EDITORIAL
from issue no. 09 - 2005

The past


Without any precise reference, I remember the snooty admonishment that figured among the mottos of the Fascist period: «Here we don’t talk politics, we work». Immediately afterwards Pietro Nenni undertook the counterattack with his: «Politique d’abord». Here one should remember the golden Latin saying: «In medio stat virtus»: the right position is in the middle.


Giulio Andreotti


Except for some follow-ons (one now taking place in Florence and one programmed for Sicily), the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the Honorable De Gasperi ended in August.
Apart from the events programmed by the Province of Trento and by the Foundation that bears the former president’s name, there were many initiatives, everywhere with an undoubtedly positive result. In particular the interest of young circles was stirred – especially but not exclusively in the universities.
Alcide De Gasperi

Alcide De Gasperi

Many people today claim that the young people are not interested in politics and this is true also at local level. But perhaps many are beginning to grow curious about the recurrent and petulant wholesale devaluation of the past that is daily being attempted. In a general way it’s even said that the error consisted in wanting to see everything in a political light.
Without any precise reference, I remember the snooty admonishment that figured among the mottos of the Fascist period: «Here we don’t talk politics, we work». Immediately afterwards Pietro Nenni undertook the counterattack with his: «Politique d’abord». Here one should remember the golden Latin saying: «In medio stat virtus»: the right position is in the middle. Politics isn’t everything, but without politics public life is barren and builds nothing.
Perhaps precisely this message of De Gasperi has been picked up. Among other things with the – new – slant of a close link between internal and external politics; seeing the latter not only as international support, but as EU connection.
In prejudged and global opposition the parties of the left not only did not go along with Europeanism and the Atlantic connection, but they also voted against the social reforms to which the Christian Democrats had committed themselves in the election deciding the first parliament (18 April 1948). Paradoxically, voting against the agrarian reform of 1950, the Communists found themselves side by side with the big landowners who were defending their huge estates.
Perhaps it is precisely in this historical memory that the explanation for one of the most incisive demonstrations of the fiftieth anniversary lies. I attended with much feeling the naming of a square in Grosseto after Alcide De Gasperi, decided on by its town council. Large photos reminded us that in 1952 the former president had gone to Grosseto to hand over the deeds of ownership to the assignees of the reform. The survivors with their children and grandchildren were not only celebrating but giving a visual explanation of why the leanings of a notable part of the population have, over time, changed for the better. For that matter De Gasperi could not rejoice at it because only twenty-three years after his death the Communists recognized that «The Atlantic Pact and European Community are the fundamental reference points of Italian foreign policy».
Another day of the anniversary saw a new, very beautiful bridge in a large city of Emilia – Parma – named after De Gasperi. Someone on the occasion recalled that when in May 1947 the president expelled the left from the government he sought – but didn’t succeed – to keep ad personam at the Ministry of Transport the Parma engineer Giacomo Ferrari, called mischievously at the time a “Degasperian communist”. On a more general note, it should be remembered about that tense and incisive moment that, in its institutional work, the Constituent Assembly was in no way affected by the politico-governmental shift. And at the close of the year the Constitution was voted almost unanimously.
Extremely steadfast in his basic political positions, De Gasperi nevertheless followed a very precise and proper conception of the political struggle: antagonists were adversaries and not enemies. Perhaps the proportional system that regulated representation favored that conception. Bi-polarity, in the intention of simplifying the system and making it more solid, later ended by building a wall that if it is not that of Berlin, is close to that being built in Palestine.
As I write it is still not clear whether the return to the proportional system will occur; not least because while the historical project of Forza Italia (the Urbani-Tremonti-Tomassini bill) copied the German pure proportional system – with a minimum roof of 5 percent - the new proposal aims at an overall redrawing of constituencies and at other oddities for which it has not been well received either by the parties in government or by the Center Left. Berlusconi himself, suggesting a minimum roof of 10 percent (obviously punitive, in intention, towards the UDC opposition), has stirred the incredulous reaction of the Lega Nord. It should be added that Prodi has spoken in favor of the status quo, paying no heed to the proportionalist convictions of Fausto Bertinotti.
Without any precise reference, I remember the snooty admonishment that figured among the mottos of the Fascist period: «Here we don’t talk politics, we work». Immediately afterwards Pietro Nenni undertook the counterattack with his: «Politique d’abord». Here one should remember the golden Latin saying: «In medio stat virtus»: the right position is in the middle… Politics isn’t everything, but without politics public life is barren and builds nothing. Perhaps precisely this message of De Gasperi has been picked up. Among other things with the – new – slant of a close link between internal and external politics; seeing the latter not only as international support, but as EU connection
Perhaps it will help here to remember that moderation is a virtue; and that compromise, if unacceptable on principle, is, for the rest, both in public and private life, the only attitude that makes for progress.


De Gasperi’s limpid secularism has also been justly re-evoked. Certain historical essays (see, for example, the diaries of Cardinal Pavan edited by Andrea Riccardo) help one understand what that cost him. In peculiar in dealings with Pius XII who was conceptually adverse to government coalitions: first to that of the CLN (National Liberation Committee) movement with the left and then to that of the center with parties conceptually not homogeneous with the Christian world.
It was not only the Pope in person. When, later, at government and also institutional level there was an increasing development of relations with the Soviet government (keeping them quite distinct from inter-party relations among communists), there was widespread antipathy in the ecclesiastical sphere. So much so that L’Osservatore Romano was constrained to explain that Cardinal Ottaviani expressed his own personal ideas.
I have again remembered an episode concerning Cardinal Ottaviani (for that matter a stupendous example of Roman priest). On the eve of the reopening of the Rotary Clubs, that Fascism had ostracized, the cardinal phoned me to ask me to dissuade the president from attending, in so far as it was an initiative from the side opposed to ours. I was careful not to tell De Gasperi and some years later, at a lunch at the Rotary in honor precisely of Cardinal Ottaviani, I reminded him, without malice. And for that matter, at an international meeting of the Rotarians the priests belonging concelebrated a high mass in Saint Peter’s.
Time helps to correct prejudices and bring positions closer.
The personal relations of De Gasperi with Monsignor Montini were always symbolic and cordial. He had been a colleague of the latter’s father in the Lower Chamber, both expelled in the great “purge” of 1925.
And then, even if with lesser intensity and without any particular roots in common, his relations with Monsignor Tardini were also marked by large comprehension and mutual respect.
 The inauguration of Piazza Alcide De Gasperi 
in Grosseto 21 December 2004

The inauguration of Piazza Alcide De Gasperi in Grosseto 21 December 2004

I should also record that the conceptual difference of agreement with Pius XII in no way signified a negative judgment by the pope. There is a very eloquent document on the subject. On 11 February 1949, the twentieth anniversary of the Concordat, De Gasperi was received solemnly in the Vatican and, with an innovation to the protocol (that allows speeches only for heads of State), Pius XII made him a very fine address. I asked Monsignor Dell’Acqua who had drafted it, and I got a photocopy of the text, written in the Pontiff’s own hand. Indeed, perhaps when re-reading it, having found it insufficiently warm, he made an addition in the margin full of high praise.
Of lesser consequence but significant there is another episode. One day in the Apostolic Palace there was a private performance of Claudel’s famous work The Annunciation made to Mary. On the very short list of lay guests were President De Gasperi and his wife, Francesca. And I saw the cordiality with which the Pope treated De Gasperi.
Nor can it be forgotten that when it was possible to inform the Pope (with a note from me delivered through Sister Paschalina) that the Sturzo Operation, set up in his name on the eve of the Roman elections of 1952, involved a serious political crisis with the resignation of the De Gasperi government, Pius XII gave immediate instructions to shelve it. But there is more. When the President made it known that he was ready to be put on list for the municipal elections, Pius XII appreciated the intention, but said: «We can do without putting De Gasperi in crisis as well».
When the president died two years after, the Holy Father sent the official condolences, but also Emilio Bonomelli, the administrator of the Pontifical Villas, from Castel Gandolfo to Sella di Valsugana to express his warm sympathy to the family.
In a few weeks time my diary for 1948 will come out, with the documentation on the direct commitment of the Pope and the Church to the political choice of the Italians (first republican legislature), openly facing the Communist-Socialist Front, whose victory would have involved the extension of Soviet influence in Italy and hence also the more than well-founded risk of religious persecution. That corner turned, the commitment was always to be less felt and the opposition occurred no longer on political arrangement but on certain principles, starting from the defense of life and of the fundamental importance of marriage and the family.



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