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Vatican Caves

In response to:

Caves of the Vatican from the August 12, 1993 issue

To the Editors:

I believe that there are two inaccuracies with respect to dates in the otherwise very well written review by Xavier Rynne, “Caves of the Vatican,” in the August 12, 1993, issue.

On page 47, column 4, Rynne writes:

In 1937 Montini was entrusted with the delicate diplomatic task of dispatching Monsignor Francis J. Spellman, the future cardinal of New York, to Paris where he was to release the closely guarded text of the encyclical Non abbiamo bisogno—“We have no need of this [nonsense],” the Pope’s condemnation of fascism.

Perhaps this is a typographical error. The correct date of the encyclical in question was June 29, 1931.

On page 47, column 4, Rynne writes:

After the war Montini supported the liberal Alcide de Gasperi to succeed Don Luigi Sturzo as head of the Catholic Partito Popolare Italiano.

After the war” is incorrect. The partito Popolare Italiano was suppressed by the Fascist dictatorship after the Popular Party held its fifth and last national congress on June 28–30, 1925. The party was reborn under the new title Democrazia Cristiana (Christian Democratic Party) in July 1943 through a fusion of various pre–World War II groups: the former Popularists, Giorgio LaPira’s circle of Catholic Action in Florence, the Guelf movement in Lombardy, and the Federazione Universitaria Cattolica Italiana (FUCI) (university students and graduates).

My sources for the above corrections are the entries by Elisa Carrillo of Mary-mount College, Tarrytown, in Dictionary of Modern Italian History, Frank J. Coppa, Editor-in-Chief (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1985). See the entries regarding “Non abbiamo bisogno,” Italian Popular Party, and Christian Democratic Party.

Charles F. Delzell
Professor of History, Emeritus
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, Tennessee

Xavier Rynne replies:

It would be facile to accept Professor Delzell’s suggestion that the 1937 date for “Non abbiamo bisogno” was a typo since one and seven are so isometrically close. But I am afraid it was a boner. As Horace reminds us, even Homer nods. On the other hand, I believe that the phrase “After the war” is justified since it covers Montini’s reaction to the humiliating treatment given to Alcide de Gasperi while still Italy’s premier by Pope Pius XII and the Vatican.

On his thirtieth marriage anniversary and the renewal of his daughter’s taking the veil as a nun, he was publicly refused a papal audience. (See Francis X. Murphy, The Papacy Today, Macmillan, 1981, p. 64).

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