Truman Library, Myron C. Taylor papers

No. 927
President Truman to Pope Pius XII1

Your Holiness: As a matter of courtesy and with highest esteem, I consider it advisable to recount my understanding of the origin, activities and termination of the Personal Representation of the previous President of the United States and of myself to Your Holiness.

This Representation began, I believe, with the suggestion made by President Roosevelt in 1939 that he “send to You my personal representative (the Honourable Myron Taylor) in order that our parallel endeavors for peace and the alleviation of suffering may be assisted”. Mr. Taylor at that time was acting as the President’s appointee, with the rank of Ambassador, as Chairman of the Intergovernmental Committee composed of the representatives, principally Ambassadors and Ministers, of thirty-eight nations engaged in the alleviation of the status and suffering of the Jewish people in Germany and Austria. It was President Roosevelt’s desire that Mr. Taylor come to You also with the rank of Ambassador, and Your Holiness acquiesced in this suggestion.

During President Roosevelt’s life, the contact through the Personal Representative with Your Holiness was already widely discussed in America. I was at that time told that Your Holiness has received large numbers of clippings from the American press indicating a growing opposition to any official representation, direct or indirect, to the Vatican. This file was given to Mr. Taylor for the President’s information. Nevertheless Mr. Taylor was continued in his mission.

Upon my accession to the Presidency in April 1945, after the untimely death of President Roosevelt, I communicated with Mr. [Page 2004] Taylor, requesting him to remain in his post and continue his work under existing instructions.

The rising tide of opposition to Mr. Taylor’s mission, commencing after VE Day in 1945 and culminating in 1949, had become quite serious—unfair to me, to Your Holiness and to Mr. Taylor—so that in late October 1949, after conferring with me, Mr. Taylor proposed his retirement from the Office of Personal Representative. He suggested as an alternative plan the naming of a Minister to the Vatican as was the accepted practice of many other countries.

Mr. Taylor’s own desire for retirement was not due to any slackening of interest on his part in his duties but on account of the reasons I have mentioned, as well as for other personal reasons which I believe he made known to you at that time. Following his discussions with me, he conferred with you on this subject in December 1949.

Upon his return to the United States early in January 1950, he submitted his resignation. It was then my intention to propose to the Senate after my report upon the state of the Nation, the nomination of a Minister to the Vatican. I was deterred from this initially and from time to time thereafter by certain legislation which made an issue of the allocation of Government funds to parochial schools, and transportation and lunch facilities for Catholic children throughout the United States. My legislative advisers in Congress, including those of Catholic affiliation, counseled strongly against the nomination at that time of a Minister to the Vatican. In the meantime the opposition of the Protestant churches had grown in intensity to a widespread extent.

Latterly, having in mind my assurances to You, when General Mark Clark was highly recommended to me as Ambassador to the State of the Vatican, I nominated him to the Senate for that post on October 20, 1951. I felt that he would be very acceptable because he had spent much time in Italy as the General in command of the Fifth Army, and would be well received both at the Vatican and with the public.

A perfect furore of opposition arose in this country which in the end induced General Clark on January 13, 1952 to withdraw his name. I had not suggested or proposed that he take that step as I was fully prepared to meet the issue presented.

The Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate was violently opposed to the nomination and indicated that it would not be brought before the Committee but would be indefinitely postponed. Many other reports came to me of the attitude of the Committee which indicated doubt as to the accomplishment of my objectives. I was told that this issue under such circumstances would create a deep cleavage in our population, [Page 2005] and that it would engender bitterness and strife between Christian faiths to the detriment of all.

Recently, with my approval, an item in the appropriations bill of the State Department included the sum of $70,000 to provide for an Embassy to the Vatican and an office and staff in Rome. When the State Department appropriation bill came in due course before the House of Representatives for debate and action, this item was made the subject of an amendment and defeated. Such is the present situation.2

You are already aware, I presume, of my own declaration in respect to a further term of office. Under these several circumstances I feel, to my deep regret, that it would be unwise for me to pursue my intention with respect to the naming of a Minister or Ambassador to the Vatican. No one can foretell the results of the elections in November of this year. I am advised by some of the higher representatives of the Roman Catholic Church in America that it would be most inadvisable to precipitate this as an issue on the eve of a national election.

I have concluded that it would be imprudent to begin and possibly fail in this undertaking, but that the question should be presented to the incoming administration, leaving it as much as may be without prejudice from any action of mine.

Ambassador Myron Taylor will shortly visit You and bring this matter to Your attention. He will present this letter and will confer with You on those current affairs in which You and I in our desire to maintain peace are so deeply interested.

I cannot bring this letter to a close without a word of tribute to Mr. Taylor’s extraordinary services. Throughout his long tenure as Personal Representative to Your Holiness he has constantly been beset with problems that would have thwarted a man of less steadfast purpose.

The mission aroused an opposition from sources which few could have foreseen. Happily, Mr. Taylor is an eminent citizen and an outstanding Christian gentleman who carried himself with great dignity as he traveled throughout Europe to promote peace and good will among the nations. He has at all times had my complete confidence and I like to think that Your Holiness had found in him a valued friend and wise observer of world trends.

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I have thus given at length the history of the vital aspects of this matter in order that Your Holiness will clearly understand my continuing regard for You, my respect for Your exalted office, and my personal esteem.

Faithfully yours,

Harry S. Truman
  1. In a letter of May 12, President Truman asked Myron C. Taylor to call on the Pope during Taylor’s upcoming visit to Europe and to present personally this letter. The President noted that Taylor, as his Personal Representative with the rank of Ambassador, could at his discretion enlarge orally upon the specific features contained in the letter. Taylor arrived in Paris on May 26. Memoranda of conversations he had with Monsignor Roncalli, the Papal Nuncio in Paris, on May 29; with Monsignor Feltin, the Archbishop of Paris, on May 31; and with Premier Pinay and Defense Minister Pleven on June 1, were enclosures to Taylor’s letter of June 1 to Truman. (Truman Library, Myron C. Taylor papers) Taylor left Paris for Florence on June 8. His conversations with Cardinal Delia Costa and with General Matthew B. Ridgway in Florence and his audience in Rome on June 24 with the Pope are described in his letter of July 1 to President Truman, infra.
  2. The purpose of the House provision was to prevent the President from making a recess appointment to the Vatican post by prohibiting the use of Department of State funds to support a new diplomatic mission to the Vatican until the Senate had confirmed whomever the President might appoint to that post. The Senate decided in June 1952 to drop this provision, because it felt that it was improper to inject religious issues into an appropriations bill.