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Pietro Tacchi Venturi (1861—March 18, 1956) was a Jesuit priest and historian who served as the unofficial liaison between Benito Mussolini and popes Pius XI and Pius XII. He was also one of the architects of the 1929 Lateran Treaty, wherein Italy recognized the sovereignty of Vatican Citymarker, ending the "Roman Question" and making Roman Catholicism the state religion of Italy. An attempt to assassinate Venturi with a paper knife one year before the treaty's completion made headlines around the world. Venturi himself had begun the process of reconciliation by convincing Mussolini to donate the library of the Palazzo Chigimarker to the Vatican.

According to Susan Zuccotti, Venturi "had an uncanny ability to gain access where more official papal diplomats could not" and thus was utilized for some of the most important papal priorities. Venturi had no official rank in the church to match his extraordinary influence, and was known in Vatican circles as the "man in black".

Early life (1861-1922)

Venturi was a Jesuit, with an established a reputation as a scholar of history and literature. His magnum opus was a history of the Jesuits.

Venturi's another important work was the publication of previously unpublished writings of Matteo Ricci, arguably the most important founding figure of Jesuit China missions. The Opere storiche del P. Matteo Ricci, S.J (Historical Works of Fr. Matteo Ricci, S.J.) appeared in two volumes in 1911 and 1913, and included Ricci's letters as well as his Commentarj della Cina (Commentary on China), the Italian manuscript that had been previously published only in the expanded and edited Latin version of Nicolas Trigault (as De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas). However, Venturi's lack of knowledge of Chinese made it necessary for Fr. Pasquale d'Elia to produce another, better annotated edition of Ricci's manuscripts (known as Fonti Ricciane) some 30 years later, in the 1940s.

Venturi was the official historian of the Italian branch of the Jesuit order and the Secretary of the Society of Jesus from 1914 to 1921. Venturi was admitted into the Pontifical Academy of Archaeology and other scientific bodies.

Pius XI's liaison to Mussolini (1922-1939)

Chigi library donation (1922)

Mussolini "liked and trusted" Venturi, whom he had known since 1922, during the Fascist struggle for power. The friendship between the two predated Mussolini's rise to power. He thus became the "normal instrument for messages between the pope and Mussolini". Venturi's relationship with Mussolini became professional when Pius XI chose him to negotiate the purchase of the ancient library of the Palazzo Chigimarker from the newly created Fascist regime (the Italian government was on the verge of buying the collection). Venturi persuaded Mussolini to donate an ancient state collection of religious books to the Vatican free of charge. Vatican attempts to buy the texts date back to Pope Benedict XV, who lacked the requisite funds to complete the transaction.

Mussolini's donation became the start of the process of reconciliation between the Italian government and the papacy, which had been at odds since the Risorgimento seized the Papal Statesmarker. Along with Count Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law, Venturi served as the unofficial, yet authoritative "intermediary between Palazzo Veneziamarker and the Vatican". Venturi was also the personal Confessor of Mussolini and an adviser to the Duce on religious matters generally. His political views could generally be classified as a strain of Clerico-Fascism.

Lateran Treaties (1927-1929)

In May 1928, already internationally known as a negotiator of the Lateran Treaty on the resolution of the "Roman Question", Venturi survived an attempted assassination by "Signor De Angelis" with a paper knife, receiving only a neck laceration when he ducked out the way. Two years later, another priest similar to Venturi in appearance was killed.

The New York Times described Venturi as the "chief negotiator, who remains in the dark and is almost unknown". Noting Pius XI and Mussolini's penchant for privacy regarding the negotiations, the Times continued to describe Venturi as "a quiet man who could tell much" yet refused to acknowledge that he was any more than "Mussolini's personal messenger to the Vatican". Nominally, Francesco Pacelli (the brother of Eugenio Pacelli, future Pope Pius XII) became the chief negotiator and Venturi his intermediary with Mussolini during the final stages of the negotiation (after the death of State Councilor Domenico Barone). The other negotiators were Francesco Borgongini Duca, the Vatican's Secretary of Extraordinary Affairs, and Professor Gianinni Barone, the brother of Domenico; however, Venturi himself was the originator of the negotiations.

Venturi received the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus from the Italian monarchy in 1932 for his role in negotiating the treaty. Francesco Borgongini Duca, the nuncio to Italy from 1929–1953, supplemented Venturi as the official liaison between Pius XII and Mussolini, but Venturi retained his influence.

Mussolini novel (1929)

At the urging of Venturi, Mussolini wrote a second book—Una Conversione—about his conversion to Catholicism, meant as a sequel to his twenty-year old novel which was extremely critical of the church: Claudia Particella: l'amante del Cardinale: Grande Romanzo dei tempi del Cardinale Emmanuel Madruzzo (translated and published in English as The Cardinal's Mistress). Venturi himself wrote the preface.

Catholic Action (1931)

In 1931, Venturi negotiated the end to a dispute between Pius XI and Mussolini regarding, Azione Cattolica, the Italian branch of Catholic Action. Venturi was granted an unheard of hour-long audience with the pontiff during his summer vacation, and then an additional meeting with Cardinal Secretary of State Pacelli. The Vatican claimed that Venturi was merely "preparing the ground for official negotiation". Don Luigi Sturzo himself credits Venturi with ending the dispute.

Mussolini allowed the 15,000 youth organizations to reopen, but they were required to affiliate closely with the official Fascist youth organization, Opera Nazionale Balilla. The terms of the agreement were meant to give the Vatican a role in "Fascist Youth Education" and required that the Catholic organization be devolved to the diocesan level, with no centralized hierarchy, and that chaplains be attached to the Balilla chapters. Venturi himself sat in on the final meeting between Mussolini and the pope.

Drafting of the Anti-Jewish laws (1938)

Venturi was kept informed by Mussolini during the drafting of Italy's anti-Jewish laws, expressing concerns about the effect of the laws on Catholics, both through mixed marriages and Catholic converts from Judaism. Specifically, Venturi sought the lifting of the ban on marriages between "Aryans" and "non-Aryans".

Role under Pius XII (1939-1956)

Upon the election of Pius XII by the papal conclave, 1939, it was announced that Dom Francesco Tomasetti (d. May 5, 1953), the procurator general of the Salesian Order, would replace Venturi as the unofficial messenger between the pope and Mussolini after "a struggle of another kind, less open but having many of the same elements as that over the choice of Secretary of State". Venturi remained the official representative to various Italian government agencies such as the heads of police and general board of demographics and race. On a few occasions, Venturi used this influence to spare Catholic converts from Judaism from the Holocaust. Michael Phayer documents one such occasion where Venturi intervened on behalf of Croatian converts. Venturi is otherwise little mentioned in Phayer's book, referred to simply as a "Jesuit rescuer".

On the eve of World War II, Venturi persuaded Mussolini to give his approval to Pius XII's plan to mediate between the Five Powers. Through Venturi, who continued to be "very important" to Pius XII because of his weight with Mussolini, Pius XII communicated to the Italian government his disapproval of the French and British alliance with Soviet Russia, a government with whom the Vatican has no relations. Pius XII also sent Venturi to Brussels for mediation negotiations. Venturi was a key player in the negotiations, though they accomplished nothing.

Opposition to repeal of Anti-Jewish laws (1943)

In August 1943, when Marshall Pietro Badoglio, Mussolini's successor, was contemplating a complete rescission of Italy's anti-Jewish laws, Venturi met with the Secretary of the Interior and requested that only the portions affecting Jewish converts to Catholicism be repealed. In doing so, Venturi was advancing the position of Pius XII, as he later reported to Cardinal Secretary of State Luigi Maglione. Venturi assured Maglione:
"I took care not to call for the total abrogation of a law which, according to the principles and traditions of the Catholic Church, certainly has some clauses that should be abolished, but which clearly contains others that have merit and should be confirmed."

The Roman razzia (1943)

After the Roman razzia, Venturi recommended to the Vatican Secretariat a "symbolic and therefore sham inquiry into the fate of the Jews of Rome". He reasoned, "a step like this by the Holy See, even if it does not obtain the desired effect, will without doubt help increase the veneration and gratitude toward the August Person of the Holy Father".


Nothing else is known of the role of Venturi after the death of Mussolini on April 28, 1945, or for that matter after Mussolini's fall from power. Venturi died "virtually forgotten" on March 18, 1956, at the age of 95.


  1. New York Times. 1956, March 19. "Obituary 3--No Title". p. 31.
  2. TIME. 1928, May 12. " ITALY: Jesuit Stabbed".
  3. Zuccotti, 2000, p. 124.
  4. Salvatore Cortesi. 1928, February 11. "Italy to Indemnify Church, Rome Hears". New York Times. p. 4.
  5. "Dicionário Português-Chinês : 葡汉辞典 (Pu-Han cidian): Portuguese-Chinese dictionary", by Michele Ruggieri, Matteo Ricci; edited by John W. Witek. Published 2001, Biblioteca Nacional. ISBN 9725652983. Partial preview available on Google Books. P. 179.
  6. Chadwick, 1988, p. 62.
  7. Webster, 1960, p. 115.
  8. Webster, 1960, p. 122.
  9. New York Times. 1928, February 29. "Stabs Jesuit Agent in Vatican Issue". p. 5.
  10. TIME. 1931, September 7. " ITALY-PAPAL STATE: Man In Black".
  11. Edwin L. James. 1928, April 16. "Mussolini Presses Accord with Church". New York Times. p. 1.
  12. Arnaldo Cortesi. 1929, January 11. "Formula Reported for a Papal State". New York Times. p. 28.
  13. New York Times. 1929, January 15. "Italy Offers Pope Additional Land and Indemnity". p. 1.
  14. T.J.C. Martyn. 1929, January 20. "Holy See to Appear as a Sovereign State". New York Times. p. XX3.
  15. New York Times. 1932, May 4. "Italy's Chief Order is Given to Pacelli". p. 11.
  16. Morley, 1980, pp. 167-177.
  17. New York Times. 1929, May 26. "Mussolini Writing of his Conversion". p. E8.
  18. Arnaldo Cortesi. 1931, August 20. "Pope Consults Aide on Italian Dispute". New York Times. p. 6.
  19. Arnoldo Cortesi. 1931, August 26. "Italy and Vatican Approach Solution". New York Times. p. 7.
  20. Webster, 1960, p. 203.
  21. New York Times. 1931, August 27. "Mussolini to Make Peace with Vatican". p. 1.
  22. Arnado Cortesi. 1931, August 29. "Vatican to Share in Fascist Youth Education; Rome will Permit Catholic Clubs to Reopen". New York Times. p. 6.
  23. Arnaldo Cortesi. 1931, September 1. "Italy Begins Return of Clubs to Church". New York Times. p. 1.
  24. Arnaldo Cortesi. 1938, November 11. "Italy Intensifies Curbs Upon Jews". New York Times. p. 1.
  25. New York Times. 1938, November 20. "Italy's 'Race' Laws Take 15,000 Jobs". p. 33.
  26. New York Times. 1953, May 6. "Father Tomasetti, Head of Salesians". p. 31.
  27. Michael Williams. 1939, March 11. "Idea of Strength Radiated by Pope". New York Times. p. 4.
  28. Blet, 1999, p. 156.
  29. Phayer, 2000, p. 39.
  30. Phayer, 2000, p. 102.
  31. Camille M. Cianfarra. 1939, June 7. "Pope Seeks to Bar Soviet from Pact". New York Times. p. 1.
  32. Herbert L. Matthews. 1939, August 24. "No Military Moves Apparent in Italy". New York Times. p. 1.
  33. Herbert E. Matthews. 1939, August 31. "'End of Versailles' is Italy's Demand". New York Times. p. 7.
  34. Goldhagen, 2002, p. 149.
  35. Goldhagen, 2002, p. 150.
  36. Goldhagen, 2002, p. 170.


  • Blet, Pierre, and Johnson, Lawrence J. 1999. Pius XII and the Second World War: According to the Archives of the Vatican. Paulist Press. ISBN 0809105039.
  • Chadwick, Owen. 1988. Britain and the Vatican During the Second World War. Cambridge University Press.
  • Goldhagen, Daniel Jonah. 2002. A Moral Reckoning. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0375414347
  • Morley, John. 1980. Vatican diplomacy and the Jews during the Holocaust, 1939-1943. New York: KTAV Pub. House. ISBN 0870687018.
  • Phayer, Michael. 2000. The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930–1965. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-33725-9.
  • Webster, Richard A. 1960. The cross and the fasces: Christian democracy and fascism in Italy.
  • Zuccotti, Susan. 2000. Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-08487-0

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