‘La Bella Italia’ an article by Jason Wordie on The Sunday magazine of 10 March 2013. Italy never honored its debt with the Vatican after 1929.

Here is a letter that I posted to the South China Morning Post.

Dear sir,

Jason Wordie in his article ‘La Bella Hong Kong’ (Post Magazine 10/03) discuss about the presence of Fascist Italy in Hong Kong. In particular introducing Edda Ciano, the first born of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, then married to Galeazzo Ciano (1903 – 1944)  Consul of Italy in Shanghai from 1930 until 1933.

Indeed Edda and Galeazzo were a very open couple, so to speak, and this is well known and documented, but that she had an affair with Chang Hsueh-liang (known as the Young Marshal) seems a great scoop made by Wordie, if true, which I doubt. As a matter of fact there is no record or hint about this. It is true however that the Young Marshal was a friend of the Ciano family and spent months in their house in Leghorn, Italy. The old people there still remember him for his love of riding at the Luna Park, screaming like a madman in the process.
It is also not true that Italy honored the incredible amount of money that Mussolini promised to the Holy See on signing the Treaty of Lateran in 1929. Yes, it was promised, but never delivered. Italy was a poor country back then and there were pressing issues at hand, more urgent than giving millions to the pope.

Kind regards

Angelo Paratico

 

Here are some quotes taken from Wordie which I would like to further comment:

“Recent newspaper investigations in Europe have exposed the extent to which the Catholic Church’s secular property empire was expanded in the early 1930s. Sizeable Italian state cash injections provided by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini enabled, for example, the acquisition of a large and extremely valuable central London property portfolio. But for decades, unsurprisingly, a thick veil of secrecy surrounded these commercial holdings and how they were secured. In 1929, Mussolini concluded a concordat, or “peace treaty”, with the Catholic Church. Internationally known as the Treaty of the Lateran, this agreement regularised relations between the church and the Italian state after nearly six tense decades following the unification of Italy, in 1871. As is often the case in religious affairs, underlying economic and political realities were more significant than any spiritual explanation would suggest. After unification, the church had lost control of the central Italian regions hitherto known as the Papal States – and the significant revenue that those territories generated.”

Not true – likewise false the article published in London – saying that Italy paid a large amount of money to the Vatican in fact Italy never paid what was promised in the treaty. The war in Ethiopia (1935 – 1936) and the sanctions imposed by the League of Nations bled white Italy’s finances. Then there was the civil war in Spain, which opened a larger hole into which Italy sunk the last available gold. This explain why Mussolini got even closer to Nazi Germany, which was providing coal and oil to Italy. When Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940, because Italy had no other viable choices, due to British unwillingness to compromise, Mussolini was certain that it will last for only 3 weeks. Italian soldiers had not enough bullets for their rifles, the navy had provision for 3 months.

Another myth worth dispelling is that was Mussolini who declared war. In fact was King Victor Emanuel III as Italy was still a Monarchy. Without the constant approval in writing by the King, Mussolini had no real powers.

Wordie again:

“…a shadowy businessman and bullion broker named P.G. Calcina, lived in Hong Kong for decades and eventually died here in the 1970s.”

So shadowy indeed that no one remember him, was he really Italian? By a quick search on google I can find that he worked for Jardine Matheson before the War, that his daughter studied at St. James School in Malvern, England and then university in New York after the war. The girl married an American Navy officer in 1956, an aide to John Cassady, Commander of the 6th Fleet. Was he really a shadowy Italian or a shadowy British double agent pretending to be Italian? I can’t say for sure.

“Edda lengthiest liaison was with Chang Hsueh-liang, the “Young Marshal” of Manchuria. A handsome, game-for-anything playboy (and former heroin addict), “Peter” Chang – as he was known within his wide circle of foreign friends – and the vivacious, free-wheeling Edda hit it off very well. So well, in fact, that the latter spent months at a time in Hong Kong, discreetly and apparently ecstatically ensconced at the Repulse Bay Hotel with Chang and his entourage.”

This is pure fantasy. Chang was courted by Galeazzo Ciano, not Edda, and for political reasons. Ciano invited him to stay in Livorno. That Edda and Galeazzo had several affairs is true but I don’t think that Galeazzo would take a lover of Edda, the mother of his children, into his home if he had suspected an affair with her. This was against the ethos of the fascist man, as he pretended to be. Not to forget that while in Shanghai she got pregnant and delivered her first son, Fabrizio. Guglielmo Marconi set up a special radio connection Rome-Shanghai to let grandfather and grandmother talk with her.

The British Secret service concocted a story according to which Galeazzo Ciano had a sexual liaison with the double divorced Bessie Wallis Warfield later known as Wally Simpson, making her pregnant. According to this file  Simpson, on the way back to England, stopped in India to have an abortion that rendered her barren. They presented this false report to King Edward VIII to convince him to give her up. Edda had always denied this story, admitting all the other infidelities. In fact she said that in Shanghai she discovered the womanizer nature of  Galeazzo and contemplated suicide, wanting to jump from the terrace at the Park Hotel in Nanjin Road. But then she tought that instead of killing herself she will pay back her husband with the same money. In spite of this subsequently she tried everything to have him freed in 1944 and never spoke or forgave her father for not having pardoned him. In fact Mussolini would have gladly spared Galeazzo’s life, but his hands were tied. All the shots in Italy were called by Hitler and Hitler had always hated Galeazzo Ciano.

 

 

A Literary Agency specialized in Asian Authors.

A new literary agency has been created in Hong Kong by Kelly Falconer, a dynamic editor and writer. Prior to founding the Asia Literary Agency, Kelly Falconer spent twelve years as an editor in London and Hong Kong, working for various publishers including Weidenfeld & Nicolson, GrantaConstable & Robinson and Virgin Books. She was the literary editor of the Asia Literary Review  in 2012.

Here is her company manifesto:

The Asia Literary Agency was founded in 2013, at the tail end of the year of the dragon.

Asia Literary Agency based in Hong KongThe Asia Literary Agency represents Asian writers, experts on Asia or writers living in Asia. We are conveniently based in Hong Kong, which gives us immediate access to this vast region, and we are selling to the rest of the world including the USA, the UK, Europe and Asia. We are also handling foreign rights for the Hong Kong-based publisher, Typhoon Media. We care about our authors and their futures, and aim to help them build their careers and flourish.

Here is the link:

http://asialiteraryagency.org/index.php/authors

 

 

 

 

 

Did St. Catherine Loved a Spy? Her secret work for the temporal power of the pope and for John Hawkwood, English Condottiere.

Pompeo Batoni – Ecstasy of St. Catherine

 

June 1375, Piazza del Campo of Siena. A capital execution is going to take place in a few minutes under the wat

Paolo Uccello - John Hawkwood - Florence's Duomo
Paolo Uccello – John Hawkwood – Florence’s Duomo

chful eyes of thousand of citizens. A round wood block is visible in the center, placed on a raised platform. The executioner is waiting, axe in hand. Then the spectators see a pale, thin, figure of woman rising unsteadily on the platform; she kneels and put her head on the block. No one move, holding the breath, a puzzled executioner looks around, seeking orders.

That lady was Saint Catherine of Siena. She was born in 1347 as Catherine Benincasa in Via del Tiratoio, near Piazza del Campo. Since she was very young she was greatly attracted to ascetic life; to the Medieval harsh ascetism, with all the repulsive overtones that we are no longer willing to bear – today a psychiatric test will be advised on such a girl– but she was possessed by a striking passion, that made her transcended and transform everything. Catherine was illiterate but she was dictating her letters, still in print today, that made her rise to become one of the greatest mystic of all times. She was taken by many for a living saint.
Modern readers of her letters are still impressed, 650 years later, because they contain a mix of violence, veiled eroticism and very pious feelings. In 1363 she had emerged from her cell, where she had spent three years in solitude, beginning her political career. Thank to her angiographer, Raimondo da Capua, a sort of press agent ante litteram who started to write about her in 1385, five years after her death, we know a bit more about her, but it is a very partial view.

Then, after Catherine, the real condemned man came up on the platform, and when he saw Catherine he laughted. She rose, speaking softly and caressing him, then she helped put his neck on the block and crouched close-by. The executioner’s axe rose and fell producing a hollow sound. Catherine took the severed man’s head into her hands, and then kissed the man’s lips, splashing her dress and face with his blood. All the bystanders stood in silence, hypnotized but what they were witnessing. Catherine calmly went down the block and walked home, keeping the men’s blood on her for weeks, refusing to wash.

Who was that man? We know that Saint Catherine met him several times in his prison cell and there is agreement among historians about his identity: he was Nicolò di Toldo, from Perugia.
Gerard de Puy, vicar general of the Papal States had tried to save his life, asking for leniency, but he failed because the accusations against him were rock solid. He had been condemned to death because he was accused, and found guilty, of sowing discord in Siena, in few words he was a spy planted to spread political subversion. A death sentence in Siena in those days for such crimes was indeed rare, unless a real murderous plot had been discovered.
It is highly likely that Saint Catherine of Siena was also involved in this papal plot to regain control of the rebellious city, but due to the fame of her sanctity she was left unmolested. There are also strong connections between Saint Catherine and John Hawkwood (to Italians his name was unpronounceable and for this reason they called him Giovanni Acuto) an English mercenary, running for decades a very successful mercenary company in Italy, mainly composed of British and German soldiers specialized in pillaging villages and cities.
At that time Hawkwood was on the side of the Pope, but in the past and, again, in the future fought against the Holy See. All depended on his personal interests. He was a very shrewd and successful soldier of fortune who had drifted south after having fought in France during the Hundred Years War, just after the treaty of 1360 who brought a lull of unwanted peace to the soldiers. He had married a daughter of Bernabò Visconti, master of Milan, and had been able to keep a spot-clean reputation even after the massacre of the civil population of Cesena in 1377, a shocking episode even for the low standards of the time, which did cost the life of 4.000 to 6.000 innocent people, murdered in cold blood. They were thrown out of their bed during a night-raid and put to the sword. John Hawkwood was so successful in his long career that he was finally buried in the Duomo of Florence, in 1394, under a splendid fresco painted by Paolo Uccello.
It is certain that St. Catherine conspired against the Sienese government together with the Salimbeni, a very powerful family, papal partisans with castles and towers in Maremma and Val D’Orcia, together with her mentor and biographer, Raimondo da Capua. An old Florentine chronicler, writing about Saint Catherine, noted: “She was esteemed like a prophet by some, but by the others she was held to be a hypocrite and a wicked woman.”

1. Lincoln, a movie by Steven Spielberg. 2 An Italian Map in the movie. 3 Abolition of slavery by Doge Pietro IV for Christian slaves. 4 Garibaldi received an offer from Lincoln to become the Commander in Chief of the Northern Army. 5 An Interview with Arrigo Petacco.

Doge Pietro IV Candiano by Tintoretto.

This film is a historical drama, first released in 2012. It is also now shown in Hong Kong’s cinemas, after receiving two Oscars in Hollywood: for best actor and for best production design. Apparently this was a great success for Spielberg but it was below his expectations, even if the costumes and the acting by Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) were indeed superb. About historical accuracy opinions are mixed but, generally speaking, there is a consensus that Spielberg tried his best to stick to facts.

The story around which the movie revolves is about the struggle put up by Abraham Lincoln to have the XIII amendment enshrined into the American Constitution, to outlaw slavery and involuntary servitude. It was adopted by the US Senate on December 6, 1865.
This is a very ‘American’ movie intended mostly, I believe, for home consumption. In fact slavery was abolished earlier in Europe than in the US were such blemish on their honor was erased too late, only after an horrible war.

Italian Connections
As a matter of fact the first Country to abolish the slave trade – but when Christians were involved – was Venice, under Doge Pietro IV Candiano. This happened in June 960. Nine hundred years before Lincoln and, by sheer coincidence, the twentieth Doge of the Venetian Republic suffered a fate similar to that of the 16th President of the United States. Pietro IV and his son were murdered near San Marco Square and their bodies thrown into a slaughterhouse. Later they were picked up and buried in Sant’Ilario Church.

At the beginning of the movie the spectators see a color map showing a Country, the US, split in two by the warring factions. This map is in fact Italian, as it can be clearly see by the legenda put on its left side. Probably Spielberg could not find an old map as detailed as that but made in the US.

Another connection, unknown to the general public, is the fact that Abraham Lincoln asked general Giuseppe Garibaldi to take command of the Northern Forces at the beginning of the war, but Lincoln’s offer was turned down by Garibaldi because, somehow, Lincoln was unable to offer Garibaldi’s the guarantee he had requested. This point is futher explained in the following article, published by The Guardian on 8 February 2000.

A frayed postcard in a Turin archive has revealed one of the most audacious gambles of the American civil war. Abraham Lincoln offered the command of the northern forces to Giuseppe Garibaldi, who had unified Italy.
The US president, his forces hammered by the Confederate army, turned in desperation to Garibaldi, spawning one of the greatest ‘what if’ in history.

Rumours of Lincoln’s offer have circulated for a century had been denied by American scholars, but a document proves it was no just a myth, said Arrigo Petacco, a historian.

He stumbled across the faded blue postcard, from Garibaldi to King Victor Emmanuel II telling the king about  the offer, last week while rummaging in 90 boxes of material donated by Italy’s exiled royal family.

Garibaldi caught the world’s imagination in 1860 after invading Sicily with 1,000 lightly armed red-shirts. They defeated 12,000 Neapolitan troops, took the island and, determined to unify the Italian peninsula, invaded the mainland. They occupied Naples and unleashed a wave of support.

According to Mr Petacco, the rebel, who in the 1850s had led an army in Uruguay and travelled through the US, was also a mason. The international masonic lodge successfully lobbied for him to be granted American citizenship.

Garibaldi was ready to accept Lincoln’s 1862 offer but on condition, said Mr Petacco: that the war’s objective should be set on the abolition of slavery. But at that stage Lincoln was unwilling to make such a statement lest he worsen their agricultural crisis.

“Later they offered Garibaldi the command of one unit, rather than the whole army, but at that point it was too late and he had gone on to do other things,” Mr Petacco said. “In Italy we always knew, but there was always a lot of scepticism in America. Now we know for sure.”

Was Hitler ill?

A review of the book “Was Hitler ill? A final diagnosis” by Hans-Joachim Neumann and Herik Eberle. Polity Press, 2013.

This is indeed a very well researched work, originally published in Germany in 2009 under the title of “War Hitler krank?”
Several books and articles were published on this subject after Hitler’s death, because this was, and remains, a delicate question to ask, albeit not new. The implications could be heavy. If the authors could prove that Adolf Hitler was, in fact, an ill man, this alone would impact heavily on some of the fateful decisions he took during WWII and, above all, in masterminding the Holocaust.
First of all we should say that this book, written jointly by a physician and a historian, in the future will be probably considered one of the most detailed and scientifically well researched work on this subject. But we are not under the illusion that, in spite of it, the raucous voices of speculators, Holocaust-deniers and NeoNazi will be not silenced.

“Hitler was never sick” said Professor Theodor Morell (1886 – 1948) Hitler’s personal doctor, speaking to Professor Karl Brand, a surgeon (later hanged at Nuremberg). The conclusion reached by the authors of this book seems to agree with Dr. Morell assessment. Hitler was certainly a man in need of medical care but who remained always in command of his will, showing a remarkable clarity of mind.
Professor Morell was not interested in politic or history and he was a repulsive individual who did not wash much — he was ‘a fat, snoring and smelly pig’ according to Hitler’s entourage who detested him — but who could keep the full trust of his important patient up to the end of the war. Dr. Morell was mainly interested in making money and saving his neck, for this reason he left behind notebooks filled with detailed notes with the type and doses of prescriptions he was administering to Patient A. as he called Hitler. It is not true, as thought before, that he went close to poisoning him with pills containing cocaine, arsenic and Belladonna. In fact Hitler took them, together with around eighty other prescriptions, but all in safe doses. Some had been indeed beneficial to him and for the majority of the others they were harmless.
Another point discussed in the book is — already the subject of several works — about the gassing and blinding of Hitler during WWI and the possibility that the subsequent hypnosis treatment performed by psychiatrist Edmund Forster changed his character. There are writers who tried to demonstrate that Foster convinced Hitler, under hypnosis (after realizing that his blindness was only hysteric and not real) that he had a greater purpose in life: to lead the German Nation to victory. Then he did not wake him up completely from his hypnotically induced sleep, creating thus a sort mental Frankenstein. Dr. Foster and all those involved in this story were in fact murdered or committed suicide in strange circumstances, but this was probably due to the fact that in those days only a hint of Hitler lack of nerve at the front was tantamount to calling him a coward.

Morell lost his professional battle against the other doctors assisting Hitler just a few days before the end of the war, when he was summarily dismissed. This allowed him to leave the Berlin’s bunker in time and his being pig-headed helped him not to be executed at Nuremberg, a fate befallen on several of his colleagues for the part they played in the euthanasia programs of handicapped people. Another doctor who escaped the gallows was SS general Leonardo Conti, Reich Health Leader (Italian-Swiss father and German mother) but just because he hang himself in his prison cell.

Only one small, constructive, critic that I wish to make before closing. The authors forgot completely to mention that Hitler trusted so much Morell that in fact asked him to provide the name of a colleague to send to assist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. The name of this pupil of Morell was George Zacharie. Mussolini could not refuse him after he became Hitler’s puppet at the end of 1943. In fact Zacharie proved to be a very capable doctor, as well as a spy, who kept his masters, Morell and Hitler, always in the loop about the state of health and depressive mood of the Italian dictator. Dr. Zacharie remained close to Mussolini, perhaps sincerely bewitched by his protean personality, until 25th April 1945. After the war he published his memoirs, which remain an important historical document as well as an interesting reading.

Angelo Paratico

FROM RUSSIA, WITH A BANG!

A meteor has fallen on the Urals yesterday, 1500 km from Moscow, injuring a thousand and two hundred people. Fortunately, that was just a small stone that exploded in mid air, breaking up, due to a high speed and heat.
This is not a completely new event and people of the news remind this fact to us during their presentations, speaking of Tunguska, but without going into details. We try to provide a few details here.
Indeed there is a similar episode happened one hundred and five years ago in an area not far from Chelyabinsk, in the Urals.

Tunguska is the name of the place and the sky did fall down, literally, on the 30th of June 1908 at 7: 40 AM. This place is about 700 kilometres far from Irkutsk in Siberia.
What happened there was indeed a unique catastrophic event, but in spite of all the research put up since then, there is no certainty about what exactly hit our Planet. The effects were similar to an atomic explosion, but no isotopes were ever found, so it cannot be a natural nuclear chain reaction. As a matter of fact traces of an atomic explosion, 1.8 million years old, were found in Africa. If we exclude an extraterrestrial intervention (here the movie ‘Planet of the Apes’ comes to mind) then we must conclude that it was a natural phenomenon cause by an high quantity of Uranium in the soil, which created a critical mass.
What we know for certain is that the mysterious thing, which hit Siberia that morning, shook the Earth and disturbed its magnetic field. In Nord-Est Europe, for a few days, a strange blue luminosity was noticed at the sunset and the barometers gave strange readings. In Germany the instruments recorded sound waves travelling at high speed around the Earth. Our grandfathers suspected that a great volcanic eruption, similar to the Kracatoa explosion, recorded just 25 years before, had happened again. Some journalist wrote about it on their papers but then all was forgotten.

Scientists reached that remote region of Siberia only 19 years later and found a circular range with a diameter of 30-40 kilometres where all trees had fallen, but in a strange way, at the centre they were still pointing skyward while around they were sucked forward, not backward and their bark had disappeared. They found some old witness among the local Tungus and the few exiles sent there by the Zarist regime. The first scientist to reach the area in 1929 was Leonid Kulik, a geologist, by profession, who spoke to a farmer that was at 65 kilometres far from the impact area and could remember very well that morning. He told him that he was sitting outside his shack and suddenly he saw ahead of him a blinding light and then he felt burning heat on his face, his cotton shirt catch fire. Then darkness fall and a thundering bang caused pain to his ears and threw him on the ground. He fainted but waking quickly up he could still hear a rumbling noise coming from afar then he found that all glasses were shattered and his shack had been moved backward by a couple of meters.
The fall of some kind of meteorites could explain a part of the phenomenon of the hit but not all. In particular Vasily Fesenkov, a Russian expert in meteorites, who wrote about Tunguska thought that such trajectory of impact was impossible. A meteorite could not hit the Earth at that hour of the morning in that particular place, as meteorites go around the sun in anti clockwise direction. Perhaps it was a comet, he thought and the iced gas inside which could have provoked such huge explosion.

More recently a detailed study was carried out by three American physics with a first class reputation: Willard Libby, a Nobel Prize for Physics; Clyde Cowan, one of the first scientists to describe the behaviour of neutrinos and an assistant of Libby. They carried out an ambitious and detailed study of the entire hypothesis considered for Tunguska.
They put aside the Comet’s hypothesis because of its size and short angle of impact, as it should have been clearly visible in the sky before that smashing hit.
According to them a viable idea could be a hit by an anti-matter body. They indeed discovered that during the year 1909 the quantity of C14 in the trees was higher than normal – if anti-matter was, then that isotope should have been very high. They found a higher than normal quantity of C14 but not high enough.
Then we have a study by Jackson and Ryan of the University of Texas. They came up with the fanciful idea that it could have been a micro black hole travelling in space, this mean a fast and invisible body. The first burst of light should have been in the field of UV spectre, which could explain the blue light that was observed as far as London.
The idea of a meteorite (a spent comet) had been revived recently with a research carried out on site by Italian scientists six years ago, and this seems the most probable hypothesis.

Photo: Tunguska’s epicentre in 2008. The scars are still visible.

500th anniversary of the composition of The Prince by Niccolo’ Machiavelli.

Machiavelli wrote it in 1513, but then it was published only in 1532, posthumously. Machiavelli died in 1527.

The first English edition was printed in 1640 and has sold recently at an auction for 24.500 GBP.

see here:
http://www.paulfrasercollectibles.com/News/BOOKS-%26-MANUSCRIPTS/2012-News-Archive/The-Prince-first-edition-sells-for-$24,500-in-UK-auction/11942.page

Dino Messina is an editorialist and an historian working for the Corriere della Sera, the main daily newspaper in Italy. It is indeed a great pleasure to read his stimulating articles and then leave a comment or two in his blog. Strangely enough the comments there are indeed rare, but on the other hand you may be sure that Dino Messina is going to answer and comment on your comments.

One of his latest articles concerns, as the title imply, Nicolo’ Machiavelli.

Here is his original entry:

La fortuna di Machiavelli (e del suo cliché)

I was able to catch Messina slightly off-gard when he repeated the usual cliche’ that Machiavelli never said: “The ends justify the means” accusing the Jesuits to have create such false impression.
However, Jesuits know well how to read and interpreter books!

As a matter of fact Machiavelli wrote it several times, even if not ‘verbatim’ the closest words are those he used in a report written to the Gonfaloniere of the Florentine Republic, Pier Soderini. The title is:

Ghiribizzi scripti in Perugia al Soderino’

Here below is my comment, waiting to be published on the blob of Dino Messina.

Ghiribizzi scripti in Perugia al Soderino

Questa e’ una relazione scritta da Machiavelli nel 1506, mentre stava al seguito delle truppe papali alla riconquista di Perugia e di Bologna.
‘Si habbi nelle cose ad vedere il fine e non il mezzo.’
Si’, ci furono altri storici ed esegeti di valore, fra i quali coloro che lei cita, Prezzolini pero’ lo rese popolare nel mondo. Una piccola curiosita’ personale: passeggiando per un mercatino delle pulci una ventina d’anni fa in una cittadina statunitense trovai un banchetto con opuscoli e libri in italiano. Era quanto restava della libreria di Allan H. Gilbert, un italianista con varie opere su Dante e Machiavelli al proprio attivo. Venni via trascinando un sacco di tela con una ventina di chili di carta dentro (pagati pochi dollari, forse 200 per tutto) che poi spedii in Italia. Perlopiu’ opuscoli e dispense ma il catch maggiore furono gli otto volumi delle opere complete di Machiavelli, Italia 1813. Tutto annotato dal Gilbert. Cordiali Saluti. Angelo Paratico

A sad note to conclude our article, there is not yet a National Edition of all the works and letters of Nicolo’ Machiavelli.

Something like to say that the Indice of the Forbidden Books by the Catholic Church, into which his name was unjustly written, it is still in force. Because of such prohibition, born out of a gross misunderstanding, the editions which were printed in the last four and half centuries are always incomplete.

I personally own a “testina” edition besides the edition mentioned above, dated 1813 and not giving the city of printing, but a modern, official and complete one, is still sorely missed. The ministry of culture should spare some of its money to collect the works of this genial Italian of the past and add criticism and notes.

Relics of the blessed Carlo Spinola sj donated to Macau

On the occasion of the exhibition ‘Journey to the End of the World – Michele Ruggieri and Jesuits in China’ (29 November 2012 – 3 March 2013, Macau Museum) dedicated to Jesuit Michele Ruggieri, a relics of Blessed Carlo Spinola will be shown to the public. The relics is a gift donated by Angelo Paratico to the Government of Macau.

During an interview (www.spinola.it), Dr. Angelo Paratico explained how he found the relic: in 1995, in a bookbindery situated in Via della Scrofa (Rome), he was attracted by a small piece of paper with a name on it – Spinola – and a small silver reliquary containing a white piece of fabric. The document, written in Latin and dated 1869 – the year in which Carlo Spinola sj was dec;lared blessed by the pope – presented the title bishop “episcopi Nicaensi” indicating that the relics contained a fragment of the shirt of the blessed Carlo Spinola. Back in Hong Kong, after discussing with Gianni Criveller, a PIME (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions) father and historian who autenticated it, Angelo Paratico expressed his wish to donate that relics to the Government of Macau.

This small religious memento of the blessed Carlo Spinola sj is now owned by the Cultural Department of the Government of Macao and will remains in the in the exhibition dedicated to Father Michele Ruggieri until its end. Then the common wish is that will be put in the nearby museum inside San Paulo Church.

Carlo Spinola was born in Genoa (or Madrid according to some) in 1564. Educated in Spain and in Italy, in 1594 he was ordained Jesuit and in 1596 was sent for a mission to the East. First he did stop of a few years in Macau, then he was directed to Yokohama in Japan, where he worked to expand the Christian community in that country. In 1614, all foreign missionaries were banished, but Spinola refused to abandon his flock, and after enduring four years of captivity, he was burnt at the stake in 1622.

The Church of Sao Paulo in Macau, built between 1602 and 1637, was built upon a project and design left behind by Father Carlo Spinola sj.

Date: Thursday, November 29, 2012 – Sunday, March 03, 2013

Time: 10:00 a.m. – 06:00 p.m.

Venue: Exhibition Gallery, 3rd floor of Macao Museum, Macau

Organized by: Mondo Mostre / Cultural Affairs Bureau / Macao Museum / National Archives of Rome

In collaboration with: Consulate General of Italy in Hong Kong and Macau / Italian Cultural Institute

Did Churchill order Mussolini’s death, HK novelist asks Sunday, 12 September, 2010, 12:00am

Alex Lo

Click here to find out more!

Who killed Mussolini? That question has inspired one of the most enduring conspiracy theories to have emerged out of the second world war. Now, a Hong Kong-based author has helped reignite the old controversy.

 

Most students of history know that Italian communist partisans killed Il Duce and his mistress, Clara Petacci. There is, however, another version that has always lingered on the fringes like the illegitimate offspring of proper history. In this theory, agents from the British Special Operations Executive, working with the partisans, killed Mussolini – on the orders of Winston Churchill.

 

This conspiracy theory has now been resurrected, thanks to two new books. One is called Les Derniers Jours de Mussolini (The last days of Mussolini) by Pierre Milza, a French historian and specialist in Fascist Italy. The other is titled Ben – a historical novel written by Hong Kong-based Italian novelist and journalist Angelo Paratico – which was published this summer in Milan. Both titles have the Italian and British press up in arms.

 

The Italian press is, by and large, sceptical about the books’ thesis. However, Paratico says many Italians believe the story, including the late Renzo De Felice, the dean of studies of Italian Fascism and Mussolini.

 

Writing in The Daily Telegraph in Britain, author and historian Guy Walters angrily dismissed the theory. ‘No! No! No! Churchill did not order the assassination of Mussolini,’ he wrote. ‘Milza’s claims should go straight in the big dustbin along with claims about Josef Mengele’s secret tribe of twins and Hitler surviving the war.’

 

Of the two titles, Paratico’s book is the less historically upsetting, because he merely uses the British-inspired assassination plot as the setting for the exploits of his hero, an SOE operative dispatched by Churchill to do his dirty deed. Milza, however, wrote about the plot as history. Churchill, Milza believes, wanted Mussolini killed to hide the existence of secret correspondence, the most compromising part of which was his alleged attempt to entice Il Duce into a separate peace. This would have violated his prior agreement with US president Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

Even though he had written a fictional novel rather than a historical account, Paratico believes this conspiracy theory to be true, or at least close to what really happened. ‘Before I started on my book, around three years ago, I thought this story was just crap, but now I believe it is close to the truth,’ he says.

 

Milza argues that Churchill spent holidays in Italy in 1945 and 1951 not to rest by the shores of beautiful Lake Como, but to retrieve the secret letters and related documents. ‘Perhaps he went there just to paint,’ Milza writes. ‘It is credible, however, that he was there for other reasons, as one now knows a certain number of trunks were thrown into the lake with documents and booty and perhaps the services had a look for them. We cannot completely eliminate this theory.’

 

Walters believes the whole fantastic story originates from Otto Skorzeny, the famed Nazi SS officer and commando who rescued Mussolini in 1943 on Hitler’s orders after Italian general Pietro Badoglio put the Fascist dictator under arrest and signed an Italian armistice with the Allies. Skorzeny survived the war and claimed he had the secret Churchill-Mussolini correspondence. But when the letters saw the light of day, most competent authorities judged them to be amateurish fakes.

 

However, the Hong Kong author thinks the whole conspiracy theory has another, Italian source. There was an Italian partisan called Bruno Giovanni Lonati, who claimed he actually shot Mussolini on April 28, 1945.

 

‘Lonati is still alive, close to 90 years old,’ Paratico says. ‘He went public with his story about 30 years ago. Nobody believed him until he found a publisher in 1994. Lonati had his 10 minutes of glory and was called to a popular TV show where he agreed to take a lie detector test. He failed.’

 

Paratico’s novel is dedicated to Luciano Garibaldi, probably the most prominent Italian proponent of the Churchill-killed-Mussolini theory. Garibaldi, according to Paratico, thought bits of Lonati’s story had elements of truth but his whole story was not reliable. Indeed, according to an account by former SOE operative Manfred Czernin, SOE had about 100 agents – of whom 60 were British – embedded with Italian partisan fighters in northern Italy at the time. SOE’s American counterpart, the OSS, had no one there.

 

‘They were there for something, I do believe,’ Paratico says. ‘If Mussolini had trusted the Americans instead of the British he would have been made prisoner and then could have been put on trial. He made a fatal mistake.’

 

What Paratico, Garibaldi, Milza and other more serious conspiracy-minded writers have in common is their apparent belief in circumstantial evidence. Paratico went so far as to say Churchill admired Mussolini, and that was why he was interested in pursuing a separate peace.

 

‘Mussolini and Churchill respected each other,’ he says. ‘It is well known that as chancellor of the Exchequer in 1927, after a visit to Rome he said that if he were an Italian he would have been a Fascist. Contacts were kept and even after Mussolini’s death, Churchill respected him.’

 

But despite the latest dust-up, Walters probably deserves the last word on Il Duce’s death. ‘Italy is a nation of conspiracy theorists, and the death of Mussolini is especially popular fodder for their imaginations. Granted, the precise details of Mussolini’s demise are a little opaque, but what’s more likely – Mussolini was killed by communist partisans, or by a beyond-top-secret British agent acting on the orders of Winston Churchill? I suppose those who believe in the junk version also subscribe to the ‘Churchill was a war criminal as well, you know’.’

 

But here, his last sentence hints at something else. Conspiracy theories are abortive attempts to get at a larger truth. Trying to prove Churchill ordered an execution to hide a dark secret may be a historically or factually inaccurate attempt to get at the Janus-faced career of Britain’s greatest prime minister of the last century.

 

The young Churchill, after all, was an enthusiastic advocate of the Boer war, in which British troops carried out a ‘scorched earth’ policy and set up the 20th century’s first concentration camps. Early on, he subscribed to an extremist ideology of white supremacy and ruthless imperialism which, as historian Richard Toye has shown in a new work, was way out in the fringes of mainstream public opinion in Britain even in his own time.

 

Behind the great man who used immortal rhetoric in the defence of liberty and Western civilisation, there is a far darker Churchill who believed such Western values were the exclusive prerogatives of white men, and perhaps a few exceptional natives.

 

There is a danger of projecting today’s values back to a wartime leader who may not have shared them. Conspiracy theories, for all their flaws, are merely attempts to get at much darker truths.

Courtesy SCMP