Mr. Myron C. Taylor, Personal Representative of President Roosevelt to Pope Pius XII, to the President 85


My Dear Mr. President: I have the honor to submit herewith an account of my audience with His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, which took place at the Vatican on July 12, 1944.

. . . . . . .

The subject of Communism raises the question of the Russian attitude toward Poland.87 I assume the principal preoccupation of the Holy See in the Polish boundary question arises from the fact that within the territory east of the projected Curzon Line88 a portion of the population is of Roman Catholic religious persuasion. The concern of the Holy See naturally follows to protect its children in [Page 1218] the free exercise of their faith, and that assurance by Russia must be given and acted upon to guarantee them therein. The question then arises how could such guarantees be expressed and could they be relied upon?

In viewing the broader question of the Russian attitude re freedom of religion generally—following my discussion with His Holiness in 1941 and 1942, I carried on a lengthy discussion in London with Russian Ambassador Maisky.89 We reached a point where the Ambassador enquired what form of statement of assurance to be made by Marshal Stalin90 would be accepted. I did not feel competent to phrase such a vital statement without consultation. I informed His Holiness that I discussed the subject with the President of the United States, with Secretary Hull and others, including members of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy in America. The following statement was evolved:

“Because of the loyal participation in the defense of the Fatherland by all Russian people under the direction of constituted authority in the State, the Soviet Government by interpreting and applying Article 124 of the U.S.S.R. constitution publicly proclaims complete freedom of religious teaching and freedom of worship in all Soviet territory.
“Any abuse of these privileges, either to organize movements or incite the people to overthrow the Government, will be dealt with in each case according to law”.

I did not feel in a position to make use of this statement—anticipating as we did that I would soon be returning to the Vatican and that I would present the suggestion to His Holiness in person for his consideration.

It was hardly a subject for telegraphic correspondence.

Events prevented my return until the present time.

It would seem timely to discuss this subject now, when the British, Russian and Chinese diplomatic representatives are beginning conversations in Washington, on a preliminary draft of a plan for an International Organization to preserve the peace of the world.91

I alluded in general terms to this plan in my first and second audiences with His Holiness. It would seem that in the early stages of that discussion the question of religious freedom might well be put forward. Good faith on which such a great undertaking will need rest and on which its permanency will depend is a primary religious precept.

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What, then, can one suggest to Marshal Stalin? One cannot negotiate in a vacuum: a formula is essential. The dangers of inaction are often greater than mistaken methods chosen.

. . . . . . .

Following my last audience with the Pope, I had a long discussion with Monseigneur Tardini,92 Political Adviser to the Pope, who has very pronounced ideas on Russia and the spread of Communism. He objected to item II in the formula recited on page 3 hereof, but approved item I, as did His Holiness. I have promised to give each a copy of the formula and of the accompanying statement attached hereto (marked “A”).93

I attach hereto a translation of a portion of a speech made by a communist member of the Italian Government, July 10, 1944 (marked “B”).93

I attach a memorandum regarding Communism which the Pope discussed briefly in our first audience, but which was rewritten by Monseigneur Tardini (marked “C”).

. . . . . . .

Sincerely yours,

Myron C. Taylor
[Enclosure “C”—Memorandum]

1. In the U. S. S. R. the situation as regards the Catholic Church does not show any substantial improvement from what it was before the war.

The anti-religious Soviet legislation always remains in vigour.

Besides, the now very few survivors of the Catholic Clergy who had been arrested in Russian territory since the Soviet Revolution, were not set free nor were they afforded any possibility of exercising their sacred ministry. Only a certain number of Catholic priests, through an agreement with the Polish Government, in the second half of 1942, could leave the U. S. S. R., together with the Polish Army which was then leaving those regions. Also in this case not all the priests, previously imprisoned and deported from Poland, were set free, nor does it appear that they were set free after that date.

It has never been possible to learn of the fate of Archbishop Edward Profittlich, Apostolic Administrator of Esthonia, arrested in Tallin in June 1941 and deported towards the Urals.

2. Neither have certain events which have happened within the last two years, any value in modifying the above stated judgment about the religious situation in Russia.

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It is true that, even before the death (December 1940) of the well-known director of the Godless organization—Jaroslawsk (Gubelmann95)—the atheistic propaganda had practically been suspended. But this suspension, which did not at all mean the suppression of existing anti-religious literature, is very far from constituting a positive recognition of religious liberty, and it is not difficult to find an explanation for it in the desire to take into account the obvious reasons of political and military opportuneness and the psychological needs of a people in war.

The publication of a book entitled “The Truth about Religion in Russia”,96 is due also to propaganda purposes. This book, very widely diffused abroad in its various translations, and almost impossible to find in the U. S. S. R., is reticent, inexact and sometimes contains falsehoods.

The following information given by the “United Nations News”, June 28, is a proof of the kind of propaganda which is being carried on in this sense. According to the weekly review, “Colliers”, Russia has at the moment more than four millions of religious who care regularly for about 5,000 Orthodox Churches, 1,800 Roman Catholic Churches, 1,300 Mahomedan Mosques, 1,100 Protestant Churches, and 1000 Synagogues. For what regards the Roman Catholic Church this information is completely false.

Even the world press brought out the propaganda side of the reappearance of the Patriarchate of Moscow (September 1943).

3. The Soviet Communism—even after the suppression of the Comintern (May 1943)97—continues to be the propagating center of a most active Communist Propaganda throughout the world. All leads one to believe that this propaganda aims at diffusing those principles and doctrines, which remain today as the foundation of Soviet Communism, since they have never been renounced. These principles are essentially materialistic and the doctrines based on them destroy the personality of the individual to the advantage of the State, proclaim class-war, tend to the dictatorship of the proletariate and antagonize Religion.

This propaganda is carried on especially in countries through which the war has passed or is passing, and avails itself of the very miserable conditions of these peoples. It is well known how it is also being carried on in Italy, which unfortunately presents, because of the actual economical, political and social situation, a very favorable ground.

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Such propaganda is indeed very cleverly carried on, nor does it reveal to the inexperienced the erroneous principles from which it springs and on which it bases itself; in fact it rather proclaims even a tolerance and an understanding for the Catholic Religion, respect for the Faith and religious practice and offers collaboration. Thus is renewed the policy of the “Extended Hand”, already tried in other countries. However, because of the sad consequences which it has had, one cannot but entertain very serious concern.

4. Even recently there have been authoritative and not unimportant declarations by prominent persons and by representatives of various sections of the press, expressing from time to time, optimistic judgments on the religious situation in Russia and on the character of Soviet Communism at the present time and on its forms of propaganda.

Notwithstanding all this, in view of what has been stated above and after the sad experiences of the past, it is necessary to follow a policy of watchful expectation and reserve.

  1. Copy obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y. At the direction of the President, a draft reply was prepared for his signature in the Department of State. It does not appear, however, that the letter was sent. The President had instructed Mr. Taylor in a letter of August 3, 1944, to assure Pope Pius XII of his desire to cooperate “in all matters of mutual concern and interest” and express “appreciation of the frequent action which the Holy See has taken on its own initiative in its generous and merciful efforts to render assistance to the victims of racial and religious persecutions.” Myron C. Taylor, Wartime Correspondence between President Roosevelt and Pope Pius XII (New York, 1947), p. 113.
  2. The passages here omitted dealt with unrelated subjects.
  3. Correspondence on this subject is printed in vol. iii, pp. 12161446.
  4. In regard to the origin of the Curzon line, and for a description of it, see Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. xiii, pp. 793794.
  5. Ivan Mikhailovich Maisky.
  6. Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union (Premier), Supreme Commander in Chief.
  7. For correspondence pertaining to the conference held at Dumbarton Oaks between August 21 and October 7, 1944, see vol. i, pp. 713 ff.
  8. Domenico Tardini, Papal Under Secretary of State.
  9. Not printed.
  10. Not printed.
  11. Emelyan Yarolsavsky (Minei Izraelyevich Gubelmann), Chairman of the Central Council of the Union of Militant Atheists of the Soviet Union.
  12. A book published in Moscow in July 1942, with a preface by the Patriarchal Locum Tenens Sergey, which was the first official statement about the church in many years issued by Orthodox churchmen in the Soviet Union.
  13. Concerning the dissolution of the Communist (Third) International, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. iii, pp. 532543, passim.