Italy Leads in Racial Questions, Mussolini Retorts to Pope

Premier Benito Mussolini yesterday indignantly repudiated as “absurd” charges made by Pope Pius XI that Italy’s new racial policies were an “unhappy imitation” of Germany.

He said: “I want you to know and I want the whole world to know that in racial questions we shall continue to be in the lead. To say that Fascism imitated someone or something is quite simply absurd.”

Mussolini’s incisive response to the Pope’s challenge was seen by some observers as heralding a serious conflict with the Vatican, with which he made peace almost 10 years ago. Seldom since 1831, when disputes between the Italian State and the Church threatened to disrupt the Latern treaty has Mussolini spoken so directly and defiantly toward the Supreme Pontiff.

Il Duce, in making the declaration used the phrase “Noi tireremo Diritto” — “We will drive straight ahead” — the same phrase which he pronounced as he marshalled Italian opinion against League of Nations sanctions during the Italo-Ethiopian war.

High Fascist officials and many prominent national leaders were with Mussolini when he made his declaration.

The Pope, in his address Thursday to students of the College for the Propagation of the Faith at his Castel Gandolfo summer home warned against “excessive nationalism” and imitation of the Third Reich’s racial theories.

His address was taken as a clear notice to Italian Fascism that if it continued imitation of Reich ideology it would be led into inevitable conflict with the Catholic Church.

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