in a letter drafted by Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, banished himself and left for what was to be more than twenty years of exile. The Popular Group, under fire from the Fascist and subject to the counsels of many bien-pensants, agreed to abstain on the changing of the electoral law (the Acerbo Law: whoever got a quarter of the votes won three quarters of the seats) and merely made a dignified gesture by presenting its own list of candidates in the elections of 1924, while characters like Vittorio Emanuele Orlando and Antonio Salandra made themselves comfortable on the Fascist bandwagon.
The exhibition for De Gaspari’s fiftieth anniversary (Rome, Milan, Trento, Berlin – and it will go further) includes the reconstruction of a prison cell, in memory of “Mussolini’s normalization”. I was too small to understand it then (ignorant about everything because the history books made no mention of it), but later I began to get a vague idea of what was happening. More years had to pass before I opened my eyes. De Gasperi sent us to Scelba for him to let us read the volumes of the history of the Popular Party; and to Gonella so that, as best we could, we could collaborate on his courageous underground publications.
Rarely (and always without rancor) did De Gasperi speak of his years of exile in his own country; even after being freed. Many old companions pretended not to see him and went to mass (those that did go) in a different church.
The only practical justification for the dodgers was the certainty that if they had contacted him they would have finished up on the lists of people under surveillance.
Smiling about it De Gasperi used to say that while he was being hunted he was on one occasion a guest in the house of the lawyer Ivo Coccia (a Popular Party member, then Christian Democrat member of parliament, himself on file). The police surveillance patrol arrived and the two of them started talking French and he was introduced as a passing foreign client.
... The historic reconstructions of that period are very clear; and there has been a recent well-documented issue of Civiltà Cattolica (Father Sale) from which emerges the remarkable personal pro-Hitler role played by Franz von Papen, who was later to be among the Nazis put on trial; but not among the group shot
It was, however, a rare exception to his isolation. Only after the concordat with the State did the Holy See, yielding to the pressure of Archbishop Endrici, offer him the humble job of supernumerary clerk in the Vatican Library.
Why so much difference from Monsignor Kaas? On the one hand I think that Germany was a long way off and hence the attention of the government was less vigilant on the point; but – we may as well say so – Kaas had been an old personal friend of Pacelli when nuncio in Munich and then Berlin, whereas De Gasperi’s relationship with Monsignor Montini (also son of an expelled member of parliament) had to be very cautious in those early years.
Ten years later he was to get office promotion, but even with his new salary there was no problem of what to do with his savings.
On the morning of 11 February 1949, when, as President of the Council of Ministers in tailcoat and decorations, he was received by the Pope, it was the first time he had entered the apartment (Pius XI had met him in a marquees at the Catholic Press Exhibition where he was working overtime).
Pius XII, however, ignoring protocol, gave a speech in his praise of which I was able to get the Pope’s handwritten original from Monsignor Dell’Acqua (I was curious to know whether it was the work of some secretary and of which).
The great attention that has been paid to De Gasperi a half century after his death should not die away. We all need unfading signposts and rules in political life.
Von Papen at the Nuremberg trials: von Papen is the sixth from the left in the last row of the dock

Von Papen at the Nuremberg trials: von Papen is the sixth from the left in the last row of the dock

The organizational forms, the publicity projects and the operational tactics: all are to be examined in the proper setting. What counts is the deep meaning of Helmut Kohl’s invitation to the young that they imitate De Gasperi.
Between the two dates for De Gasperi came a visit to the Rimini Meeting, which in the more ample space of the new Fair is even more imposing, festive, bright. The model of the daily meetings is unique and they take place contemporaneously on different themes. While Renato Fatina and I went into – on a concrete level – the relationships between politics and ethics, Minister Lunardi dwelt on public interventions; and scientists in the field dealt with the burning issue of artificial insemination; and so on.
There is always an extraordinary audience, consisting mainly of young people: tranquil, attentive, patient. Those who pass off extravagance and unnatural behavior as modernity (or post-modernity) make a lot of noise but will leave no trace. The audience at the Meeting are not those kind of wasters.
There are those who niggle about political pluralism in the lists of speakers but it’s the wrong yardstick. At the roundtable on the family, for example, after the theological framework set out by the new acquisition at the head of Communion and Liberation, the Honorable Undersecretary Sestini spoke very well as did the President of the Lazio Region, Storace. And when the latter concluded with the hope that he would still be there next year (the 2005 Meeting will come after the election of the regional councils) nobody objected.
Each year the importance not only of the specialized exhibitions but of the musical entertainment grows. After a high class opening with Carreras, this year there was La Traviata with top performers and excellent organization.
In the post-war years the “movements” have been the occasion of great renewal for Catholics. As always in changes there is an initial phase of settling-in. The main point is that the positive urges prevail.
My return to Rome from Rimini coincided with the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the ACLI (Christian Trade Union Association). And they decided to celebrate it at the Dominican monastery of the Minerva where their inaugural meeting took place. Of the participants of that time only Adriano Ossicini was present, while next to the current president Luigi Bobba sat Vittorio Pozzar and Giovanni Bersani.
From the left, Don Julian Carron, the Honorable Maria Grazia Sestini, Marco Mazzi, president of the Welcoming Families Association, the Honorable Francesco Storace, during the conference on family values at the Rimini Meeting

From the left, Don Julian Carron, the Honorable Maria Grazia Sestini, Marco Mazzi, president of the Welcoming Families Association, the Honorable Francesco Storace, during the conference on family values at the Rimini Meeting

I remember that August of 1944 in the atmosphere of a liberated Rome. As youth delegate of the Christian Democrats I was part of the executive where Achille Grandi explained the nature and goals of the association he was backing. It seemed then that trade-union unity was unchallenged but it was necessary for Christian workers to have a specific grouping and acquire the awareness of a mission to perform. From above came the encouragement and support of Monsignor Montini, who later with President De Gasperi examined ways of avoiding the risk of the ACLI’s being legally disbanded as a result of a series of mistakes made by their administrative secretary. The negative fact was there, but the suspicion that happenings would be exploited at the highest Vatican level to get rid of the ACLI was not unfounded. The ecclesiastical assistant, Monsignor Civardi, was a worthy and cultured person, but he didn’t have sufficient grip.
And as for that, suspicions about a political slide to the left in these areas were of old date. Grandi himself (I read it in the Grandi-Rapelli correspondence) admonished his correspondent on 1 July 1926: «...You are heading – certainly in good faith with the intention of serving Christianity - toward socialism, indeed toward communism».
Nor can it be hidden that later the president Livio Labor took a personal hand in the battle for divorce, going to speak in favor of it even at the Catholic University of Milan.
Going back to its origins, however, the ACLI was a training ground and essential entity for manoeuvre: first so as not to lose motivation within of trade-union unity; and then to provide the training and practical background to the Confederation of Free Workers.
In my diary of 1947, about to be published, this lapidary judgement of De Gasperi appears under the date of 26 August: «The ACLI is essential to saving the world of work from the communist avalanche».
For that reason also I gladly attended the mass of thanksgiving and the gathering of ACLI members.
The Pope’s recent invitation to the Catholic movements not to indulge in nostalgia but to look with wisdom and determination to the new tasks and many challenges of the “world” fits the ACLI very well.


Italiano Español Français Deutsch Português