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'The Pope and Mussolini' Author To Speak at F&M April 7

  • the pope and mussolini jacket

Author and scholar David Kertzer will discuss the relationship between Pope Pius XI and Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini in the 1920s and 30s -- and how it changed the world -- during a lecture at 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 7, in the Lisa Bonchek Adams Auditorium at Franklin & Marshall College.

Kertzer, the Paul Dupee university professor of social science, and anthropology professor, at Brown University, will focus his talk on his research of Vatican archival records, which were the basis for a new book, "The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe."

Pius XI has an important place in history, and Kertzer's research adds new perspective to the story, noted Scott Lerner, F&M's Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of Humanities and French and Italian, and the one of the event organizers.

  • Pope Pius XI
  • Pope Pius XI

Until he became pope in 1922, "a succession of popes declared themselves to be 'prisoners of the Vatican,' refusing to acknowledge the authority of Italy over papal territories, including Rome," Lerner said.

"Mussolini made peace with the church, under Pius XI, profoundly changing the character of Italian politics, culture and memory."

Pius XI and Mussolini forged a relationship that changed the course of 20th-century history, asserts Kertzer, who challenges the conventional history of this period, in which "a heroic church does battle with the Fascist regime."

In most respects, the two figures could not have been more different, Kertzer said. "One was scholarly and devout, the other thuggish and profane. Yet Pius XI and 'Il Duce' had many things in common. They shared a distrust of democracy and a visceral hatred of Communism."

  • mussolini
  • Benito Mussolini

Pius XI had, in fact, played a critical role in making Mussolini’s dictatorship possible and then keeping him in power.

"In exchange for Vatican support, Mussolini restored many of the privileges the church had lost and gave in to the Pope’s demands that the police enforce Catholic morality," Kertzer said.

The Central Pennsylvania Consortium and F&M's Department of Italian are the principal sponsors of the lecture, which will be followed by a reception in the Great Room of Ware College House.