740.0011 European War 1939/2881: Telegram

Mr. Myron C. Taylor, Personal Representative of the President to Pope Pius XII, to President Roosevelt 28

19. In audience with the Pope this a.m. lasting nearly an hour, I left with and read to him portions of your speech as reported in radio bulletin of the 10th.29 His Holiness was very much impressed. I emphasized the condemnation of aggression and also last paragraph in which you assembled the sentiment of the countries represented in such a way as to convey impression that under some circumstances something more than mere words would be employed to defend what might prove to be the last stronghold of civilization.

I urged upon His Holiness at the urgent insistence of the British, French and Belgian Governments, whose representatives visited me yesterday that he condemn aggression in no uncertain terms and he read to me telegrams which he has now sent to the King of Belgium, [Page 702] Queen of Holland, and Grand Duchess of Luxemburg. The various Ambassadors who called on me here have emphasized need of keeping prominently before the world, the idea of condemnation of aggression and I am confident you have that thought in your own mind. They, representing many governments, as in the case of the Pope himself, emphasized also the importance of America and public opinion in America upon events of the present and presently to develop.

My information is that the Pope advised Prince and Princess of Piedmont30 at their visit on Tuesday31 that the invasion of Holland and Belgium would take place on the 10th though the Germans denied any such intention. Some preparation to meet the invasion was made. Whether it proves adequate will be demonstrated by developments. The accuracy of this information, however, is worthy of note and it is unnecessary for me further to convey the source from which it originated although I am aware of it. It was disbelieved by diplomatic representatives. It is believed the invasion of Yugoslavia is not far away. I was advised of this more than a fortnight ago when the importance of the copper and bauxite deposits to Germany was indicated as one of the material reasons for the invasion. It has been said to me that the part of Yugoslavia that Italy covets is the Dalmatian coast. I am able to give you in utmost secrecy a vital part of the substance of the reply from Mussolini to the Pope’s letter which I paraphrase as follows: “Your wish to keep our country out of war is also my own. Up to the moment, I have done so but in this matter I have also to take note of the action of third parties.” This may be interpreted to mean the conduct of the Allies or the conduct of Germany. “I cannot, however, give absolute assurance that it will be possible for Italy to remain non-belligerent until the end, but I can assure you that it will not take part unless the necessities imposed by its honor, interests are demanded by evidence which makes it as clear to all as the sunshine itself.”

The only further suggestion that is made for your consideration is that the United States should make it clear through all means at its command that it will give real help. This may be done by statement from other sources than yourself if you feel disinclined to go further than you already have done.

Referring to your last message, it was quite unnecessary to assume any lack of caution in dealing with these delicate matters, for a lifetime of experience and accomplishment has not yet developed any lack of caution or discretion in matters confidential; in fact my previous messages have requested secrecy.

Leaving for Florence tonight. Have agreed to return here Tuesday.

  1. Transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in Italy as telegram No. 334.
  2. For text of the President’s address delivered to the Eighth American Scientific Congress, see Department of State Bulletin, May 11, 1940, p. 494.
  3. Prince Humbert and Princess Marie-José.
  4. May 7.