The Pope at War Book Summary - The Pope at War Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

The Pope at War summary

The Secret History of Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitler

4.3 (227 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

"The Pope at War" by David I. Kertzer, explores the role of Pope Pius XI in World War II. It reveals the pope's complex relationships with Hitler and Mussolini, and how he struggled to maintain the Catholic Church's neutrality amidst rising fascism.

Table of Contents

    The Pope at War
    Summary of 7 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 7

    The death of a pope

    Sometimes you can see the future coming a mile away. Eugenio Pacelli, who served as secretary of state to Pope Pius XI, left a very distinct impression on those he interacted with. From ambassadors to statesmen to fellow cardinals, people viewed him as a devout and pious man but essentially lacking in will or character. Those opinions should have been a warning sign.

    At the beginning of 1939, an aging and ailing Pope Pius XI was going head-to-head with Il Duce, otherwise known as Benito Mussolini. Disgusted with his racial policies and fearful of his connection with Hitler, Pius XI was preparing an encyclical along with a speech. Both would take a hard-line stance against Nazism and the anti-Jewish laws of Italy’s fascist regime.

    Unfortunately for the world, on February 10, just days before the speech was to occur, the pope succumbed to his deteriorating health and died. Pacelli was immediately petitioned by representatives of Mussolini to put a stop to the printing and distribution of his predecessor’s speech. Pacelli agreed that it would be best to destroy any existing copies.

    The papal conclave which followed saw Eugenio Pacelli elected as pope. He took the name Pius XII after his predecessor even though the two men shared very little in common in terms of personality and character.

    Pope Pius XII was determined to be the pope of peace. He wanted to strengthen the church in terms of morality and piety. He was a conservative, in this way, and he viewed the church’s role as independent of nationalism. One day he’d give a speech based on Romans 13:1 which commands Christians to submit to the authority of their governments.

    These early days of Pius XII’s papacy were prophetic of what was to come. His immediate withdrawal from his predecessor’s plans along with his focus on peace without regard to justice were early signs of how he’d manage the rest of the war.

    While he generally demurred from taking political stances, Pius XII was anxious to participate in brokering peace. One of his first acts was to attempt to bring together a peace meeting. He was given platitudes by Mussolini and Hitler who ultimately rejected his idea, and no such meeting occurred.

    But meetings of another sort did occur.

    Want to see all full key ideas from The Pope at War?

    Key ideas in The Pope at War

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is The Pope at War about?

    The Pope at War (2022) follows the first years of Eugenio Pacelli’s papacy. Based on documents released by the Vatican in 2020, the book reveals the never-before-told story of the pope’s secret negotiations with Hitler.

    The Pope at War Review

    The Pope at War (2004) explores the role of Pope Pius XI during the rise of fascism in Italy and Nazi Germany. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Offers a fascinating insight into the inner workings of the Vatican and its political implications during a tumultuous time in history.
    • Presents a detailed account of the Pope's efforts to navigate complex diplomatic relations and maintain the Catholic Church's influence amidst growing authoritarian regimes.
    • Sheds light on the complex moral dilemmas the Pope faced, providing a nuanced understanding of the challenges he encountered during this critical period.

    Who should read The Pope at War?

    • World War II history buffs
    • Students of Catholic history
    • Anyone interested in why good people do bad things

    About the Author

    David L. Kertzer is an award-winning author, anthropologist, and historian. His book The Pope and Mussolini won the Pulitzer Prize in 2015.

    Categories with The Pope at War

    Book summaries like The Pope at War

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    32 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,500+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    The Pope at War FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Pope at War?

    The main message of The Pope at War is the Vatican's struggle for power during World War II.

    How long does it take to read The Pope at War?

    The reading time for The Pope at War varies. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Pope at War a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Pope at War is a must-read for history enthusiasts. It sheds light on an intriguing period of the Catholic Church's history.

    Who is the author of The Pope at War?

    The author of The Pope at War is David I. Kertzer.

    What to read after The Pope at War?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Pope at War, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Nazi Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch
    • Destined for War by Graham Allison
    • Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick
    • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
    • Unbroken Bonds of Battle by Johnny Joey Jones
    • The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
    • New Cold Wars by David E. Sanger
    • The Forgotten 500 by Gregory A. Freeman
    • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
    • Feel-Good Productivity by Ali Abdaal