Italy / Story
The Roman convents, whose extraterritoriality was guaranteed, hosted in 1943-44 many anti-fascist leaders destined to constitute the post-war ruling class.
There has been controversy throughout the world over Pius XII's public silence on the Shoah. However, the Catholic Church undoubtedly played a decisive role during WWII. In Italy, it exercised a kind of mothering both of the population towards collapse of the political authorities.
It also distinguished itself in rescuing different categories of persecuted people: soldiers who strayed after 8 September, former Allied prisoners, and Jews. In particular, the Vatican palaces and Roman convents became places of absconding for many antifascist leaders.
In the Pontifical Roman Major Seminary, for example, several members of the CLN found refuge: president Ivanoe Bonomi, Meuccio Ruini, Pietro Nenni, Alcide De Gasperi, Marcello Soleri (these two only until February), Alessandro Casati, Giuseppe Bergamini, Giuseppe Saragat (from January, after his escape from Regina Coeli).
In addition to the seminary, there were also people sheltered in the other buildings of the extraterritorial area: the Pontifical Lateran University, the palace of the canons of St. John's, the convent of the canon penitentiaries of the basilica and the convent of the Passionists at the Holy Stairs. In total, the number of refugees in the Lateran area amounted to about eight hundred people.
In addition to the anti-fascist leaders, a few main players of the Resistance Movement such as General Roberto Bencivenga and the Gappist Piero Calamandrei also passed through here. Then there were the four ministers of the Badoglio government who had not followed the king to Brindisi, as well as some relatives of Marshal Badoglio himself (and also his enemy Graziani).
There were also renegades, diplomats, professionals, industrialists, professors and university students (among them many Jews, such as the philosopher of law Giorgio Del Vecchio, the geographer Roberto Almagià, the mathematician Federico Enriquez, the student Raniero Panzieri; altogether more than 50 Jews were saved).
The mediating role of certain prelates was important: the rector Father Roberto Ronca, but also his substitute Giovan Battista Montini and Cardinal Nicola Canali; and above all Father Pietro Barbieri, whose home at 14 Via Cernaia, near the Marian Fathers, had become a place of temporary accommodation and clandestine meetings.