860H.00/2–1949: Telegram

The Representative at Vatican City (Gowen) to the Secretary of State


Amvat 11. ReDeptel 6, February 14.1 Tardini,2 Vatican Acting Secretary State discussed this matter with me today. He said:

Stepinac prefers to remain a prisoner near his flock rather than regain his freedom away from Yugoslavia.
Vatican can but approve of this decision.
To release Stepinac and permit him resume full charge his archdiocese would only be act of justice. To release him on condition he leave Yugoslavia would be victory for tyranny.3
Prior to Stepinac’s trial, Tito conveyed to Vatican unmistakable suggestion Stepinac be recalled to Rome, thereby avoiding trial. Vatican refused this suggestion feeling Stepinac innocent, and because his conduct entirely correct. Vatican felt that to have recalled Stepinac to avoid trial, would have been unwarranted humiliation, both for Stepinac and Church.
No suggestion made by Hungarian Government Mindszenty be recalled, thus regaining freedom away from Hungary. Vatican would refuse such suggestion.
Only outright freedom with complete liberty resume charge their respective dioceses in Yugoslavia and Hungary would satisfy Vatican in these cases as Vatican considers both defendants innocent victims ruthless persecution. Department may wish inform Belgrade.
  1. Same as telegram 69, February 14, to Belgrade, p. 868.
  2. Msgr. Domenico Tardini, Secretary for Extraordinary Affairs, Vatican Secretariat of State.
  3. Telegram 15, March 28, from Vatican City, not printed, reported on a conversation that day between Tardini and Gowen. Tardini predicted that the U.S.S.R. would hasten to settle its dispute with Yugoslavia, and Soviet troops might soon be at Italy’s borders. Tardini expressed the view that limited Western aid to Yugoslavia in the form of foodstuffs might be acceptable, but war materials should not be provided because Tito as a Communist could not be trusted and would always be ready to turn against the capitalists in the West (840.20/3–2849).