Pope Pius XI, after a sleepless night pondering a Europe gripped by totalitarianism as World War II drew nearer, resolved to work for better relations with French communists in a bid to oppose Nazism, says an Italian historian studying recently opened Vatican secret archives.
Emma Fattorini, a contemporary history professor at Rome's La Sapienza University, wrote about her findings in Sunday's edition of Il Sole-24 Ore, Italy's main business daily. She said Pius had shared his nocturnal musings with Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, his secretary of state who would succeed him as wartime pontiff Pius XII.
Pacelli kept nearly daily notes of his conversations with Pius XI, Vatican officials have said. On Nov. 6, 1937, Pacelli noted that the thought "came to (the mind) of the Holy Father during a sleepless, but calm and relaxing night,"' according to Fattorini.
According to the historian, Pacelli wrote that Pius XI was pondering what was known as the "main tendue" - French for the extended hand - a phrase used by French communist leader Maurice Thorez in 1936 in an overture to French Catholics.