740.0011 European War 1939/33596

The Apostolic Delegate at Washington (Cicognani) to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary: A recent communication of His Eminence, the Cardinal Secretary of State, informs me [of] the effects of a recent air raid over Rome, and I have the honor to make known to you the comments of His Eminence.

“Many civilian dwellings were destroyed and there were very numerous innocent victims in the air raid on March 14th, during which the Eternal City was subjected to prolonged and intense bombardment.

The increasing ruins in Rome are the source of deep sorrow and regret for the Holy Father. Granting that the Allied air forces seek to bomb exclusively military objectives, it is evident that all necessary precautions should be taken to confine the bombardment to such objectives. In Rome this should be relatively easy since that area is practically without anti-aircraft defense and the attacks are carried out in daylight and under conditions of very clear visibility.

The Holy See has fostered sincere hope that every possible precaution would be taken in regard to Rome, especially in view of the public declarations of Allied authorities in which it has been asserted that every effort would be made to spare historical, artistic and religious monuments. Now unfortunately the wholesale destruction and loss of life, especially among the civilian population, are the source of great concern for the fate of Rome, the center of Catholicism.

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It is well known that the Allied authorities in earlier stages of the war engaged every possible means to avert the bombardment of Cairo and Athens, not so much for military reasons but rather on account of the outstanding artistic and historical importance of these two capital cities. Willingly and effectively the Holy See cooperated in the project.

Now with the repeated bombing of Rome, the center of the Catholic Church, it is felt with justification that the sentiments and desires of the Catholic world are not being accorded the same consideration as was given to the Mohammedans in seeking to spare their city of Cairo. In respect to Athens too, the Eternal City has far greater claims to consideration for its immensely greater wealth of cultural and religious treasures.

The Holy See fully appreciates the laudable desire of Allied Commanders to spare whenever and however possible the lives of their soldiers who are engaged in the Italian campaign. That same desire on the part of the Holy See to see lives spared in every possible manner makes it the more painful to witness repeated and useless killings among civilians in aerial attacks.”

With the assurances of my highest consideration and of my deep personal regard, I have the honor to remain

Yours very sincerely,

A. G. Cicognani

Archbishop of Laodicea