No. 178 NAI DFA Holy See Embassy 14/5/1

Extract from a confidential report from William J.B. Macaulay
to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(MP 23/40) (Confidential)

Rome, 18 May 1940

Vatican circles are exceedingly pessimistic since the attack on Holland and Belgium and the success there to-date of the Germans. It is thought that a real break-through would bring Italy immediately in on Germany's side. What shape Italian intervention would take is hard to say but the Yugoslavs are very apprehensive that they would be the object and that the Hungarians would attack them simultaneously from the North. The seizure of Salonika by Italy is also suggested.

The English and Scottish Colleges have closed, all the students left yesterday. The North American college is closing in a few days. The Allied diplomats are ready to leave at a few hours notice and have burnt their archives.

I continue to be unconvinced that Italy will voluntarily enter a war for which she is really unprepared and the outcome of which is still in doubt. Despite the violence of the pro-German propaganda the people have no desire to go to war and their feeling would be manifested by serious internal disorder and widespread sabotage. One can conceive a civil war resulting, specially since it is said that in the North the people are very anti-German.

Italian intervention on the side of Germany, in addition to bringing the horrors of war to the country would, in the Vatican's opinion, entail serious consequences for the Church since German domination can be anticipated. Even now German power is evidenced by the prohibition of the sale of the Vatican paper and this by individuals in plain clothes against whom the Italian Police will take no action even when the most flagrant breaches of the peace are committed by these people under their eyes. Italians speaking English or French are beaten and the police move hastily away. A foreign priest was struck near St. Peter's on Friday for asking for the Osservatore, the attacker said he was acting under orders and defied a nearby Carabiniere to arrest him; the latter quickly walked off. The priest is Ecclesiastical Counsellor to a Legation but neither his diplomatic status nor his dress saved him. These acts of terrorism are widespread and are said to be instigated and financed by the German Propaganda Organisation.

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