The "Great War" and the Vatican: The Mysteries of Vatican Diplomacy Revealed

November 30, 2018

After several months of work on the archives of the Secretariat of State, a researcher has revealed the decisive evolution of the Holy See’s diplomatic action during World War I.

Johan Ickx is the director of the Historical Archives of the Secretariat of State. He has revealed several documents that shed a new light upon the relations between Bishop Eugenio Pacelli, then secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Allied Forces during the year 1915.

At the time, German propaganda justified the crimes perpetrated in the city of Louvain by claiming that there were mavericks hidden among the population. This argument proved to be false, but at the Vatican, they believed the German version of the story.

That was when five people came to Rome to convince the Holy See to change its position that was perceived as too favorable to Germany. One of them was Bishop Vladimir Ghika.

Enlightened by their first-hand information, the future Pius XII obtained the resignation of several pro-German Roman diplomats and developed a relationship of trust with the British government.

According to the Vatican archivist, this discovery both overturns the black legend of a Germanophile pope considered to have later proved guiltily complicit with the authorities of the 3rd Reich, and sheds new light upon the thoughts and actions of the man who was to become pope in 1939.

The results of Johan Ickx’s research is available in his book, La Guerre et le Vatican, les secrets de la diplomatie du Saint-Siège (1914-1915), published by Cerf editions.