740.0011 European War 1939/33424
President Roosevelt to the Apostolic Delegate at Washington (Cicognani)
My Dear Archbishop: I have your letter of February 17 concerning the recent aerial attacks on Rome, especially in the outlying portions, and transmitting the urgent and personal appeal of His Holiness for their cessation.
The Allied military authorities in Italy are committed to a policy of avoiding damage to religious shrines and historical monuments to the extent humanly possible in modern warfare. This applies to the city of Rome as to other parts of Italy where the forces of the United Nations have been or will be engaged in active fighting.
However, we are fighting a desperate battle against a hard and unscrupulous foe whose ultimate defeat will accomplish the liberation of Italy and the Italian people. When the enemy uses all the facilities which a great center, such as Rome, affords in order to further his military campaign, thus postponing the ultimate liberation of the nation, these facilities must be denied him with all our force. When the enemy assumes a position exposing innocent civilians or uses a religious or historical shrine to his own military advantage, we have no choice but to attack and dislodge him. It is in the nature of a conflict thrust upon the world by evil powers whose strength is based on utter contempt of everything that is beautiful or holy that our military commanders may be obliged to make these painful decisions.
Our only reason in attacking any part of Rome is because it is occupied and used by the Germans. If His Holiness will be successful in persuading them to respect the sacred and cultural character of Rome by withdrawing from it without a struggle he could thus assure its preservation.[Page 1282]
Please ask His Eminence the Cardinal Secretary of State to assure His Holiness that it remains our ardent desire that religious edifices and other monuments of our common civilization be saved from damage. To the degree that the hard exigencies of the campaign, through German ruthlessness in the use of such monuments, may not require inevitable exceptions, this principle will be applied in the conduct of the war.
Very sincerely yours,