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Pius XII begged FDR to spare civilians, churches, hospitals

June 10, 2010

The Knights of Columbus have published a recently discovered August 1943 letter from Pope Pius XII to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asking the Allied forces to spare civilians, churches, and charitable institutions. The fraternal organization, which found the letter in its archives, served as a channel between the Holy See and the United States in the absence of diplomatic relations between the two states.

“If under such circumstances Italy is to be forced still to bear devastating blows against which she is practically defenseless, we hope and pray that the military leader will find it possible to spare innocent civil populations and in particular churches and religious institutions the ravages of war,” the Pontiff wrote . “Already, we must recount with deep sorrow and regret, these figure very prominently among the ruins of Italy's most populous and important cities.”

He continued:

But the message of assurance addressed to us by Your Excellency sustains our hope, even in the face of bitter experience, that God's temples and the homes erected by Christian charity for the poor and sick and abandoned members of Christ's flock may survive the terrible onslaught. May God in His merciful pity and love hearken to the universal cry of his children and let them hear once more the voice of Christ say: Peace!

The wartime Pope, who was recently declared venerable, wrote his letter three months after the Allies began to bomb Rome. Five months after he wrote the letter, the Battle of Monte Cassino commenced, leading to the destruction of the history abbey.


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