Truman Library, Myron C. Taylor papers

No. 928
Myron C. Taylor to the President

Dear Mr. President: While in Florence I took occasion, as is my custom to call upon Cardinal Delia Costa who evinced satisfaction in the progress that is shown in the local elections1 which resulted in many candidates being selected who are not adherents of the cause of Communism. This, however, did not change his opinion regarding the strength of the party as a whole within Italy which will have its real test in two years’ time when the national election recurs. At the present time the readjustment of the Communist party and the Socialist party brought about the recent results as I before stated. What the future may be with respect to the Socialist party in throwing its strength to one or another of the principal groups remains to be determined.

During the fortnight that we spent in Florence, the annual closing exercises of the Institute Pius XII were celebrated before carefully selected artistic and educational groups, with a small number of leading citizens of Florence. The activities at Schifanoia have proven so outstanding in character that it is generally accepted as one of the foremost agencies of its kind in Europe. The students showed marked improvement in their particular fields and elicited much praise from all those familiar with their work. The opinion is generally expressed that barring a recurrence of war, which would dislocate all matters in the European theatre, the Institute, under the competent and faithful direction of the Sisters of Dominican Order coming through their Mother House in Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, will achieve new heights of successful operation and give satisfaction to all who are associated therewith. I am attaching herewith a copy of a letter which I addressed to His Holiness Pope Pius XII [Page 2007] while these ceremonies were proceeding, and a copy of His reply thereto expressing His commendation.2

Before my arrival in Rome on Sunday, June 22, I had addressed a letter3 to His Holiness preliminary to my expected audience and transmitted to Him a proposed text of the book on the correspondence of yourself and His Holiness from the death of President Roosevelt to the time of my retirement as Personal Representative. You will recall last winter we had suggested this by telegram, both to Him and to the Archbishop of Canterbury, intending to include in the proposed book the various letters and correspondence to and with them in relation to religious cooperation of the churches in the interest of peace, and to which each replied in the negative regarding publication on the ground that such communication on that subject was strictly confidential in character and was not to be made public. This did not deter me from proposing, as is shown by the attached letter to His Holiness, the question in regard to the publication of the letters between His Holiness and yourself.

I received notice of a proposed audience on the Wednesday4 following my arrival, and presented myself at 9:05 a.m. and was received immediately after and remained in conversation with His Holiness until 9:50 a.m. I received a warm and friendly greeting, and the basis of our conversation was a resumption of the most friendly and cordial character. Contrary to all reports in the daily press, I found His Holiness in excellent health, very alert and most willing to discuss and to work with you, particularly in regard to peace, as had been indicated in your letter5 which I promptly presented. He proposed to reply to your letter and to send it to me in London before the middle of July.6

After the conclusion of the usual formalities, in which He inquired regarding your health and attitude in respect to the campaign and referred to the fact that He received your daughter in audience and was greatly pleased therewith, He sought information regarding the nominations by the principal parties in America, to which I could fairly contribute nothing of a definite character. We reviewed the position in Italian affairs, discussed Prime Minister De Gasperi as a leader, in which the statement was made that he is a very adroit political leader, but I entertained some [Page 2008] doubt as a result of our conversation in respect to matters economic and perhaps a broad statesmanlike grasp in the fact of present day world affairs. He, as last year, voiced the strength of the Communist party in Italy and once more was of the impression that the party as such had not lost strength, that it still claimed the loyalty of about one third of the population and was slightly increasing its numbers rather than decreasing.

His Holiness’ principal pre-occupation seemed to be with the affairs of the world in general and what was considered in America to be the ultimate outcome of this present most vital situation. I did not present to Him anything that might be considered your views but I indicated that in my own opinion the time was coming, and I believed it would shortly come, when the distemper of the world would so react upon the people and upon their welfare that force would need to be applied, as in the case of Hitler, to compel Stalin and his cohorts to cease their machinations that were upsetting and destroying the world’s economy to no one’s benefit. I reviewed the burden of armaments and their effect upon the debt of nations and the hardship of the people who bear the burdens which must in due course be lightened. In our own case I indicated to His Holiness the bonded debt of the Government as compared with what it was in peace times, the other national debt not covered by bonds, the state and municipal debts which have grown by leaps and bounds, and though the rate of service upon these, measured in interest, is relatively low by comparison to peacetime, another war would impose new hardship upon the nations, but that similarly the so-called cold war which we are prosecuting will in course of time amount to similar debt proportions. In due course the people would resent this growing burden and action might well be prophesied. His Holiness asked me to provide Him with a statement of these financial matters which I said I would do. My recollection is that a statement of that character was produced by the National Industrial Conference Board some time during the past year and I have wired my office in New York to secure copies of it. It would be helpful to me if I might have similar figures along this line from your authoritative State Department.7

To all of this the Pope replied that He still hoped for peace and prayed for peace, for a dislocation of everything in the world, including the established churches, would feel its effects particularly if the Russians were successful in driving into western Europe. I naturally envisage how it would affect the Vatican, having in mind [Page 2009] the Communist attitude toward the Church as reported in the satellite countries, with which you are familiar. His Holiness welcomes information upon all these points, and I assured Him of your cooperative spirit and that you also shared the belief that through hope and prayer a peaceful outcome could be attained.

While at Florence General Ridgway 8 called upon us at the Villa Schifanoia, was introduced to the Dominican Sisters and the Students, in all some twenty-nine souls. Incidentally, I have known General Ridgway for some time and his courtesy call during the brief time he spent in Italy was an act of great friendship. His Holiness questioned me regarding General Ridgway, to which I was able to respond in respect to his Christian character, his common sense and his ability as a soldier, as I have been acquainted with his career and his bravery in the last war.

We discussed briefly the episode regarding General Mark Clark, the withdrawal of his name at his own instance, and his promotion to the Command of the Korean front.9 He, too, was the leader of the 5th Army in Italy and elsewhere and I visited him many times at the front during the occupation there. His constant complaint to me in those days was that the British did not want to fight, and he was chafing under the compulsory inaction of his army as it stood before Pisa and after the taking of Florence. I recall at that time that General Alexander issued a statement that there would be no winter fighting, which bogged down the whole front after Jumbo Wilson had been succeeded by General Alexander.

Of course, I did not recount all these incidental matters to His Holiness but I gave the impression that we were now set up to deal a blow if it were necessary against the Communists on any front where they displayed aggression.

In taking my departure His Holiness wished to be remembered most kindly to you, to Mrs. Truman and Miss Margaret Truman and to assure you that you had His blessing and would always be the subject of His prayers. Indicative of His friendly attitude, He embraced me twice before I left, following the usual French and Italian custom of saying adieu.

I thereupon visited Monsignor Montini and had a brief discussion with him and then called upon Monsignor Tardini, both of whom represent the Department of State at the Vatican, and had an extended conversation with him. In substance our discussion did not vary greatly from that indulged in with His Holiness, at the conclusion [Page 2010] of which I asked Monsignor Tardini if he would prepare a letter indicating the attitude that he expressed, as did His Holiness, that matters of world danger could be resolved without the use of force. This he agreed to do and to send me such a statement before the middle of July at London.10 This should be interesting.

We left Rome on Saturday,11 arriving in London on Saturday evening thanks to the comfortable transportation facilities which were provided us. I have thought since being over here that it might be useful to talk confidentially with Dr. Dibelius from Germany and to endeavor to elicit from him what the reaction of the eastern Germans would be in the case of an attack on western Germany. I have heard many times from those who are in this theatre that they would not assist the Communists in any way whatever, so great and constant was their loyalty to the fatherland. I am considering sending him a confidential letter asking if he could come to London or to Paris to have such a conversation.12 You will recall that I had a similar conversation with him last year when he came from Greece to London enroute to Berlin.

I shall be happy to report further as occasion arises.

Faithfully yours,

Myron C. Taylor
  1. For information regarding the local elections held in Italy on May 25, see Document 726.
  2. Neither Taylor’s letter of June 13 nor Monsignor Montini’s reply on behalf of the Pope, dated June 26, is printed.
  3. Not printed; a copy of the letter, dated June 13, is in the Myron C. Taylor papers at the Truman Library.
  4. June 25. However, a chronology of Taylor’s activities during 1952, which is located in the Myron C. Taylor papers at the Truman Library, indicates that Taylor met with the Pope on June 26.
  5. The text of this letter, dated May 14, is supra .
  6. The text of the Pope’s reply, dated July 10, is infra .
  7. Taylor transmitted to the Vatican a brochure on taxes prepared by the National Industrial Conference Board as an enclosure to a letter of July 5 to the Pope, a copy of which is in the Myron C. Taylor papers at the Truman library.
  8. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, who succeeded Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, on May 30, visited Italy June 16–19.
  9. General Clark succeeded General Ridgway as head of the United Nations Command in Korea in May 1952.
  10. No copy of such a statement has been found in the Myron C. Taylor papers at the Truman Library. However, in these papers there is a copy of a memorandum from the Vatican, dated July 15, briefly describing the Communist situation in Italy, noting the reasons for the slight increase in strength of the Communist Party in recent elections, and concluding that “whatever support is given to initiatives tending to bring about an effective improvement in the social-economic conditions of the Nation cannot be other than of great utility, as, likewise every encouragement given to the Government that it may defend Democracy with vigor.”
  11. June 28. In London Taylor tried to arrange a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury but was unable to do so owing to the Archbishop’s absence from the city. Taylor returned to New York on July 13.
  12. A copy of a letter from Taylor to Dr. Dibelius, Aug. 1, is in the Myron C. Taylor papers at the Truman Library.