The Zenit.org news agency gave its readers a previously unpublished letter sent by Pope Pius XII to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on Aug. 30, 1943, after the Allied Forces bombed Rome. The letter surfaced from the archives of the Knights of Columbus given that it has worked in Rome since 1920. The KofC has recently opened a retrospective exhibit of its work for the Church and humanity in Rome. An unexpected gifts. Why? Because the letter to Roosevelt shows that Pope Pius did advocate for the needs of the defenseless in a dark period of history and that neither Italy nor the Church were free to freely act. Also, the exhibit shows the kind solicitude the KofC has had and continues to have for the work of Christ and the Church.
Recent events have naturally focused the world's attention for the moment on Italy, and much has been said and written on what policy she would or should now follow for her own best interests. Too many, we fear, take for granted that she is entirely free to follow the policy of her choice; and we have wished to express to Your Excellency our conviction that this is far from true. Of her desire for peace and to be done with the war, there can be no doubt; but in the presence of formidable forces opposing the actuation or even the official declaration of that desire she finds herself shackled and quite without the necessary means of defending herself.
If under such circumstances Italy is to be forced still to bear devastating blows against which she is practically defenseless, we hope and pray that the military leader will find it possible to spare innocent civil populations and in particular churches and religious institutions the ravages of war. Already, we must recount with deep sorrow and regret, these figure very prominently among the ruins of Italy's most populous and important cities.
But the message of assurance addressed to us by Your Excellency sustains our hope, even in the face of bitter experience, that God's temples and the homes erected by Christian charity for the poor and sick and abandoned members of Christ's flock may survive the terrible onslaught. May God in His merciful pity and love hearken to the universal cry of his children and let them hear once more the voice of Christ say: Peace!
We are happy of this occasion to renew the expression of our sincere good wishes to Your Excellency.
From the Vatican, August 30, 1943
Pius PP XII