The Vatican, finance and Fascism — all, of course, seasoned with secrecy — are the appetizing ingredients of the supposed scoop in The Guardian, the authoritative London daily that published an article noted in the media but which does not really merit attention. Indeed it is a complex of imprecise and unfounded information — prejudiced and clumsily pieced together. It argued that the Vatican had built an international real estate empire with "Mussolini's millions", claiming that this fortune was obtained in exchange for recognition of the regime on the part of the Holy See in 1929 and that this exchange was heavily weighed down by the blanket of secrecy.
To complete the picture drawn by this article: unspecified British war documents supposedly testify to activities against the Allies' interests on the part of a company controlled by the Vatican. A cursory glance at the article suffices to see its inconsistency. But unfortunately, through its distribution, the damage has been done, and not only to the multitude of readers but even to the most elementary of historical truths.
It takes little effort to remind people of the fact that there was a financial agreement among the Lateran Pacts, which in 1929 brought the "Roman Question" to a close. In accordance with this agreement Italy provided a definitive financial indemnity to the Holy See of 750 million lira in cash and a billion lira in government bonds (approximately 1.2 billion euros). The text specifies that this sum was "inferior by far" to what the State would have had to shell out to the Holy See today in order to comply with the Italian Law of Guarantees which had already been unilaterally approved in 1871 but was always rejected by the opposing party.
The Lateran Treaty was consequently not a shameful agreement between the Catholic Church and Fascism. On the contrary, it was a necessary and a balanced solution. Through it, after more than 60 years, in fact, a painful wound in the country was healed. Thus, approved by a vast majority, the Pacts were inserted into the Constitution of the Italian Republic in 1947; and it has on the whole been evaluated positively by historians from different sides, and in various times by a great number of voices, including those of politicians such as Alcide De Gasperi and Palmiro Togliatti.
Lastly, as for activities on the part of the Holy See presumed to be contrary to the Allies, the historian Patricia M. McGoldrick of Middlesex University, London, has published in the December issue of the quarterly The Historical Journal of the University of Cambridge a long and detailed study on the Vatican's finances during the Second World War, which Luca M. Possati explains on this page.
Based on several series of documents in the National Archives of the United Kingdom, recently made accessible, this article — confirming what has emerged from historical research — demonstrates exactly the opposite of what is stated with such superficial flippancy in that article in The Guardian. The point is this: also through legitimate investments in a time of war made above all in the United States, the Holy See supported the Allies against Nazism.