Foreign relations of Pope Pius XII

Foreign relations of Pope Pius XII extended to most of Europe and a few states outside Europe. Pius XII was pope from 1939 to 1958, during World War II and the beginning of the Cold War.


Between the loss of the Papal States in 1870 and the signing of the Lateran Treaty in 1929, the diplomatic recognition of the papacy had actually increased, with eighteen accredited members of the Vatican diplomatic corps in 1890, fourteen in 1914, and twenty-four in 1921.[1] This did not represent international support for the papal position in the Roman Question, however, as these nations also recognized the unified Kingdom of Italy, whose diplomatic corps in Rome developed over a similar trajectory.[1]

In 1936 (three years before Pius XII became pope), there were thirty-four ambassadors, ministers, or chargé d'affaires to the Holy See.[2] However, several of these diplomats spent much of their time in other European capitals—either for personal reasons or because they served multiple embassies (Argentina, Estonian, Latvia, Liberia, Peru, and Salvador), were merely sinecures (Belgium), or were unpaid (Honduras).[2] Others represented micronations that "hardly counted" (Monaco, San Marino, and the Order of Malta).[2] The Spanish ambassador was driven out by a "tragi-comic siege" in the Piazza di Spagna.[2] Nicaragua's ambassador was senile, and Panama's ambassador had not been seen since 1929.[2]

In March 1939, Pius XII inherited thirty-eight diplomatic missions to the Vatican: thirteen at the "ambassadorial level", and the rest at the ministerial level; there were also papal representatives in thirty-eight countries, but the exchanges were not always mutual.[3] At the time there were also twenty-three Vatican envoys without diplomatic status in their host state.[3]

In contrast to the various sinecures, Diego von Bergen was a high-ranking member of the German diplomatic service, who twice turned down the office of Foreign Secretary to remain in Rome.[2] According to Morley, "when Pius XII became Pope, there were papal nuncios in, among other capitals, Belgrade, Berlin, Berne, Brussels, Bucharest, Budapest, the Hague, Paris, Prague, Rome, and Warsaw. The circumstances of war reduced this number and changed the location and level of some of the diplomatic representatives. The end-result of these modifications was that during the years 1939-1943, the Secretariat of State was in diplomatic contact with its emissaries in Berlin, Rome, Vichy, Berne, Bratislava, Zagreb, Bucharest, and Budapest. In addition, active communications were maintained with the apostolic delegates in London, Washington, and Ankara".[4]

List of diplomats

A list of diplomats accredited to the Vatican published in December 1940 lists Diego von Bergen as the dean of the diplomatic corps, followed by thirteen Ambassadors and twenty three Ministers, with Myron Charles Taylor conspicuously in last place.[5] "Nuncios" and "Ambassadors" were only exchanged between the Holy See and countries where the pope's representative ex officio was granted the title of dean of the diplomatic corps. In other countries, Pius XII was represented by an apostolic delegate or a chargé d'affaires, constituting a lower level of diplomatic recognition (representing the ecclesiastical hierarchy of a country, not the government). An apostolic delegate was neither accredited to a host government, nor required their approval.

A special 1948 Christmas Eve midnight mass for diplomats celebrated by Pius XII was attended by 300 diplomatic personnel.[6] In February 1949, there were thirty-nine accredited members of the Vatican diplomatic corps.[7] A New Years Day 1951 audience with the "entire diplomatic corps" included thirty-six accredited representatives, including eighteen full ambassadors, sixteen ministers, and two chargés d'affaires (China and Finland).[8]


Country Nuncio Nunciature Ambassador Rank
Argentina Giuseppe Fietta (1936–1953)
Mario Zanin (1953–1958)
Carlos Brebbia (1943–1947)[n 1] Ambassador
Austria Maurilio Silvani (1946–1947)
Giovanni Battista Dellepiane (1949–1961)
Apostolic Nuncio to Austria Adolf Kohlruss (1946)[n 2] Ambassador
Belgium Clemente Micara (1923–1946)
Fernando Cento (1946–1953)
Efrem Forni (1953–1962)
Apostolic Nuncio to Belgium Adrien Nieuwenhuys[n 3] Ambassador
Bolivia Giuseppe Burzio (1946–1950)
Sergio Pignedoli (1950–1954)
Umberto Mozzoni (1954–1958)
Brazil Benedetto Aloisi Masella (1927–1946)
Carlo Chiarlo (1946–1954)
Armando Lombardi (1954–1964)
Apostolic Nuncio to Brazil Ildebrando Accioly
Mauricio Nabuco (ante 1948)[13]
Chile Aldo Laghi (1938–1942)
Mario Zanin (1947–1953)
Sebastiano Baggio (1953–1959)
(1939-?)[14] Ambassador
Columbia Giuseppe Beltrami (1945–1950)
Antonio Samoré (1950–1953)
Paolo Bertoli (1953–1959)
Carlos Arango Velez (1944-post 1949)[15][n 4] Ambassador
Czechoslovakia Sanverio "Xavier" Ritter (1946–1953) Apostolic Nuncio to Czechoslovakia[n 5] M. Maixner (circa 1947)
Ecuador Efrem Forni (1937–1953)
Opilio Rossi (1953–1959)
France Valerio Valeri (1936–1944)
Angelo Roncalli (1944–1953)
Paolo Marella (1953–1959)
Apostolic Nuncio to France François Charles-Roux (1932–1940)[21]
Wladimir d'Ormesson (1940)[n 6]
Léon Bérard (1940–1945)[n 7]
Jacques Maritain (1945–1948)[n 8]
Germany Cesare Orsenigo (1930–1945)
Aloisius Joseph Muench (1951–1959)[n 9]
Apostolic Nuncio to Germany Diego von Bergen (1915–1943)
Ernst von Weizsäcker (1943–1945)
Hungary Angelo Rotta (1930–1957)[n 10] György Barcza Ambassador
Ireland Paschal Charles Robinson (1929–1948)
Ettore Felici (1949–1951)
Gerald P. O'Hara (1951–1954)
Albert Levame (1954–1958)
Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland
Italy Francesco Borgongini Duca (1929–1953)
Giuseppe Fietta (1953–1958)
Apostolic Nuncio to Italy Dino Alfieri (1939–1940)[n 11]
Bernardo Attolico (1940–1943)[n 12]
Galeazzo Ciano (1943)[n 13]
Luxembourg Clemente Micara (1923–1946)
Fernando Cento (1946–1953)
Efrem Forni (1953–1962)
Netherlands Paolo Giobbe (1935–1959)
Paraguay Liberato Tosti (1946–1948)
Federico Lunardi (1949–1954)
Luigi Punzolo (1954–1957)
Carlo Martini (1958–1963)
Peru Fernando Cento (1936–1946)
Giovanni Panico (1948–1953)
Francesco Lardone (1953–1959)
Apostolic Nuncio to Peru Diomedei Arias Schreider[n 14] Ambassador
Poland Filippo Cortesi (1936–1947)[n 15] Apostolic Nuncio to Poland Kazimierz Papée (1939–1958)[n 16] Ambassador
Portugal Pietro Ciriaci (1934–1954)
Fernando Cento (1954–1958)
Apostolic Nuncio to Portugal Carneiro Pacheco
Tovar de Lemos (?-1950)[35]
Jose Nasolini (1950-?)[36]
Romania Andrea Cassulo (1936–1947) Nicolae Petrescu-Comnen (circa 1940)[37]
Daniel Papp (circa 1942)[38]
Basilio Grigorcea (circa 1944)[39]
Spain Gaetano Cicognani (1938–1953)
Ildebrando Antoniutti (1953–1963)
Apostolic Nuncio to Spain Viscount Santa Clara de Avedillo (circa 1940)[40]
Domingo de las Barcenas (circa 1943)
Pablo de Churruca y Dotres (1946–1948)[n 17]
Joaquin Ruiz Jimenez (1948-?)[42]
Switzerland Felipe Bernardini (1935–1953)
Gustavo Testa (1953–1959)
Uruguay Albert Levame (1939–1949)
Alfredo Pacini (1949–1960)
Venezuela Luigi Centoz (1936–1940)
Giuseppe Misuraca (1941–1950)
Armando Lombardi (1950–1954)
Sergio Pignedoli (1954–1955)
Raffaele Forni (1955–1960)
M. A. Pulido Mendez (?-1952)[43] Ambassador

Apostolic delegates

Country Apostolic delegate Minister Rank
Albania Leone Nigris (ante 1945)[n 18]
Bulgaria Giuseppe Mazzoli (?-1946)[n 19]
Canada Ildebrando Antoniutti (1938–1953)
Giovanni Panico (1953–1959)
China Mario Zanin C. K. Sie
John Ching Hsiung Wu[44]
Envoy[n 20]
Cuba Alfonso Forcade (1946-?) Legate, then ambassador[46]
Dominican Republic Pedo Tronscoso Sanchez (1949-?)[47] Ambassador
Greece Angelo Roncalli (1935–1944)
India N. Raghavan[48] Ambassador
Japan Paolo Marella (1933–1948)[n 21] Ken Harada (1942–1945)[n 22] Ambassador
Kenya Antonio Riberi
United Kingdom William Godfrey (1938–1954)[n 23]
Gerald P. O'Hara (1954-?)
D'Arcy Osborne (1936–1947) Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
United States Amleto Giovanni Cicognani (1933–1958) Myron Charles Taylor (1939–1950)[n 24] "Peace Ambassador"[59] and "personal envoy"[60][n 25]
Turkey Angelo Roncalli (1933–1944)
Yugoslavia Regent Joseph Patrick Hurley (1946–1950) Niko Mirosevich[n 26]
Peter Benzon (circa 1949)[7]
chargé d'affaires

Apostolic visitor

Territory Apostolic visitor
Independent State of Croatia Giuseppe Marcone

chargé d'affaires

Territory chargé d'affaires
Slovak Republic Giuseppe Burzio

World War II

Main article: Vatican City during World War II

Some of Pius XII's nuncios in occupied Europe were forced to flee their nunciatures, including Clemente Micara in Belgium, internuncio Paolo Giobbe in The Netherlands, and Casimir Papée in Poland.[63] The nuncio to Luxembourg was similarly "overrun by German troops".[64] Micara and Giobbe eventually found their ways to Rome.[39] The Yugoslav and Romanian ambassadors also ended up in Rome but were told in 1944 to be ready to return at a moment's notice.[39] The Baltic nuncios in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were forced out by Russian troops.[65] Although the nuncios de jure retained their titles, their role was either terminated or de facto taken up by Cesare Orsenigo, the nuncio to Germany.[64]

Thus, Pius XIi maintained only eight wartime nunciatures to European nations, in: France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Switzerland.[65] These were supplemented by apostolic delegates in Albania, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Turkey, and the United States.[65] A chargé d'affaires was created during the war to represent the newly created Slovak Republic, and an apostolic visitor was sent to the Nazi puppet state of Croatia.[65]

By June 15, 1940, there were no longer any Allied ambassadors residing in Italian territory (the norm for ambassadors to the Vatican): the Polish, French, and British ambassadors entered Vatican City proper; Nieuwenhuys initially declined Vatican protection on June 16 to flee to Switzerland along with the Belgian ambassador to Italy, but decided to stay on June 18.[11][12] Italy was at war with France, Britain, South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand, and had severed diplomatic relations with Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, and Poland; of those, only France, Britain, Belgium, and Poland had resident ambassadors at the Vatican.[11]

The same protection was not extended to Niko Mirosevich, the Yugoslav Minister, when he was ousted by Italy in July 1941.[62] However, the ambassadors in the city-state were joined by Harold J. Tittmann, Jr., who remained as chargé d'affaires after Taylor's departure, after he was required to move into Vatican City by Italy on December 13, 1941.[55]

After the Allied occupation of Rome, the Allied ambassadors moved out of Vatican City and the Japanese, German, Hungarian, Romanian, and Slovak delegations moved into the city-state, escorted by US troops.[66] High-ranking Nazi Ernst von Weizsäcker and Mussolini's son-in-law Galeazzo Ciano both became ambassadors to the Vatican in 1943; it was believed that von Weizsäcker's main job was to keep an eye on Ciano lest the pope assist Italy in negotiating a separate peace with the Allies.[67]

The Holocaust

Morley's Vatican Diplomacy and the Jews during the Holocaust (1980) is a comprehensive country-by-country study of Vatican diplomacy, using primary sources from the nuncios themselves up to the Cardinal Secretary of State and Pius XII himself.[68] Morley's study draws heavily on the ADSS vols. 1-9, supplemented by documents from the Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine (Paris), British Foreign Office, Public Records Office (London), Institute for Jewish Affairs (London), the Nuremberg Trials, the World Jewish Congress archives (New York), and Yad Vashem (Jerusalem).[69] The central conclusion of Morley is as follows:

"This study of the Vatican and Jewish sources has revealed little evidence that the nuncios manifested any consistent humanitarian concern about the sufferings of the Jews during the years 1939 to 1943. This research has indicated that the Vatican diplomats only rarely acted on behalf of the Jews as Jews, and this usually only for specific individuals. They sometimes had words of sympathy for the Jews, but little action followed from these words".[70]

However, Morley does find a multitude of examples of Vatican diplomats protesting against the effects of racial laws on Jews who converted to Catholicism before and during the Holocaust, as well as numerous interventions on their behalf.[70]

After World War II

Pius XII allowed Ernst von Weizsäcker, the former Nazi ambassador to remain in Rome as a "guest" after Nazi Germany ceased to exist and he lost his status as an ambassador.[67] Similar status was accorded to former Vichy France ambassador Léon Bérard, even after Pius XII received Jacques Maritain as French ambassador in 1945.[67] von Weizsäcker was given political asylum for a time, although the Allies wished to charge him with war crimes (he would eventually be convicted at Nuremberg).[71][72]

Ken Harada, the Japanese ambassador, remained in the Vatican "on much the same basis", while the Holy See protested that it had not yet received "official notification" from Gen. Douglas MacArthur that it should sever relations.[73] As he was no longer accredited to the Vatican, Harada was not allowed to participate in a New Years Day 1946 event, although Pius XII granted him a separate audience a few days later.[74] Harada was received in a final farewell audience on January 25, 1946 before being repatriated, following MacArthur's order discontinuing Japan's diplomatic service.[75]

After World War II relations were strained or cut with several Communist Eastern European nations. For example, there was no Apostolic Nuncio to Poland between 1947 and 1989.

After the resignation of US presidential envoy Myron Charles Taylor in 1950, Truman struggled to replace Taylor. American Protestant leaders opposed the continuation of the mission (including Truman's own pastor, Edward Pruden), and the Vatican wanted a full ambassador, not another "personal envoy".[76] The appointment of General Mark Wayne Clark as United States Ambassador to the Holy See was withdrawn after a prolonged Senate fight.[77] Clark had been the Allied Commander in Italy, known for the bombing of the historic abbey of Monte Cassino but also his triumphant entry into Rome in 1944.

Primary sources

As of 2002, no complete set of diplomatic papers has been published by any country with diplomatic relations with the Holy See during Pius XII's pontificate, although partial sets have been published in various works.[78] However, the outrage over Rolf Hochhuth's 1963 play The Deputy prompted Pope Paul VI in 1964 to authorize the opening of Pius XII's diplomatic papers prior to the usual seventy-five year rule.[79] Four Jesuit Priests were allowed into the archives and eleven volumes, Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la Seconde Guerre Mondiale (ADSS), were published between 1965 and 1981, covering only the wartime years.[79]

Several diplomats at the Vatican wrote memoirs covering the period of Pius XII's pontificate, including the Free French ambassadors François Charles-Roux and Wladimir d'Ormesson and Polish ambassador Casimir Papée.[80] Others have had their wartime papers published, including German ambassador Ernst von Weizsäcker and British Minister D'Arcy Osborne.[80] Osborne's papers formed the basis of Owen Chadwick's Britain and the Vatican during the Second World War (1988).[80] Wartime Correspondence Between President Roosevelt and Pope Pius XII was published in 2005 with a foreword and notes by Myron Charles Taylor.

The post-war papers of Aloisius Joseph Muench were also extensively preserved, and indexed at the Catholic University of America since 1976.[81] The documents are the subject of a 2006 monograph by Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming, a fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies.




  • Blet, Pierre, and Johnson, Lawrence J. 1999. Pius XII and the Second World War: According to the Archives of the Vatican. Paulist Press. ISBN 0-8091-0503-9.
  • Brown-Fleming, Suzanne. 2006. The Holocaust and Catholic Conscience: Cardinal Aloisius Muench and the Guilt Question in Germany. University of Notre Dame Press. ISBN 0-268-02187-2.
  • Chadwick, Owen. 1988. Britain and the Vatican During the Second World War. Cambridge University Press.
  • Morley, John. 1980. Vatican diplomacy and the Jews during the Holocaust, 1939-1943. New York : KTAV Pub. House. ISBN 0-87068-701-8.
  • Sánchez, José M. 2002. Pius XII and the Holocaust: Understanding the Controversy. Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press. ISBN 0-8132-1081-X

External links

  • Papal Nuncios of 1933-1945: Ambassadors of the Vatican in the Shoah at Shoah Rose
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.