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London, Sunday, May 28, 2000

How Churchill plotted to win the support of 'Hitler's Pope'

By Chris Hastings

WINSTON CHURCHILL asked Britain's most prestigious Roman Catholic family to lobby the Vatican during the Second World War in a bid to persuade it to abandon its support for Adolf Hitler.

Previously undiscovered documents found by The Telegraph show that ministers asked Lord Fitzalan, the uncle of the then Duke of Norfolk, to urge the Pope to denounce the Nazis and support the Allied cause. The 1940 papers reveal the frustration of the British government in the face of the Pope's refusal to attack the fascist powers of Germany, Italy and Japan.

The discovery of the letters in the Public Records Office, south-west London, will embarrass the Vatican, which is currently seeking to canonise Pope Pius XII, who has been dubbed "Hitler's Pope" because of his failure to speak out against Nazism. They also undermine the arguments of papal apologists who claim that the Allies understood the reasons for the Pope's silence because they appreciated he was in an impossible position.

One letter to Lord Fitzalan from Lord Halifax, the former Foreign Secretary, contrasts the valuable contribution made by British Catholics to the war effort with the Pope's continued silence on the issue. Lord Halifax warned Lord Fitzalan that the Pope's policy of appeasement was leaving Catholics outside Britain with the impression that a Europe dominated by Hitler was the Pope's preferred outcome to the war.

He wrote: "If the Catholics of, say, Belgium, Holland and France could be persuaded that somehow Nazism was reconcilable with their religious faith and moral outlook, then a potentially powerful centre of resistance to Nazi plans of domination would be removed."

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