Vatican bombing in WWII was work of Italian fascists, author says

Rome, Italy, Nov 13, 2013 / 02:32 am (CNA).- Following the 70th anniversary of the bombing of the Vatican in World War II, the author of a new book on the affair has concluded that the attack was carried out by Italian fascist forces.

The circumstances of the Nov. 5, 1943 bombing were long unclear, as was the bombing itself: Vatican City was a neutral country during the war, whose sovereignty was violated by the attack.

The bombs were dropped around eight in the evening from a small plane, and they hit the laboratory of mosaics, Vatican Radio, the Vatican City administration building, the palace of the courts where diplomats lived during the war, and the house of the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica.

While causing significant damage, there were no casualties to the attack. The office of then-Monsignor Domenico Tardini, deputy of the Secretariat of State, was completely devastated by the explosion.

Until now, the bombing had not been clarified. It was unknown who had bombed the neutral Vatican City and why. Speculation ranged from the Nazis, who were occupying Rome, to the Allies, who had already bombed Rome, to the fascists, allied with the Nazis in northern Italy.

“Bombs on the Vatican,” newly published in Italian and authored by Augusto Ferrara, seeks to shed light on the matter, and publishes for the first time photos of the attack.

In a conversation with CNA Nov. 5, Ferrara recounted that “after the bombing, an investigating commission was immediately formed to ascertain the responsibility for the bombing.”

The Vatican State Secretariat asked for an explanation from the embassies of Berlin, London, and Washington.

The Allies have been considered by many the most likely protagonists of the bombing, though both the English and Americans were surprised about the attack, according to correspondence published on Ferrara’s book.

Ferrara asserted that “after the bombing, a voice spread that the bombing was done from a Savoia Marchetti 79. That kind of plane, smaller than the Anglo-American ones, was part of the equipment of the Italian Social Republic.”

In July 1943, the Allies had invaded Italy, and that same month Mussolini was deposed as prime minister, and arrested. Then the Kingdom of Italy, under Mussolini's successor, Pietro Badoglio, and King Victor Emmanuel III, signed an armistice with the Allies on Sept. 3.

In response to this, the Nazis set up the puppet state the Italian Social Republic, led by Mussolini whom they had rescued from imprisonment. The Italian Social Republic controlled northern and central Italy, opposing the Allied push up the peninsula.

It was in the midst of this division between the Kingdom of Italy and the Italian Social Republic that Vatican City was bombed.

According to Ferrara, Vatican Radio was the main target of the bombing.

Fascists thought Vatican Radio “gave important information to the Allied Forces through its frequencies,” and this is the reason they decided to bomb it.

The plane which bombed the Vatican reportedly took off from the airport of Viterbo, a town 70 miles north of Rome.

Ferrara discovered that “the pilot was a sergeant Parmeggiani, who was ordered to drop the bombs by the prominent fascist Roberto Farinacci.”

That the attack was carried out by the Italian fascists, and not the Allies, is also suggested by a conversation between a priest of Rome, Fr. Giuseppe, and the Jesuit Pietro Tacchi Venturi, who was continuously in touch with Cardinal Luigi Maglione, Vatican Secretary of State.

The conversation is reported in the book “Skyways lead to Rome” by the historian Antonio Castellani.

According to Castellani, Fr. Tacchi Venturi lamented “the attack of the Americans” to Fr. Giuseppe, but Fr. Giuseppe replied, “they were not Americans, they were Italians.”

Fr. Giuseppe then underscored that “it was a Savoia Marchetti plane, with five bombs aboard to be thrown to the Vatican Radio station, since Farinacci was convinced that Vatican Radio transmitted military information to the Allied Forces.”

Following the attack on Nov. 5, 1943, Vatican City was bombed a second time, on March 1, 1944. At that time, six bombs were dropped, killing a worker in Piazza del Sant’Uffizio and injuring a Dutch Augustinian living at Santa Monica College. The attack seriously damaged the Palace of Sant’Uffizio, the Urban College of Propaganda Fide, and the Oratory of Saint Peter.

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