Dipartimento di Studi Internazionali, Università ―Roma Tre‖
Catholic Church, Italian Catholics and Peace Movements: the Cold War
A PAPER PRESENTED TO
CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF GLOBAL COVERNANCE
COLD WAR STUDIES CENTRE AT LSE
FREE UNIVERSITY OF AMSTERDAM
Peace Movements in the Cold War and Beyond
1-2 Feb. 2008, LSE, London
DRAFT DO NOT QUOTE
The problem of peace and war has been put in the 20th Century in a
different way from the past. In the age of ―total‖ conflicts, in the age of the
sacralization of war and of the nuclear scare, war and peace were the ground
of an organized challenge which has been fought among the different
systems of political ideas and, in fact, two new ideological movements,
militarism and pacifism, were born based on them.
How did Catholic Church and Italian Catholics react to and manage
these processes? Did they perceive the novelty of the issue? Had they a
vision of peace and international order which succeeded in competing with
the main ideologies of the Century?
This paper tries to give an answer to these questions, even if is
devoted only to a fragment of this story, the fragment concerning Cold War
Years. It is based on the analysis of Catholic press (newspapers, magazines,
reviews) since 1947 to the eve of Vatican II Council1.
At least in the Italian case, Catholic confrontation with peace/war
issues did not came from a reflection about World War I or II dramatic
experiences, but as a reaction to the challenge which came from mass
political ideologies. In interwar years it was Mussolini‘s victory which
obliged the Church and Italian Catholics to deal with militarism,
warmongering and Fascist ―ideology of war‖, if they did not want to be
excluded from nationalization processes and from the influence on popular
masses. This led Italian Catholics to attack peace movements and the
League of Nations, to follow a course of full national commitment, to assent
to the theory of «bellum justum»2.
In Cold War Years it will be the challenge which came from the
communist movement of the «Partisans of peace» (the only mass peace
movement rooted in Italy) to oblige the Church and the Catholic movement
to face the issues linked with the ―ideology of peace‖ (such as
disarmament, atomic nightmare, nonviolent response, collaboration among
―blocks‖) and to face them in the field of political propaganda, match of
A short synthesis in. R. Moro, ‗I cattolici italiani tra pace e guerra: dall‘inizio del secolo al
Concilio Vaticano II‘, in L. Goglia, R. Moro and L. Nuti (eds.), Guerra e pace nell'Italia
del Novecento : politica estera, cultura politica e correnti dell'opinione pubblica (Bologna
R. Moro, ‗I cattolici italiani di fronte alla guerra fascista‘, in M. Pacetti, M. Papini, M.
Saracinelli (eds.), La cultura della pace dalla Resistenza al Patto Atlantico (Ancona1988),
75-126; Id., ‗Nazione, cattolicesimo e regime fascista‘, in Rivista di Storia del
Cristianesimo, I, 2004/1, 129-147; Id., ‗L‘opinione cattolica su pace e guerra durante il
fascismo‘, in M. Franzinelli and R. Bottoni (eds.), Chiesa e guerra. Dalla «benedizione
delle armi» alla «Pacem in terris» (Bologna 2005), 221-319.
symbols, theoretical disputes. It was this strong opposition, indeed, which
introduced early cracks inside an Italian Catholicism which was, even after
the war, an anti-pacifist united front. This slowly brought a Catholic
participation to peace movements (remarkable even if of small dimensions).
1. The danger of a new war (1947-1948)
At the conclusion of the war, despite a diffused antimilitarism and
antinationalism, there was not among Italian Catholics any true reflection on
what the just ended catastrophe had represented. A discussion on the
necessity to face anew the matter of peace did not completely lack, but
Catholics avoided every ―examination of conscience‖ regarding the
relationship that their mentality had had with the culture of war during
Fascism and they did not take substantially in consideration the matter of a
Christian pacifism or of a some form of support to peace movements3.
When, with 1947, the international climate became more nervous,
the Catholic press started to insist on the danger of «another war», that
would have been «fatal»4. A poll, simultaneously conducted in 11 countries
in August 1947 (Italy, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Australia, France, Holland,
Germany, Denmark, Great Britain, Norway, USA) revealed that the Italians
were the people with the bigger majority that held possible a war in the
future ten years; and that, among Italians, Catholics or, better, the followers
of the Christian Democratic Party (DC) - interviews were made with the
readers of party newspapers – were much more preoccupied than
Communists, who, on the contrary, were about to make the matter of peace
one of the strong points of their propaganda5. Catholics appeared more
doubtful as for the causes of a possible future conflict. Many of them were
R. Moro ‗I cattolici italiani tra pace e guerra‘, 381-384.
G. Dalla Torre, ‗Un‘altra guerra è fatale?‘, Vita e Pensiero, febbraio 1947, 118-120.
Sul movimento comunista per la pace vedi P. Buton, ‗Le pacifisme communiste de la
seconde guerre mondiale à la guerre froide‘, in M. Vaïsse (a cura di), Le pacifisme en
Europe. Dès années 1920 aux années 1950 (Bruxelles 1993),. 303-324 ; J. Laptos, ‗Le
pacifisme apprivoisé : le Congrès des intellectuels pour la défense de la paix en 1948‘,
ibid., 325-338 ; N. Naumova, ‗Les femmes soviétiques et le combat pour la paix dans les
années quarante et cinquante‘, ibid., 339-345 ; G. Wernicke, ‗The Communist-led World
Peace Council and the Western Peace Movements: The Fetters of Bipolarity and Some
Attempts to Break Them in the Fifties and Early Sixties‘, Peace & Change, 23, 3, 1998,
265-311; M. Halpern, ‗The Strangest Dream. Communism, Anticommunism, and the US
Peace Movement, 1945-1963‘, American Historical Review, 106, 4, 2001, 1409-???.
convinced however of the responsibility of Great Powers with their
aspiration to rule. As for the protagonists of this menace, 42,7% of Christian
Democrats identified them in Soviets, 33,8% both in Soviets and
Americans, 4% in Russians together to others, even if there was a consistent
minority (3,5%) that indicated the protagonists of this imperialistic
aspiration in Americans and another 0,7% that attributed it together to
Americans and others6.
Catholics were particularly worried about a possible new conflict
because of their widely spread mistrust in UN capability of saving peace
(considering the way the international organization had been reconstituted
after the war), because of their preoccupation towards a Great Powers
politics that had ended up surrendering too much to USSR, above all in
Eastern Europe, and finally because of the treatment reserved to defeated
countries, and particularly to Italy itself7. It was not easy, after all, for the
majority of Catholic groups to identify definitively themselves with the
West and Anglo-Saxon democracies. Many of them found difficult to work
in the logic of the new blocks. In June 1947 the same official Vatican
newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, condemned the politics of blocks and
excluded the fatality of the war as an absolute law . Cronache Sociali, the
magazine of the young left of DC which was in favour of social democracy
(Giuseppe Dossetti, Amintore Fanfani, Giorgio La Pira) pointed out that
«liberalism and communism» had to be «refused together»9. In Studium, the
review of the Movimento Laureati di Azione Cattolica (Movement of
Catholic Action Graduates), close to the sensibility of monsignor Giovanni
Battista Montini (the future pope Paul VI), Aldo Moro, the future leader
murdered by Red Brigades in 1978, noticed that, in front of the «painful
reality of ideological and political contrasts» which was represented by the
division of the world in blocks, the position of the Christian was
characterized for «the lack of prejudicial questions towards the struggling
parts, of rigid orientations towards one or the other10. The widely spread
G. Gasparetti, ‗Che cosa pensano gli uomini della possibilità di una guerra?‘, Vita e
Pensiero, novembre 1947, 674-677.
A. Messineo, ‗Pace senza giustizia‘, La Civiltà Cattolica, 22 febbraio 1947, 353-358;
‗Una triste pace‘, Coscienza, febbraio 1947; G. Dalla Torre, ‗Pace di compromesso‘, Vita e
Pensiero, marzo 1947, 180-182; L. Mietta, ‗La pace europea del 1947‘, Via e Pensiero,
aprile 1947, 232; G. Gonella, Pace Romana e pace Cartaginese, Roma, Istituto di Studi
L’Osservatore Romano, 14 e 18 giugno 1947.
G. Lazzati, ‗ I messaggi di Pio XII e Truman‘, Cronache Sociali, 15 settembre 1947.
Cfr. [A. Moro], ‗Tra i blocchi‘, Studium, novembre 1947, 369-370.
attitude of lukewarm trust and often opposition towards the reorganization
of the world operated by Great Powers explains the favour showed by
Catholics for the idea of European Union .
The fears of a new conflict were tied up to a conventional war.
Despite some interest for the matter of the admissibility of nuclear
weapons12, voices that coped with the problem of a revision of the Catholic
doctrine on war were very few. Humanitas, the Brescia review which was
born in 1946 and was edited by father Giulio Bevilacqua, historian Mario
Bendiscioli and philosopher Michele Federico Sciacca, was one of them and
wondered if «the present schematic doctrine on war - fruit of long
elaborations and experiences of the past - could still embrace the new reality
and the new play of responsibilities, in a radically changed technique »13.
Another one was the Italian University Catholic Federation (FUCI),
sensitive to the ferments of theological renewal . When the magazine of
Catholic university students assumed a radically contrary position to the
ideas of ―jus war‖ and ―holy war‖, sustaining that «young people», after so
many recent «painful experiences», didn't believe «in war any more» , it
was attacked by an exponent of the Italian Catholic Youth (GIAC) which
was tied up, on the contrary, to the national-Catholic course received during
Fascism by its president, Luigi Gedda . GIAC accused Catholic university
students to draw near to the positions of pacifists and to suffer of
intellectualism and recalled that, in front of the necessity of defence, young
Cf. A. Messineo, ‗L‘Europa alla svolta del suo destino‘, La Civiltà Cattolica, 31 gennaio
1948, 225-237; ‗Italia ed Europa‘, Idea, maggio 1948, 255-257 ; [A. Moro], ‗Al di là dello
Stato‘, Studium, maggio 1948, 217; G. Macacchi, ‗L‘Unione Latina chiave di volta della
nuova Europa‘, Idea, agosto 1948, 455-457; . Vecchio Verderame, ‗L‘Atlantropa‘, Idea,
settembre 1948, 563-565; F. Vito, ‗La comunità internazionale e l‘idea dell‘unione
europea‘, Vita e Pensiero, ottobre 1948, 565; E. Insabato, ‗Il blocco mediterraneo
presupposto della Federazione Europea‘, Idea, ottobre 1948, 578-587.
E.C., ‗Il controllo internazionale atomico‘, Idea, aprile 1947, 244-245; A. Brucculeri,
‗L‘organizzazione internazionale dei popoli e l‘Unione di Malines‘, La Civiltà Cattolica,
25 ottobre 1947, 236; A. Quarto, ‗Superstiti e sterminati‘, Idea, gennaio 1948, 28-34; L.
Erba, ‗La Settimana parigina degli intellettuali cattolici‘, Vita e Pensiero, luglio 1948, 404-
G. Bevilacqua, ‗Sangue dell‘uomo e sangue di Cristo‘, Humanitas, 1947, 247. La rivista
avviò anche qualche riflessione filosofica sul tema: cf. M. Sancipriano, ‗L‘umanità e la
guerra. Una riposizione metafisica del problema bellico‘, Humanitas, 1948, 443-454.
R. Moro, La formazione della classe dirigente cattolica (1929-1937) (Bologna 1979).
V. Bachelet, ‗No alla guerra‘, Ricerca, 1° luglio 1948.
F. Piva, La gioventù cattolica in cammino ... : memoria e storia del gruppo dirigente
(1946- 1954) (Milano 2003).
Catholics had not hesitated to fight with the Fascists, as well as to
participate in partisans groups during the Resistance, «dying with the rosary
in one hand and the light machine-gun in the other» .
2.«Peace against peace»: dove or olive tree? (1948-1949)
It was at this point that the most dramatic confrontation and
ideological clash with the Communist «struggle for peace» opened for
During the hard electoral campaign between DC and Social-
Communist Popular Front in the Spring of 1948, Communists exploited the
action of a Christian Movement for Peace, promoted by a former Catholic
leader as Guido Miglioli. Exponent of the ―white‖ peasants movement at the
beginning of the 20th Century, leader of the opposition to war in the first
world conflict, then fellow-traveller of Communists and for this reason not
admitted by DC in its ranks in 1946, Miglioli had reached the persuasion of
the pacific nature of Soviet policy. Some members of the group came from
the tiny Social-Christian Party of Gerardo Bruni or from the equally small
Christian Left Party; few others came out from DC itself after the fracture
with Left Forces in 194719. In this way the Christian Movement for Peace
was not a great danger for Catholics, considering its small size. It was
nevertheless harshly attacked, describing it as the fruit of the «pointless
attempts of second rank apostates to constitute sects at the order of today
The real clash started in Winter 1948-1949. In October 1948 a Soviet
«offensive of peace» begun to ask for the prohibition of atomic weapons.
Italian Communists begun to insist systematically on the matter starting a
bitter controversy against the leaders of Catholic Action who, according to
them, pretended «to be for peace while, in facts, prepared war»21.
Progressively Communist offensive assumed a clear anti-Atlantic
***, ‗L‘avvenire non sarà dei violenti. Risposta a un contraddittore‘, Ricerca, 1° agosto
For an early warning see F. Cavalli, ‗La Federazione Mondiale della Gioventù
Democratica‘, La Civiltà Cattolica, 25 ottobre 1947, 208-221.
C.F. Casula, Guido Miglioli. Fronte democratico popolare e Costituente della terra
See G. Vecchio, Pacifisti e obiettori nell'Italia di De Gasperi, 1948-1953 (Roma 1993),
G. Vecchio, Pacifisti e obiettori, 51.
connotation. In January 1949 Communist Juvenile Alliance begun to try to
involve young members of Catholic Action with a petition in which
Catholics were asked to put out of law atomic bomb and to refuse to enter in
any military pact22. In April the press gave news of a second «petition for
peace» promoted by Communists, compiled this time in extremely moderate
tones and that appealed to the refusal of war established in art. 11 of Italian
Constitution23. Great importance was devoted by Communist press to the
grandiose «Congress of Peace» that was held in Paris, in the Salle Pleyel,
decorated by the doves of Pablo Picasso, since 20 to April 24, with the
participation of many European intellectuals (Frédéric Joliot-Curie, Louis
Aragon, Jorge Amado, Pablo Neruda, György Lukacs, Renato Gottuso) and
some Catholic exponents of the extreme Left (besides Miglioli, the French
abbé Jean Boulier). The Congress saw the launching of the world movement
of the «Partisans of peace»24. A new ideological mass confrontation on the
theme of peace now opened.
Catholic press begun to answer in a harsh polemic way to
Communists. The magazine of the Movement of the Graduates of Catholic
Action noticed that they spoke of peace, while they were thinking «more
and more to war». They spoke, in fact, «with a vocabulary of war». «In their
demagogic and class meetings and in the very large letters of their
magazines», Communists applied «with strange voluptousness the idea of
―struggle‖ to the idea of ―peace‖», getting «a well assorted match among the
fraud, which was hidden under the word ―peace‖, and the violence,
announced by the term ―struggle‖»25.
There were indeed in the Catholic Left attitudes in favour of an
action for peace26. In Humanitas father Giulio Bevilacqua attacked Catholic
moralists who, «sleeping on the past», repeated unperturbed «the same
needy and unreal casuistry on war»27. Even those who considered with some
preoccupation an Italian entry into Atlantic Alliance, looked however to
Communist peace action in a totally negative way. The DC parliamentary
member Igino Giordani who started in April 1949 a new magazine, La Via,
Cf. G. Vecchio, Pacifisti e obiettori, 50-51.
Cf. G. Vecchio, Pacifisti e obiettori, 75-76.
R. Giacomini, I partigiani della pace. Il movimento pacifista in Italia e nel mondo negli
anni della prima guerra fredda (Milano 1984) and L. S. Wittner, The struggle against the
bomb (Stanford, Calif. 1993).
A. Ferrari-Toniolo, ‗«Lotta per la pace»‘, Coscienza, 5 ottobre 1948.
R. Guardini, ‗Alla ricerca della pace‘, Vita e Pensiero, febbraio 1949, 64-74.
G. Bevilacqua, ‗Fragili equilibri della pace‘, Humanitas, 1949, 341-348.
in order to avoid conformist positions in the climate of growing Cold War,
and who declared, in a Parliament debate in March 1949, that it was not any
more possible to consider a war as ―just‖28, deemed Communist action
completely insincere29. Cronache Sociali wrote: «To accept Communist
Manichaeism, upsetting it, to fight the adversary with his weapons, does not
mean to work for peace, but to make the game of Communists in favour of
hate and civil war»30. Also Adesso, organ of the «Christian Avant-gardes»
animated by a country priest and well known religious writer, Don Primo
Mazzolari (who conducted a campaign «against war»), was critic of the road
of neutrality proposed by Communists. The magazine defined it «reasonable
only for those people who do not want to compromise and who, this time
again, believe to get off cheaply, holding their hands inside their pockets».
Communists exalted «our natural sloth, gaining the title of pacific men» but
«making Russia to earn». «Who believes that salvation comes from Russia
and then speaks to me of neutrality - wrote the magazine - makes only some
political tactic for better reaching its purpose»31. Studium denounced the fact
that Communists now contrasted «the ideal of a brotherly communion
among all peoples, on a world scale», against «the pacts that, under the
pretext of safety, would fatally conduct to war». According to the magazine,
it would be legitimate to advance some doubt on this Communist «peace
program of peace»: «since world is world and men are men, - the magazine
added - revolution has not been done with twigs of mimosa»32.
Communist April petition for peace was criticized by Cronache
Sociali too. «A responsible man of government» could not accept the ideal
of an unarmed neutrality as it was proposed by it, because he could not
«abandon the State as a lamb among wolves». A man of Government could
well believe «in the historical effectiveness of unarmed prophets», but he
could not, in conscience, assign such a role to his Government»33. Italian
Catholic Action intervened in May. The Central Council, after a series of
meetings, approved and diffused some clarifying orientations in order to
react to Communist campaign. In them it was specified that «an effective
G. Vecchio, Pacifisti e obiettori.
Cit. in Mariuzzo, 96.
A. Ardigò, ‗Il Patto Atlantico come strumento bivalente di progresso o di conservazione,
di pace o di guerra‘, Cronache Sociali, 31 marzo 1949.
Adesso, ‗ Pace crocifissa‘, Adesso, 1° marzo 1949.
m.p.v. [M. Paronetto Valier], ‗Sguardi sul mondo. Polemica intorno al Patto Atlantico‘,
Studium, marzo 1949, 157-158.
‗La petizione popolare contro la ratifica del Patto Atlantico‘, Cronache Sociali, 30 aprile
peace work could not be made if not asking it to the Giver of every peace,
God»; that an «effective peace work» could not be made «without
associating to pope‘s work», while those who attacked furiously the pontiff
tried to make people to forget that he was the only one to defend peace and
condemn any war of aggression; that an «effective peace work» could not
be made invoking peace «only where convenient and keeping on fomenting
war elsewhere» or «preaching an economic peace and fighting an
ideological or religious war», or «asking peace for a people, for a class, and
declaring war to other peoples or other classes», because peace was
«indivisible»; finally, that an «effective and durable peace work» could not
be made «without promoting it at first in individuals and families» and,
therefore, that «every attempt to upset peace in every person, removing the
trust and the education Faith gives», «every attempt to profane and to break
the sacred unit and the moral law of family», «every attempt to put groups
of men one against the other, as well as every lack of understanding among
classes», were «as many attacks» to that peace Communists were «saying to
want». As for the «so called petitions for Peace», the Council declared that
the members of Catholic Action had already undersigned the most effective
one, enrolling themselves in their organizations. Above all, Italians had
expressed their will on the subject, according to conscience, with April 18
1948 vote defeating Communism34. Equidistant positions among blocks, as
that of Adesso, were not more positive in respect of the petition. The
magazine wrote: «they make us shout and undersign: peace live! So that the
cry echoes better, they take us closed in our narrow confinements as
deported in cattle cars»35. Also La Via criticized the Communist petition
observing that «asking a citizen: - ―Do you want peace?‖ –» was the same
that «asking him: - ―Do you want health? Do you want to win the
jackpot?‖». Instead, «the true question» to be asked to subscribers was: «-
―Do you want to end up in USSR orbit or do you want to preserve some
liberty and democracy in Europe with the Atlantic Pact?». Giordani‘s
magazine observed also, shocked, that, in the same days of the petition for
peace, «red newspapers exalted […] the war in China»36.
Someone among Catholics was beginning to feel the need of facing
the communist movement for peace not only from the point of view of
‗Per la vera pace. Orientamenti approvati dalla Giunta Centrale dell‘ACI‘, L’Assistente
Ecclesiastico, 1948-1949, 3.
Adesso, ‗Prima che sia troppo tardi. Precisiamo le responsabilità nostre e quelle degli
altri‘, Adesso, 30 giugno 1949.
La Via, ‗La petizione per la pace o per la guerra?, La Via, 16 luglio 1949.
opposition, but «with greater objectivity and a consequent moderation».
According to Adesso, «the humble ones», «poor people who looked at East
for the same reasons for which other humble and other poor people looked
at West», they wanted peace «with the same heart». It was non possible,
then, to consider the opponents of the Atlantic Pact entirely as «men of
Politburo, of Cominform etc.»37. At the moment, however, this did not
induce Catholics to appraise in a different way Communists‘ initiative. In
front of the Paris Congress for peace Adesso recalled that the conquest and
the defence of peace represented such a great appointment that it could not
«be neither monopolized nor submitted to these rather than to those»38. The
whole Catholic press stressed the feature of political manoeuvre that
Communist action was assuming. Studium considered the undertaking of the
Paris Congress «a new and more imposing demonstration of the peace
offensive, that has been raging for some months». The Communist Party,
«directly and through the organizations it inspires», wrote the review, was
trying «to catch the eagerness of peace of the masses to its advantage in
various countries and on the international plan» and was trying «to
exasperate the horror of war in them». «According to the laws of its
doctrine», Communism was trying «to raise this immense and sincere tide
of popular aspirations from ―spontaneity to conscience‖». «But what
conscience?», asked the author of the article: and she answered that it was
only «peace tactics and peace strategy»39. In alternative to the Communist
movement, Catholics vindicated the role of Church doctrine on international
problems and stressed the importance of a new phenomenon: the
development, at the half of 20th Century, of «a Christian doctrine on
international matters» which was comparable with the development of
«social doctrine» in 19th Century40. Some of them looked with sympathy
and satisfaction, to the capacity of Garry Davis‘ Movement of World
Citizens to put on trial the Communist movement, as it had happened in
Paris41. They hailed the action of World Federation of UN Associations42.
P. Mazzolari ‗Pace contro pace‘, Adesso, 15 aprile 1949.
MAPRIM [P. Mazzolari], ‗La pace di Parigi‘, Adesso, 30 aprile 1949.
m.p.v. [M. Paronetto Valier], ‗Sguardi sul mondo. Congresso della pace a Parigi‘,
Studium, maggio 1949, 254.
R. Bosc, ‗La Chiesa e i problemi internazionali‘, Cronache sociali, 30 aprile 1949.
J.M. Domenach, ‗Significato e possibilità del movimento di Garry Davis‘, Cronache
Sociali, 15 giugno 1949.
P. Vittorelli, ‗L‘assemblea delle Associazioni per le Nazioni Unite‘, Cronache Sociali, 31
agosto-15 settembre 1949.
The Communist/Catholic struggle on peace was also a war of
symbols. Another magazine, Italia Cattolica, wrote: «today, in a world
which is degenerated by the mannerism of double game, the depiction of
Peace is made ambiguous: the yellow mimosa replaces silvery grey olive
tree and the dove, which, in the symbol, comes from Noah Ancient Pact or
from the transcendent Pentecostal renewal of the Cenacle, is replaced by
Picasso - at least certain ornithologists said – with his bellicose pigeon
which was on the Manifesto of the recent Paris Congress»43. Also in the
world of popular devotion this war was fought: from one side, with appeals
to the Regina pacis, and from the other with the chimes of the «Bells of
Communist mobilization did non succeed «in radically shaking
public opinion»45. In July 1949 the Chamber and the Senate approved
Italian participation to the Atlantic Treaty. During PCI Direction, on July
25, Palmiro Togliatti himself admitted that the Communist campaign had
been «a flop», because the Communist petition gathered much fewer
signatures than the 7 millions scheduled ones46. Italian Catholicism had
opposed a united front to the Communist activity for peace.
3. The Stockholm Appeal (1950-1951)
At the beginning of 1950 the issue of the Communist «struggle for
peace» came back in a more dramatic way. The start of MAP (Military
Assistance Program) in January and the scheduled delivery of US weapons
caused a general Communist mobilization (including harbour workers who
declared their refusal to every collaboration). At the same time Prime
Minister Alcide De Gasperi denounced Communist «sabotage»47. After
Truman‘s announcement in February about his decision to have hydrogen
bombs48, the question of nuclear weapons became more relevant. Catholic
magazines began to inform about the activity of a personality like Norman
In this new atmosphere, Partisans‘ of peace campaign for the
banishment of atomic weapons gained much more relevant results than the
***, ‗Pace né subdola, né capziosa‘, Italia cattolica, maggio—giugno 1949.
***, ‗Squilla di fine d‘anno 1949‘, Italia cattolica, novembre-dicembre 1949.
G. Vecchio, Pacifisti e obiettori, 83.
Cf. G. Vecchio, Pacifisti e obiettori, 102-112.
Wittner, I, 65.
P. Guizzetti, ‗Demolire la paura della morte irrazionale‘, Adesso, 1° giugno 1950.
old mobilization against the Atlantic Treaty. The appeal, which was given
forth at the end of the III Session of the World Committee of Peace held in
Stockholm in March and which would be broadly diffused in the following
months, aroused attention and supports50. In particular, Communists tried to
drag Catholics to sign against «the bomb». Rumours were spread that
Christian-democratic representatives as Giovanni Gronchi, Giuseppe Cappi,
Gaspare Ambrosini, or the bishops of Trieste, Grosseto e Pescia, had
Attentive observers immediately grasped how the new phase of
confrontation was more delicate than the old one. They admitted the ability
of Communists in raising interest among Catholic masses and pointed out
that their ―discourse‖ touched sensitive keys in the mentality of the masses
who, because of their passivity, could at last be seduced by their arguments.
They admitted that there was «disorientation» among many Catholics, that
Communists were succeeding «in shaking consciences». Above all, they
noticed that «a political formulation» of the problem of the peace, even if
«rough, unilateral and insincere», could have «more bite than a vague
moralizing preaching»: «fighting war with earthly weapons (and even with
civil disobedience and revolution) – one of them wrote - seems to many
more promising than exorcizing in a weary and superficial way war »52.
Even the cardinals and the archbishops of France declared to understand
that, «in this atmosphere of nightmare, the Stocholm Appeal against atomic
weapons had seduced many generous personalities»53.
Thus Stockholm Appeal put Catholics in unmistakable difficulty.
L’Osservatore Romano was obliged to deny Catholic supports54. There was
again a competition of mobilizations and petitions. If the Partisan of peace
invited people to vote for Stockholm, Christian Democrats invited to sign
for Europe and Strasburg Parliament55. On June 23 Milan archbishop,
cardinal Ildefonso Schuster, publicly intervened to warn clergy and laity in
front of Communist propaganda and he did it in a more explicit way than
French archbishops ha done. They had limited themselves to disavow the
See for example the way Adesso, 1° luglio 1950.
Cf. G. Vecchio, Pacifisti e obiettori, 133.
Advena, Noi e la pace, ST, gennaio 1950.
‗Contro l‘impiego delle armi di distruzione di massa. Lettera dei Cardinali e Arcivescovi
di Francia sulla pace‘, Cronache Sociali, 1° agosto 1950.
‗La campagna contro l‘atomica‘, L’Osservatore Romano, 5-6 giugno 1950.
‗Mercanti di pace‘, Adesso, 1° luglio 1950.
appeal without forbidding Catholics to sign it and Schuster made clear that
this was impossible:
All the world knows and has to know the doctrine and the declarations of Supreme
Pontiffs, the Chiefs of Catholic Church, about the peace of Christ in the Realm of Christ,
and about the condemnation of all strategies and war methods which are contrary to justice
It is not therefore neither necessary nor opportune to repeat these declarations,
putting them in writing for a political Party which does not represent neither Church ideas
nor the ideas of the huge majority of Italians.56
Church hierarchies perceived signs of disbandment among clergy
and laity. A few days after, in fact, a well known Catholic voice declared his
will to sign the Stocholm Appeal. According to don Primo Mazzolari,
Catholics as all Western anti-communists were wrong in underestimating
and in opposing in a prejudicial way the proponents, judging them by their
intentions instead of examining the things they proposed. These, however,
were the only ones to which popular masses were looking57.
At the end of July Stockholm Appeal promoters announced that they
had received 10 millions signatures in Italy58. Communist press declared
that «the participation of imposing Catholic masses of all countries to the
plebiscite against atomic weapons» represented «one of the most relevant
facts in the history of these last years»59.
Things changed abruptly with the news of the Corea invasion. Many
ambiguities could now be solved. Contradictions in the positions of
Partisans of peace were now clearly visible. In fact they immediately
embraced the Soviet theses and asked for US withdrawal. Fears of a general
conflict were widespread. Cronache Sociali noticed how «in this old Europe
fear» was sliding «inside houses, palaces, hearts»60. Equidistant positions
now seemed impossible. Even the Christian-Democratic Left of Cronache
Sociali was a now in favour of an «adequate European rearmament»61.
The dispute became tougher. At the beginning of July De Gasperi
and Christian-Democratic newspapers attacked the «so-called ―committees
Adesso, 1° luglio 1950.
S. Bolli [P. Mazzolari], ‗La bomba atomica e ogni arma sterminatrice fuori legge‘,
Adesso, 1° luglio 1950.
Cf. G. Vecchio, Pacifisti e obiettori, 131.
A. Donini, ‗I cattolici e la pace‘, L’Unità, 30 luglio 1950.
‗I cattolici e la pace‘, Cronache Sociali, 1° agosto 1950.
G. Bager Bozzo, ‗Conseguenze amrericane ed europee della guerra in Asia‘, Cronache
Sociali, 15 luglio 1950.
of peace‖» as «committees of insurrection against the legitimately elected
government», as a «fifth column»62. On July 10 DC Central Direction
opposed its own «National Solidarity Campaign for peace and security» to
Communist movement for peace63. The review Idea denounced that «the
manoeuvre of Stockholm Appeal» was «the first attempt and the first crime
against peace», having «anticipated the aggression»: this made «its
subscribers real accomplices»64. On August 15 the minister of Interiors,
Mario Scelba, in a speech at a Young Catholics Meeting labelled the
Partisans of peace as «a giant Trojan horse, launched to make an attempt
against peaceful peoples»65. Also the pope intervened with an encyclical
(Summi moeroris) denouncing Communist agitations for peace which
«overtly» neglected or repudiated the principles which were «the solid
bases» of peace, riding roughshod trampling «on the sacred rights of
Catholic Church». After the solemn document, Catholic press begun to
insist on the historical and actual role of papacy in the defence of peace6667.
The official La Civiltà Cattolica revealed the heavy types of repression
which Communists used in the gathering of signatures for the Stockholm
Appeal in Eastern countries68.
This counter-campaign limited Communist capacity to weigh on the
Catholic base. But it did non eliminate every problem. Even if the
international tensions were pushing many Catholics towards a full solidarity
with the West, there were still minorities who continued to refuse to follow
the tide. Cronache Sociali criticized the «blissful illusion» that «order and
independence» could be based on «soldiers‘ sword or carabinieri‘s
panache»69. More radical spirits proposed Christian Democratic Party to
promote «a world movement for controlled disarmament»70.
Cf. G. Vecchio, Pacifisti e obiettori, 182.
A. Damilano (ed.), Atti e documenti della Democrazia Cristiana 1943-1967 (Roma
1968), I, 476.
‗Nuvole ad Oriente‘, Idea, agosto 1950, 453.
Cf.. G. Vecchio, Pacifisti e obiettori, 187.
A. Oddone, ‗Azione pacificatrice del papato nelle età antiche‘, La Civiltà Cattolica, 12
agosto 1950, 379-389 e Id., ‗Azione pacificatrice e caritatevole del papato contemporaneo‘,
La Civiltà Cattolica, 30 settembre 1950, 68-82; G. Mira, ‗Per una pace sincera‘,
Orientamenti Sociali, 1950, n. 5, 81-82, ‗La Chiesa conquista i popoli non con le armi ma
con la verità‘, Orientamenti Sociali, 1950, n. 14-15, 258-259, ‗Per la pace nel mondo. La
parola del papa‘, Orientamenti Sociali, 1950, n. 23, 419.
Cf. La Civiltà Cattolica, 15 luglio 1950, 221-226 e 19 agosto 1950, 454-456.
‗Commenti della stampa‘, Cronache Sociali, 15 luglio 1950.
I. Giordani, ‗Rovina, morte e miseria: ecco la guerra‘, La Via, 5 agosto 1950.
The most interesting aspect of the climate which followed the
beginning of the Corean War is that it was at this moment that a strong need
of reconsidering Catholic attitudes towards war and an aspiration to launch a
positive Catholic proposal on peace emerged. Cronache Sociali painted the
dramatic reality of a «Christianity» which was risking «to divide and
straggle». In front of the peace issue, according to the review, Catholics
were «uncertain, sceptical, divided». On the one hand, there were Christians
who were taken by the obsession of «strong manners» in order to destroy
Communism; on the other hand, there were Christians who accepted or
underwent Communist initiative «for peace». This gave «force to the
enemies of peace», but now Chritianity had to «recover his active unity in
the engagement for peace» and to make not only an organized effort but an
effort of inside clarification»71.
At the moment, the process of division among Catholics continued,
even if only an avant-garde minority choose the way of the dialogue with
the Partisans of peace. On October 1 1950 Adesso published a
correspondence between Miglioli and Mazzolari72. Giordani, too, was
convinced that to refuse a dialogue with Communist on the problem of
peace was not possible: they had to be put on trial73. The reaction of
Catholic opinion was lively and irritated, labelling with irony Giordani and
Mazzolari as «the sentimental ones of pacifism»74. A DC member of
Parliament, Piero Malvestiti, claimed the necessity of distinguishing
between «desirable» and «possible». There was no choice to be made
between what Communist called «American imperialism», «which did not
(and does not) ask anybody a meter of soil – and which respects liberty at
home and in the world –» and «Russian-Bolshevik imperialism», «which
would impose the more hard, ruthless, stifling slavery»75. The Communist
reaction was, on the contrary, to develop every possibility of dialogue. In
November both Mazzolari and Giordani received an invitation from the
World Committee of the Partisans of peace to participate to the new
Congress scheduled to be held in Sheffield and that was later moved in
‗I cattolici e la pace‘, Cronache Sociali, 1° agosto 1950.
‗La Democrazia Cristiana e la guerra. Lettera di Guido Miglioli a don Primo Mazzolari‘,
Adesso, 1° ottobre 1950; P. Mazzolari, ‗Guerra alla guerra. Premessa a un dialogo che
riprende‘, Adesso, 1° ottobre 1950..
La Via, 28 ottobre 1950.
P.M. [P. Mazzolari]. ‗Pace e guerra‘, Adesso, 15 novembre 1950.
Il Popolo di Milano, novembre 1950.
Warsaw76. Even if Mazzolari decided non to go to the Congress, he stated
that «Christian Avant-gardes» could not «continue any more to refuse the
efforts and the voices which aim at peace from every part of the world»77.
Thus Adesso published a brotherly message to the Congress, in which,
however, its critics to the platform of the Partisans of peace (no
disarmament of souls, flock mentality, partisanship, dominant role of
intellectuals and politicians, absence of the voice of «poor people of the
world», despite or intolerance towards religion) were not absolutely
hidden78. At the end of November the Milan editor of the Communist
newspaper, L’Unità, Davide Lajolo, wrote letters to Giordani and
Mazzolari, inviting them to a public confrontation «in order to save peace»
(he compared Truman‘s and his Italian allies‘ nuclear policy with Hitler‘s
massacres)79. This public ―dialogue‖ lasted until the beginning of January
1951 and received great attention by the Communist press80. On January 7
1951 a Meeting of the «Christian Avant-gardes» held in Modena passed a
«brotherhood pact» which predicted that, in case of an invasion of Italy by
Communists or Americans, Christians would have not resisted but also
would not have collaborated with invaders.
Spirits became suddenly «agitated» and «hard and bombastic words,
multifold and humiliating accusations» were used. The main point of the
dispute with Communists was Catholics‘ claim of their pacifism as «true»
(which meant that mass perception was now in its favour). L’Osservatore
Romano stated that the movement for peace proclaimed «its solidarity with
fighters»81. The DC Secretary, Guido Gonella, declared that that the
«problem of peace» was «essential and absorbing». «The equivocal and
faked pacifism which Social-Communists promoted» was «a pacifism of
war and fear». On the contrary, DC «pacifism» meant «a will to do
The invitation by Ambrogio Donini e Mazzolari‘s answer ara in ‗Per la storia‘, Adesso,
15 novembre 1950. On the many difficulties which led to the Warsaw Congress see P.
Deery, ‗The Dove Flies East : Whitehall, Warsaw and the 1950 World Peace Congress‘,
Australian Journal of Politics and History, 48, 4, 2002, 449-468.
Adesso, ‗Cristiani al Congresso della pace‘, Adesso, 15 novembre 1950
‗Pace cristiana con libertà e giustizia per tutti. Agli ordini di nessuno. Messaggio delle
Avanguardie Cristiane al Congresso della pace‘, Adesso, 15 novembre 1950.
‗Dibattito sulla pace tra un comunista, un democristiano e un sacerdote‘, Adesso, 15
dicembre 1950. Mariuzzo, 103-104 e Vecchio, 219-223.
‗Colloqui‘, L’Osservatore Romano, 2-3 gennaio 1951. Anche il quotidiano della DC
attaccò la stampa comunista e le sue «assurde e arbitrarie interpretazioni»: A.C.,
‗Neutralismo‘, Il Popolo, 10 gennaio 1951.
everything could prevent or stop aggression»82. The government (during
Eisenhower visit to Italy and Communist demonstrations against him) even
studied the possibility to put the Partisans of peace out of law. In a speech at
the Opera Theatre in Rome, on January 28 1951, De Gasperi labelled the
Partisans of peace as «partisans of invasion, partisans of disintegration,
enemies of democratic Italy and of her independence»83.
Similar harsh tones were devoted to Catholics who were having a
dialogue with Communists. Il Popolo attacked the «romantics who
committed themselves to Communists»84. L’Ossservatore Romano depicted
Modena Meeting as «a Tower of Babel», where «partisans of a clear idea, or
at least of a an idea tout court» were missing and confirmed the uselessness
of discussions which were not following «the word of the Church and of the
Pope»85. The President of the Men Federation of Catholic Action, the
influent Luigi Gedda, declared that it was unconceivable that someone
could think to make a Catholic action for peace «having a dialogue with
men who do not want peace but only a general war»86. Traditionalist press
spoke of «sowers of discord», «followers of Moscow», «rearguards of
Communism», «useful idiots». Giordani and Mazzolari were reproached for
having «broken the Catholic front» and for having repudiated «the suffering
Church» in Eastern Europe.87. Even the Catholic press which was sensible
to religious renewal criticised Giordani e Mazzolari, writing of «confusion»
and of «mistakes of perspective»88. Padre Bevilacqua admitted that the
Christian had «to speak with everyone in spe and contra spem», but only «a
man who was blind since birth» could not see that the «pacifist movement»
was now «at the service of the world more armed imperialism» and that «it
was preached in Italy by agents who were piling on arsenals of weapons for
intestine and internecine wars»89. Cardinal Schuster thought that
Mazzolari‘s position was engendering «confusion in the Catholic field, with
great Communist joy». And the bishop of Cremona, Mazzolari‘s diocese,
wrote to him that it was difficult not «to perceive that flanking Communists
in pacifist propaganda» meant «to lend themselves to the play of
Cf. G. Vecchio, Pacifisti e obiettori, 240.
L.M., ‗Equidistanze‘, Il Popolo, 16 gennaio 1951.
Cit. in D. Caronti, ‗Nessuno può barare al gioco‘, Adesso, 1° febbraio 1951.
L. Gedda, ‗Saluto rosso‘, Il Quotidiano, 18 gennaio 1951.
‗Menzogne armate. Verità disarmata‘, Adesso, 1° febbraio 1951.
G.B. Scaglia, ‗Nella logica di un‘insufficienza‘, Studium, gennaio 1951, 1-2.
G. Bevilacqua, ‗Pacificatori e pacifisti‘, Humanitas, 1951, 119-126.
Communist propaganda tactics». The Partisans of peace, «even diffusing
false documents», were stirring up «war alarm, upsetting and damaging
poor people». How possible not to see that «under the mask of promoting
peace», they wished «to prevent that the countries which were not
dominated by Communism, could prepare themselves, not to aggression, but
only to defence in the case of aggression»? Communists made no
propaganda on disarmament when Russia remained as the only armed
nation and Russia had been always contrary to disarmament and armament
control. Charity for a Catholic priest was due towards everyone and also
with Communists, but it did not impose or legitimate an «indulgence which
could seem connivance»90. A few days after, on February 16, Catholics
newspapers referred that Mazzolari‘s magazine was «deprived of Church
approbation». A month later Adesso interrupted the publications91. La
Civiltà Cattolica asserted again traditional Catholic doctrine against the
peace movement and those who thought that there was something
evangelical in it92.
The pressure of the Partisans of peace on Catholics was not at the
end, but it had lost momentum. Small but relevant cracks, however, were
now open in Catholic attitude. La Palestra del Clero, a review addressed to
Italian parish priests, admitted that the theme of lawfulness of war was
raising «enthusiasm» in large areas of public opinion93. The phenomenon
was less perceptible or sensational than Giordani‘s or Mazzolari‘s
declarations, but it was probably more widely spread. For example, the
review published, among the «case studies» it proposed to his public made
by preachers and parish priests, the case of a priest who thought that war
was admissible only as legitimate defence. The review added he was
5. A «Christian peace doctrine»?(1952-1956)
L. Tedeschi, Obbedientissimo in Cristo… Lettere di don Primo Mazzolari al suo vescovo
(1917-1959) (Milano, 1974, 202-203.
E. Baragli, ‗La guerra, bancarotta dell‘umanità‘, La Civiltà Cattolica, 28 luglio 1951,
L. Barbini, ‗Intorno alla liceità della guerra‘, La Palestra del Clero, 15 novembre 1951,
L. Barbini, ‗Intorno alla liceità della guerra‘, La Palestra del Clero, 15 novembre 1951,
At the end of 1951 the dramatic ideological dispute between
Communist and Christian on peace lost progressively its intensity. The
Catholic Party – a Christian-Democratic magazine declared at the beginning
of 1952 – had known «how to hold out»: «Cominform or crypto-Communist
or unconsciously pacifist sirens, sirens of a pacifism which was at the
service of aggressor», had not been «listened to»95. DC press stressed now
that Atlantic loyalty worked also «for peace»96. On the other side Togliatti
attacked «Church authorities», accusing them to support the rearmament
which European Christian parties were proposing97. It seemed the end of a
long phase in which Communists looked for a dialogue with Catholics.
The 1950-1951 Communist/Catholic confrontation, however, had
many relevant consequences.
The first one among them was Catholic insistence, at the beginning
of the ‗50s, on European unification as the «firmest defence of peace»98. A
foreign policy based on support to the Atlantic Pact and Europeanism were
mingled together with the CED proposal99. Perplexities remained in the
Catholic Left area and they caused discomfort in the Graduates Movement
with its attention to new religious tendencies100.
G. Bettiol, ‗Una politica di pace, di sicurezza, di difesa della democrazia‘, Libertas, 2,
G. Pella, ‗La voce dell‘Italia a Lisbona‘, Libertas, n. 10, 1952, 4. Cf. anche Europa
armata, Idea, gennaio 1951, 5 e A.E. Folchi, ‗L‘Italia e la difesa‘, Libertas, 30, 1952, 15.
Cit. in Mariuzzo, 112.
P. Malvestiti, ‗Un cuore europeo‘, Libertas, 3, 1952, 5; P.E. Taviani, ‗L‘alternativa
all‘Europa‘, Libertas, 39, 1952, 10. Cfr. anche ‗Necessità di una mentalità europea. Il
discorso del Presidente De Gasperi ad Aquisgrana‘, Libertas, 32, 1952, 4 e C. Ramacciotti,
‗Dopo Berlino guardiamo al futuro‘, Orientamento Sociali, 1954, 4, 76-78.
G. Gonella, ‗Dall‘esercito europeo agli Stati Uniti d‘Europa‘, Libertas, 3, 1952, 15. Cf.
anche L. Benvenuti, ‗Per una efficiente difesa dell‘Europa è necessario creare accanto
all‘esercito europeo, anche un Parlamento europeo‘, Libertas, 5, 1952, 9-10; A.E. Folchi,
‗Prospettive dell‘unità europea‘, Libertas, 11, 1952, 6; A.E. Folchi, ‗Politica estera‘,
Libertas, 25, 1952, 10-11; F.M. Dominedò, ‗Politica Estera‘, Libertas, 11, 1952, 11. Cf.
anche ‗Terremo in alto la bandiera dell‘indipendenza e della libertà. Il discorso di De
Gasperi alla Camera sulla politica estera‘, Libertas, 37, 1952, 20 e P. Bondioli, ‗La paura fa
novanta. La Comunità Europea di Difesa‘, Libertas, 50, 1953, 8; F. Alessandrini, ‗La
Comunità Europea di Difesa (CED)‘, L’Assistente Ecclesiastico, 1954, 235-240 e Id.,
‗Dalla CED all‘U.E.O‘, L’Assistente Ecclesiastico, 1954, 642-647.
f.m. [F. Montanari], ‗Osservatorio. 1. Di fronte a un eventuale aggressore‘, Studium,
marzo 1952, 135; Id., ‗Osservatorio. 1. Armamenti e idee‘, Studium, novembre 1952, 635.
A second consequence of the long confrontation was Catholic
revaluation of the role of international organizations101. Orientamenti
Sociali wrote in 1952: «Whatever can be said, UN embody a universal
aspiration and tendency and gather the most passionate hopes and vows for
peace». The magazine added: «It‘s worth that UN did not cease to exist; a
lighthouse is always useful»102.
A last consequence of Catholic confrontation with Communists on
peace came out more slowly, but it would be of great importance. Now that
it was absolutely clear that a ―dialogue‖ with the Partisans of peace was
impossible, Catholics could insist on building their own peace doctrine, as a
means either to give them an autonomous role in the mediation between
West and East or to permit them a dialogue with peace movements, not
aligned pacifism, non-violence.
«After a long phase of refusals – Adesso wrote in 1952 – also
Christianity has realized that it is impossible to remain inert»103. It was
clearly perceptible this effort of an offensive of peace which now had to be
Catholic. The new Christian-Democratic Mayor of Florence, Giorgio La
Pira, organized in June 1952 a Conference on Civilization and peace,
gathering the representatives of 35 countries (among them, some of the most
important exponents of the new religious French culture: Charles Journet,
Jean Daniélou, Gabriel Marcel, Frnçois Maurtiac, Charles Moeller). The
meeting aimed to retrieve «the ground of a common, Christian and human,
civilization», in order to unite again the «schismatic countries» without
«opposing fronts»104. As it will be clear, La Pira‘s iniziative was conceived
in a completely different direction from the dialogue attempts pursued until
this moment by Catholic avant-gardes. It was clearly in competition with
Communism105. At the Florence Conference the American clergyman
Charles W. Lowry asked frankly «what could be opposed against the so
m.p.v. [M. Paronetto Valier], ‗Sguardi sul mondo. «Unità per la pace»‘, Studium,
novembre 1950, 604; A. Messineo, ‗Nuove proposte per il disarmo‘, La Civiltà Cattolica,
10 novembre 1951, 373-382; A. Brucculeri, ‗La nostra tragedia‘, La Civiltà Cattolica, 8
marzo 1952; A. Messineo, ‗Il declino delle Nazioni Unite‘, La Civiltà Cattolica, 8
novembre 1952, 373-385.
Cfr. anche F. Tagliamonte, ‗L‘Italia e l‘O.N.U.‘, Orientamento Sociali, 1952, 3, 49-52.
***, ‗Pace nostra ostinazione. Vogliamo vedere fin dove son «figliuoli di pace»‘,
Adesso, 1° novembre 1952.
B. Matteucci, ‗Il convegno internazionale per la pace e la civiltà cristiana‘, Vita e
Pensiero, agosto 1952, 428-433..
‗Il discorso d‘apertura dell‘on. La Pira nel salone dei Cinquecento‘, in Civiltà e pace, 14.
called Partisans of peace»106. The final motion maintained that a «true
peace» was not possible «where conditions of liberty and development» of
the «spiritual vocation» of «human person» were nor assured107.
The Church was not changing position but her tones were becoming
different. On September 13 1952 Pius XII received the participants to the
international Meeting of the Pax Christi Movement. The papal gesture had
an important meaning and acted as a formal endorsement. The movement,
born in London in 1945, had been considered with suspicion by Church
hierarchies for a long time, because it was considered, as every pacifism, a
potential infiltration soil for Communist agents. Pius XII admonished its
members that the Church distrusted «every pacifist propaganda in which the
word peace is abused in order to dissimulate unconfessable goals»108.
Notwithstanding many traditional critical remarks, the Jesuit father Antonio
Messineo recognized to pacifism «the anxiety for the pursue of a noble
ideal, as the instauration of everlasting peace among peoples and the
banishment of war»109.
Attacks and controversies against the Partisans of peace continued,
but the danger of the opening of a breach among Catholics seemed now left
well behind shoulders110. Even the relationship between the Partisans of
peace and Giordani and Mazzolari were now heavily deteriorated.
Communist were now much less attentive to Catholics. The new 1952
Vienna Peace Congress was a delusion for Mazzolari. The Italian delegate,
Ambrogio Donini (the same representative of the Partisans of peace who
invited the Catholic priest to Sheffield), in his speech in Vienna repeated,
«provoking boredom», «the usual indictment against both West and
Catholic Church», instead of reciting «the confiteor, which is convenient on
every mouth when peace is concerned»111. When Giordani was not elected
to the Parliament in June 1953 elections, the Communist press interpreted
his defeat as the final unmasking of an hypocrite position. Another
Communist ―man of the dialogue‖, Davide Lajolo, labelled Giordani and
Civiltà e pace, 107.
La mozione è riportata in Adesso, ‗La pace di Firenze‘, Adesso, 1° luglio 1952.
Pio XII, Discorsi per la comunità internazionale (Roma 1957), 399.
Enciclopedia Cattolica (Città del Vaticano, 1952), Vol. 9, coll. 507-508.
A. Brucculeri, ‗Il nemico della pace‘, La Civiltà Cattolica, 29 novembre 1952, 513-522;
A. Cantono, ‗Sociologia. Marx, Lenin, Stalin e la guerra‘, La Palestra del Clero, 1° aprile
1953, 323-324; A. Cantono, ‗Sociologia. La Chiesa e la guerra‘, La Palestra del clero, 15
novembre 1953, 1155-1156.
Adesso, ‗Pace nostra ostinazione. Dopo il Congresso di Vienna‘, Adesso, 1° gennaio
Mazzolari as «Pharisees». When the time of facts came, wrote Lajolo,
Giordani «confused the peace cause with the Vatican» and Mazzolari
transformed himself from «the priest of the poor» in a «speaker at political
meetings for the list of the rich»112. Giordani wondered if «those who said
that with people like this there is nothing to do were right»113.
Italian Catholicism seemed now a consolidated front. Even Il
Corriere della Sera, the lay newspaper linked with the industrial world,
asked Catholics to intervene in order not to let «the monopoly of peace» to
«organizations» which obeyed «to Communist instructions»114. So cultural
Catholic reviews now insisted on the «deep, overwhelming difference»
between Catholic and Communist «conception of peace»115. Now it was
even possible to give a more balanced judgment about Communist struggle
for peace. According to Humanitas, the Partisans of peace, even if with their
mistakes and ambiguities, showed such an insistence and aspiration, «such
an obstinate will to subscribe and make subscribe peace», «such a
stubbornness of filling the air of this sound every man wants to hear», that
their action could be considered an indirect «testimony of God»116.
Pope Pius XII in 1954 repeated again his condemnation of «atomic,
biological, chemical war»117. L’Osservatore Romano wrote of a «necessary
revision of our doctrine on war» and invited Catholic pres to be concerned
by the issue118. At the beginning of 1955 DC launched a campaign to
develop and discuss peace themes. Il Popolo d Milano, a Christian-
Democratic newspaper, noticed: «it was time that Christians realized to have
―a doctrine of peace‖ and worked so that it could be known and studied».
«We do not believe – the newspaper continued – that they indeed have to let
others the monopoly of the first and greatest Christian commitment».
New lively disputes on war and peace opened with Detente. The
birth of a «third force» and of the «not aligned movement», the polemics
inside the peace movement between «Communist neutralists and not
Communist neutralists», the perception that the Movement of the Partisans
D. Lajolo, ‗Sconfitta dei farisei‘, L’Unità, 24 giugno 1953.
G. Viaggi, ‗Se vuoi la pace vota Lajolo‘, Adesso, 15 luglio 1953.
Il Corriere della Sera, 6 ottobre 1953.
G.L. Bernucci, ‗Il dialogo atomico fra oriente e occidente‘, Vita e Pensiero, maggio
C. Fabro, ‗Della pace e della guerra‘, Humanitas, 1953, 332.
Il pacifico, ‗Coscienza e propaganda‘, Adesso, 1° maggio 1954 and P. Bondioli, Il
Popolo, giugno 1954 cit. in ‗Come si svuotano le grandi parole‘, Adesso, 15 giugno 1954..
See also Il pacifico, ‗Il Papa e la guerra totale‘, Adesso, 15 ottobre 1954.
Mons. Colli, L’Osservatore Romano, 15 ottobre 1954.
of peace was now «near to exhaustion»119 changed deeply the situation. The
debate opened again deep divisions inside Italian Catholicism, but, at the
same time, brought to the fore the problem of the admissibility of war.
Three members of the Christian Democratic Party went to the
Helsinki Congress of the Partisans of peace in June 1955. They were
supported by the small group of the review Prospettive. The journal was
«excommunicated», its editor expelled and «the three Helsinki pilgrims»
suspended from the Party120. Father Messineo on La Civiltà Cattolica
started a violent campaign against coexistence which he defined «an anti-
human conception»121. In a different but not less negative key, the journal of
the Catholic University in Milan compared Detente to «a magnificent tabby-
cat» «freely laying in a comfortable arm chair and purring», while his
«preferred stay» was the kitchen, where he was ready to hit, as soon as the
house servant turned her eyes»122. The Graduates Movements took a much
more positive attitude123. In the new Florentine Congress of the 1955
Summer La Pira hoped for an accord which could assign thermonuclear
energy to peaceful aims, world plans to elevate depressed areas, conventions
«to give the precious gift of political and spiritual liberty to people»124, but
he was attacked by L’Osservatore Romano.
For the first time a vast mass debate crossed Italian Catholicism on
the legitimacy of war. In May 1955 the booklet Tu non uccidere was
published. It gathered the reflections of a group of young Catholics around
don Mazzolari on war. The booklet was in favour of conscientious
objection. At the same time, it definitively closed every remaining illusion
of the Catholic Left about the Communist front for peace: «the men of
Communist peace – it was written – are working very hard in order to build
a philosophy, not to say a, inhuman, theology of the ―just war‖ of
proletariat, without perceiving that they are repeating the arguments with
which until yesterday it was possible to demonstrate that there were just
wars for kings, for States and for various capitalisms»125. In front of the
Il Pacifico, ‗Neutrali e partigiani‘, Adesso, 15 luglio 1955.
**, ‗Giorni feriali‘, Adesso, 15 luglio 1955.
A. Messineo, ‗L‘illusione della coesistenza‘, La Civiltà Cattolica, 6 agosto 1955, 231.
Ma cfr. anche Id., La coesistenza nel timore, CC, 24 settembre 1955, pp. 22-32 e La
coesistenza nell’errore, CC, 29 ottobre 1955, pp. 225-236.
Christianus, Il gatto e la distensione, VeP, novembre 1955, pp. 613-614.
Cfr. Sigma, Tempo di “distensione”, ST, settembre 1955, pp. 557-560 e Id.,
Dall’esperienza dell’odio un impegno di amore, ST, dicembre 1956, pp. 689-690.
Bocchini Camaiani, 519-520.
‗Tu non uccidere‘, Adesso, 15 maggio 1955.
radicalism of Tu non uccidere Catholic reactions were quite sympathetic. A
bishop maintained that the booklet‘s claims were well beyond traditional
doctrine, but that they could «become, tomorrow, an element of a new
theological synthesis which a new Thomas Aquinas could build, at the end
of the troubled crisis humanity is crossing today»126. The Catholic writer
Luigi Santucci on Il Popolo di Milano spoke of Mazzolari with sympathy as
the «peace chaplain»127. Studium remarked that it was possible to share the
enthusiasm for the conclusion that even defensive war was not legitimate,
but that a part of the demonstration was still lacking: that is the fact that
Christian could renounce to the defence of the feeble. Civitas praised
courage and said that all this could «upset» «only those who were far from
the essence of Gospel in social life». The newspaper of Catholic Action,
L’Avvenire d’Italia, appreciated the novelty of young people in search of
peace and remembered that to take the initiative of peace» was a duty for
Catholics. Another Catholic newspaper, L’Eco di Bergamo, noticed that the
document was «introducing a new climate »128. La Civiltà Cattolica itself,
the most official and traditional Italian Catholic review, wrote of «sincere
pages, deeply felt and convinced», stressing that there was nothing in them
in common with «the Communist trick of a peace deceitfully acclaimed and
manoeuvred for putting people to sleep before, and then brutally to
subjugate them». Humanitas defined it «the most courageous book against
war published in Italy»129.
Under the umbrella of a common Catholic «doctrine of peace» the
opposition between two different cultures could not be more clear. On one
side references to Gandhi130or to Danilo Dolci131 began to be made. A
certain attention was devoted also to the positions of the British Labour
Party and of Aneurin Bevan in particular132. A movement as the Italian
Christian Workers Associations (ACLI) showed their resistance to
rearmament policies133. On the other side, in March 1956 La Civiltà
A. Romani, ‗«Tu non uccidere»‘, Adesso, 1° luglio 1955.
Interamente riprodotto in ‗Fotomontaggi per don Mazzolari‘, Adesso, 15 settembre
Un‘ampia rassegna in ‗Tu non uccidere‘, Adesso, 15 marzo 1956.
‗Tu non uccidere‘, Adesso, 1° luglio 1957.
Una mamma, ‗Pace nostra ostinazione‘, Adesso, 1° maggio 1953.
G. fincato, ‗Aghi di pino‘, Adesso, 15 febbraio 1956.
F. Bernstein, ‗Come si può tradire la pace‘, Adesso, 1° marzo 1955; A. Bevan, ‗La paura
della guerra non prepara la pace‘, Adesso, 1° gennaio 1956
Cfr. G. Gemellaro, Gli itinerari della pace, in ―Quaderni di Azione sociale‖ (d‘ora
innanzi QdAS), gennaio 1955, pp. 5-9.
Cattolica begun to criticize the Catholic progressivism and «Marxist
infiltrations» in Christian vocabulary134. In the right circles of the Curia the
evaluation of pacifism continued to be completely negative135. A Seminary
professor answered a reader who asked him if Jesus Christ condemned wars
stressing that even offensive war could be «legitimate», if «it was declared
by the qualified authority for a just reason» and if it was accomplished
«according to the norms of justice and charity»136. Father Virginio Rotondi,
on a widely spread magazine, claimed that there were «certainly just wars»,
«dubiously just wars, «clearly unjust wars» and tried a classification of
them137. In November 1956, in front of Hungary dramatic events, Milan
Young Catholic Associations sent a telegram to Prime Minister Antonio
Segni asking for a break in the diplomatic relations with USSR and
declaring to be ready to defend Hungarians in arms138.
6. Incubo atomico e decolonizzazione (1957-1962)
With the emergence of decolonization and of the theme of the
subsequent Catholic responsibilities towards the problems of the other
continents, Italian Catholic attitude on international issues deeply changed.
Also in this case contrasts and divisions were not missing. Catholic Right
pointed out that, «in front of the clever and instigating policy which USSR
was developing in Middle East and in North Africa», the only thing Europe
and Free West could do was «to reinforce their political, military, economic
relations and to develop more and more NATO organization»139.
Not every Catholic was in accord. Many, following the new
encyclical Mater et magistra which Giorgio La Pira linked to the new
A. Messineo, ‗Il progressismo contemporaneo‘, La Civiltà Cattolica, 107, 1956, I, 494-
506 e Id., ‗Infiltrazioni marxiste nel linguaggio sociale‘, La Civiltà Cattolica, 107, 1956, I,
See Dizionario di teologia morale, diretto da F. Roberti, Segretario della S.
Congregazione del Concilio, segretario di redazione P. Palazzini, ordinario di teologia
morale del Pontificio Ateneo Lateranense, II ed. riv. E ampl. (Roma 1955 and 1957), 901.
A. Pedrone, ‗ La Croce sepolta‘, Adesso, 1° aprile 1956.
Epoca, 2 ottobre 1956.
M.Pa., ‗La guerra come il cancro‘, Adesso, 15 novembre 1956.
P.G. Jansen, L’Unione dell’Occidente e il rafforzamento della N.A.T.O., ID, febbraio
1957, p. 111. Cfr. anche F. Della Rocca, Cose d’Europa, ID, marzo 1958, p. 156 e Europa
e Medio Oriente, ID, settembre 1958, pp. 579-581, P.G. Jansen, Una minaccia per il mondo
libero, ID, settembre 1958, pp. 591-595, P.G. Jansen, La propaganda comunista Cino-
Sovietica in Africa, ID, agosto 1960, pp. 515-518.
«space era»140, were pointing to the importance of the brotherhood between
rich and poor countries, to a planet responsibility toward injustice which had
the goal to contrast Communist presence in the Third World which menaced
to be more and more active. A new Catholic pacifism seemed to originate
from the consciousness of the development problem and from the sensitivity
to the question of Africa and Asia independence as well as from Cold War
reality141. A relevant role had the Algeria crisis, also for its recoils on
French Catholicism142 and their deep echo in Italian Catholicism143.
Decolonization seemed the opportunity to exit from the «power balance of
the two colossuses» and from the continuous risk of war that it brought144.
But the determinant factor was probably, as in many other countries,
the nuclear nightmare, which begun to be important since 1957145. On
October 4 Russians launched the first artificial satellite. «Something
completely new – as Adesso wrote – was bursting in our world», «upsetting
an already uncertain balance», introducing «fear»146. For the first time many
voices in agreement pointed out to the radical novelty of atomic condition
and to the paradox of «being able to make war which keeps the war far»147.
G. La Pira, Un’enciclica per la nostra epoca, in ―Testimonianze‖ (d‘ora innanzi T),
1961, n. 37, p. 565.
Programmi dei partiti di fronte ai problemi del paese, Q, n. 2-3, 1958, pp. 25-26.
Cfr. L’Algeria e l’Europa, Q, n. 32-33, 1960, p. 1-2
Cfr. Problemi di coscienza posti dalla guerra d’Algeria. La “tavola rotonda”
organizzata da “Questitalia” a Roma, Q, n. 32-33, 1960, pp. 20-7453, La gioventù
francese fra il diritto all’insubordinazione e l’opposizione di massa, ivi, pp. 61-67, Perché
abbiamo disobbedito, ivi, pp. 69-73, Il problema dell’obbedienza nelle lettere di giovani
combattenti, ivi, pp. 74-75, J.M. Domenach – I. Murgia, Ancora su Francia ed Europa, Q,
n. 35, 1961, pp. 38-41.
Programmi dei partiti di fronte ai problemi del paese, cit., p. 26.
M. Reina, Trattative internazionali per l’uso pacifico dell’energia atomica, in
―Aggiornamenti sociali‖ (d‘ora innanzi AS), luglio 1957, pp. 413-420, Id., Euratom. Aspetti
politici, economici, istituzionali, AS, ottobre 1957, pp. 513-528, A. D‘Angelo, Vita o
morte, PdC, 15 ottobre 1957, pp. 950-953, G. Bevilacqua, non cristiani nei metodi, HU,
1958, pp. 1-6, Energia atomica a scopi pacifici, AS, maggio 1959, pp. 313-324, G. Perico,
L’energia nucleare. Aspetti scientifici e morali. II., AS, dicembre 1959, pp. 645-661.
G. Sani, ‗La grande paura‘, Adesso,15 ottobre 1957.
g.c., Osservatorio. 3. Esibizione di forza, ST, novembre 1957, p. 731. La stessa destra
teologica (in particolare ―Studi cattolici‖ su cui intervenivano Pietro Palazzini e il cardinal
Ottaviani), pur cercando una puntualizzazione della dottrina tradizionale anche in merito
allo strumento atomico, che considerandava giustificato se difensivo, finì anch‘essa, alla
fine, per prendere una posizione più aperta e problematica. Cfr. P.P., Energia atomica: uso
e abuso, StC, marzo-aprile 1958, pp. 58-61 e P. Brancoli Busdraghi, L’armamento atomico:
una questione di coscienza, StC, luglio-agosto 1959, pp. 39-44.
The aspiration to disarmament among Catholics went so far that also
journals on moderate positions as Studium now claimed that the only
solution was to abolish «nuclear conscription»148 and pronounced
themselves – even if in a timid way – for a non-violent option of a Gandhian
kind149. Milan Jesuits justified in March 1960 conscientious objection150.
Humanitas published a long article of Thomas Merton against atomic war
which went to the point to hope for a mass conscientious objection151. In
Autumn 1961 Mayor La Pira promoted the screening (in private, but with a
vast public) of Claude Autant-Lara‘s movie Tu ne tueras pas. This fact
provoked a very lively dispute on the theme of a possible defence of a
crime, with following reactions and divisions among Catholics152.
A strong debate begun in 1959 about Krushev and his politics153. In
the Right area of Italian Catholicism opinions were completely negative154
and pointed out in dramatic terms the question of the «silent Church»155. On
the opposite front, Studium expressed its not negative assessments156 but it
was obliged by the Holy See to retract its opinions157, while the new
Catholic Left of ACLI and Questitalia expressed a more favourable
g.c., Osservatorio. 3. Escatologia atomica, ST, ottobre 1957, p. 662.
m.p.v. [M. Paronetto Valier], Osservatorio. 3. Superiorità decisiva, ST, ottobre 1959, p.
G. Perico, Guerra moderna e coscienza individuale, AS, marzo 1960, pp. 131-148.
T. Merton, La guerra atomica e le responsabilità del cristiano, HU, 1962, pp. 489-500.
Bocchini Camaiani, 522-524.
Cfr. G. Corna-Pellegrini, I problemi della collaborazione internazionale di fronte alla
politica dei blocchi, VeP, luglio 1959, pp. 457-464, L. Arduini, Alla vigilia della
conferenza al vertice, VeP, maggio 1960, pp. 337-339.
Cfr. P. Bondioli, Kruscev, in ―Studi cattolici‖ (d‘ora innanzi StC), gennaio-febbraio
1958, pp. 85-88, N.G., Le preoccupazioni geografiche di Krusciov, StC, novembre-
dicembre 1958, pp. 93-95, M. Rendina, Il match dell’epoca, StC, settembre-ottobre 1959,
pp. 67-68, Id., Coesistere: questo è il problema, StC, novembre-dicembre 1959, pp. 69-70,
***, Distensione ed equivoci, StC, gennaio-febbraio 1960, pp. 7-10, M. Rendina, Riarmo
ideologico e pace disarmata, StC, gennaio-febbraio 1960, pp. 69-70, P.G. Jensen, Il
Comunismo e la minaccia al mondo libero, ID, settembre 1961, pp. 600-602, P. Barbieri,
Cinismo Comunista, ID, novembre 1961, pp. 723-725.
Card. A. Ottaviani, La Chiesa del Silenzio. Non siamo insensibili alle sofferenze del
Corpo Mistico, StC, gennaio-febbraio 1960, pp. 3-6.
Cfr. m.p.v. [M. Paronetto Valier], Forza e debolezza dell’Occidente, ST, luglio-agosto
1959, pp. 514-517, a.g., “L’umanità ha forse possibilità di sperare in giorni migliori”, ST,
ottobre 1959, Sigma, La “pace” che ci meritiamo, ST, dicembre 1959, pp. 789-790.
Sigma, Ancora sulla distensione, ST, gennaio 1960, pp. 1-3.
attitude158. The question was not only among theoretical aspirations, but it
involved the contrast which existed inside DC itself between Segni-Pella
line and Gronchi line159. The debate was not without importance because it
brought to a final change of climate.
As an observer wrote, it was «the logic of arms» that a noteworthy
part of Italian Catholics was now refusing, and in a clear way160. They asked
now blocks to save peace161. The refusal of war in the tiny radical Catholic
groups which had fought this battle, as in Giordani‘s or Mazzolai‘s case,
was based on the revision of Catholic theology on war. At the and of the
‗50s horizons were widening, opening to the protestant reflection on
peace162 and to the new experience of Great Britain antinuclear movement,
to Bertand Russell an to his unilateral desarmament option163. Don Ernesto
Balducci in 1958 on the new Fiorentine magazine Testimonianze recalled
early Christian tradition but immediately after wrote: «our attention goes
[…] more to Gandhi than to Marx, more to Taha Hussei than to Krusciov,
more to Ramakrishna than to Hegel, more to Father de Foucauld than to
General De Gaulle»164. The first Perugia-Asssisi march for peace was held
on September 24 1961. It was the starting point in Italy for the development
of a new peace movement, more transversal and not directly linked to mass
political parties. Besides Communists, Socialists, Radicals, Republicans,
also a group of Christian-Democrats participated, even if the Party declared
itself contrary165. A new culture seemed to be born. The ideological
confrontation with the Communist Party pushed Catholics to work out their
«peace doctrine». Now they begun to participate, together with the ―others‖,
to an international culture of peace.
Cfr. F. Tagliamone, Prospettive di pace, QdAS, settembre-ottobre 1959, pp. 715-719 e
Un mondo nuovo per l’America, in ―Questitalia‖ (d‘ora innanzi Q), n. 27, 1960, pp. 3-8.
Cfr. L’Italia e la distensione, Q, n. 23, 1960, pp. 4-7.
G. Corna-Pellegrini, I problemi della collaborazione internazionale di fronte alla
politica dei blocchi, cit., p. 463.
Ibidem., p. 464. Cfr. anche Il XXII Congresso e il programma del comunismo, Q, n. 43,
1961, p. 8.
E. Vicari, ‗I protestanti e la pace. La posizione delle Chiese‘, Adesso, 1959; E. Vicari, ‗I
nostri fratelli protestanti e la pace. La predicazione politica‘, Adesso, 1959; E. Vicari, ‗I
nostri fratelli protestanti e la pace. L‘impegno sociale‘, Adesso, 1959; E Vicari, ‗ I nostri
fratelli protestanti. Cristianesimo sociale‘, Adesso, 1959.
‗L‘equilibrio del terrore‘, Adesso, 1° aprile 1960.
E.B., Primum dicite: pax (Lc. X, 5), T, 1958, n. 5, p. 4.
A. Scarantino, 7.