Before proceeding with the chronological events which ultimately were to lead to the direct U.S. intervention into the war in Vietnam, it might be useful to glance at the ideological climate of the years which preceded its outbreak. Otherwise certain basic issues could not be properly understood.
After World War II, the U.S. and the Vatican had forged a mutual alliance, as we have already said, mainly to contain Russian communism in Europe and in Asia. The belligerency of their joint policies plus Soviet Russia's determination to plant communism wherever she could, produced what was labeled, "The Cold War." The Cold War was seen in many quarters as the preliminary step to a Hot War, which in this case meant but one thing, the outbreak of World War III.
This was not speculation or fantasy, but an expectation, based upon concrete military and political factors. The U.S. and the Vatican became active, each in their own field, set to prepare for "The Day." Whereas the U.S. busied itself with military preparations, the Vatican busied itself with religious preparations. This spelled the mobilization of religious belief, and even more dangerous, the promotion of religious emotionalism.
The Vatican is a formidable diplomatic and ideological center, because it has at its disposal the religious machinery of the Church. During the Cold War, it used such machinery with a skill unmatched by any other church.
Pope Pius XII was a firm believer in the inevitability, and indeed "necessity," of the third World War. To that effect he worked incessantly in the diplomatic field, chiefly with the U.S. itself, with the cooperation of the powerful Catholic lobby in Washington, D.C. Although we have related elsewhere the intrigues of that body, it might not be amiss to focus our attention upon those of a religious character, which Pope Pius XII and certain American politicians carried out in the purely religious area, with the specific objective of preparing for World War III.
This was possible because Pope Pius XII, by now, had succeeded in conditioning millions of Catholics, both in Europe and in the U.S., to accept the inevitability of such a war, almost as a crusade inspired from Heaven. He justified it on the assumption that the Virgin Mary herself, had become his ally. Since, during the Vietnamese tragedy, the Vatican used the religious emotionalism of Our Lady of Fatima for political objectives, we must glance at the background of this cult.
Our Lady of Fatima had first appeared to three illiterate children in Fatima, a desolate locality in Portugal, during the fateful year of 1917, which was also the year of the Russian Revolution.
Pope Pius XII (1939-58) was a brilliant diplomat, a cunning politician and a religious crusader. These characteristics made him one of the paramount personalities of our times. He transformed the Catholic Church into a global political instrument. He, more than anybody else outside Germany, helped Hitler to power. His pet obsession was communism and he became the main instigator of the Cold War. He was the religious pivot upon which the Catholic crusade against communism revolved. Cardinal Spellman, as his spokesman in the U.S., greatly influenced American politicians and public opinion giving an almost mystical interpretation to the anti-Russian policies of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Through Spellman, Pius XII attempted to steer the U.S. military power against communism in Korea and Vietnam and kept wholly "silent" when, in 1954, the U.S. military planned to use atomic weapons at the beginning of the Vietnam War.
Her apparition had been accompanied by a somewhat strange miracle:
The sun became pale, three times it turned speedily on itself, like a Catherine wheel . . . At the end of these convulsive revolutions it seemed to jump out of its orbit and come forward towards the people on a zig-zag course, stopped, and returned again to its normal position.
This was seen by a large crowd near the children and lasted twelve minutes.
The fact that the other two thousand million human beings the world over never noticed the sun agitate, rotate and jump out of its orbit did not bother the Catholic Church in the least.
On the contrary, the Catholic masses were told to believe that the sun, on the appearance of the Virgin Mary, had truly moved on "a zig-zag course" as proof of the authenticity of her presence, and of course, of "her messages."
The Virgin's messages had been to induce the Pope to bring about "the consecration of the World to her Immaculate Heart," to be followed by "the consecration of Russia." "Russia will be converted," she foretold. "The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me." But, she warned, should this not be accomplished, "her (Russia's) errors will spread throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions . . . different nations will be destroyed . . ." In the end however, the Virgin promised by way of consolation, that the Catholic Church would triumph, after which "the Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me. Thereupon she (Russia) shall be converted and a period of peace will be granted to the world."
These quotations are from the authenticated messages of the Virgin Mary herself, as related to one of the children and fully accepted by the Catholic Church as a genuine revelation by the "Mother of God."
Within a few years the cult of Fatima had grown to great proportions. The number of pilgrims multiplied from sixty on June 13, 1917 to 60,000 in October of that same year. From 144,000 in 1923, to 588,000 in 1928. The total for six years: two millions.
The Vatican took the promises seriously. Msgr. Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, then the gray eminence behind Pope Pius XI, sponsored a policy supporting Fascism in Italy and then the Nazis in Germany, to help the prophecy come true. In fact he became the chief instrument in helping Hitler to get into power. This he did by urging the German Catholic Party to vote for Hitler at the last German general election in 1933. The basic idea was a simple one. Fascism and Nazism, besides smashing the Communists in Europe, ultimately would smash Communist Russia.
In 1929 Pope Pius XI signed a Concordat and the Lateran Treaty with Mussolini and called him "the man sent by Providence." In 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. In 1936, Franco started the Civil War in Spain. By 1938 two-thirds of Europe had been fascistized and the rumblings of World War II were heard more and more ominously everywhere.
Concurrently, however, Europe had also been Fatimaized. The cult of Fatima, with emphasis on the Virgin's promise of Russia's conversion, had been given immense prominence by the Vatican. In 1938, a papal nuncio was sent to Fatima, and almost half a million pilgrims were told that the Virgin had confided three great secrets to the children. Thereupon, in June of that year, the only surviving childadvised by her confessor, always in touch with the hierarchy and hence with the Vaticanrevealed the contents of two of the three great secrets:
The dramatic reiteration of the revelation of the second secret about Soviet Russia immediately assumed a tremendous religious and political significance. The timing of the "disclosure" could not have been better chosen. The Fascist dictatorships were talking the same language: the annihilation of Soviet Russia.
The following year, 1939, the Second World War broke out. In 1940, France was defeated. The whole of Europe had become Fascist. In 1941, Hitler invaded Russia. The Virgin's prophecy at long last was about to be fulfilled. At the Vatican there was rejoicing, since by now Pacelli had become Pope under the name of Pius XII (1939).
Pius XII encouraged Catholics to volunteer for the Russian front. Catholicsmost of them devotees of the Virgin of Fatima joined the Nazi armies, from Italy, France, Ireland, Belgium, Holland, Latin America, the U.S. and Portugal. Spain sent a Catholic Blue Division.
In October, 1941, while the Nazi armies rolled near Moscow, Pius XII, addressing Portugal, urged Catholics to pray for a speedy realization of the Lady of Fatima's promise. The following year, 1942, after Hitler had declared that Communist Russia had been "definitely" defeated, Pius XII, in a Jubilee Message, fulfilled the first of the Virgin's injunctions and "consecrated the whole world to her Immaculate Heart."
"The apparitions of Fatima open a new era," wrote Cardinal Cerejeira in that same year. "It is the foreshadowing of what the Immaculate Heart of Mary is preparing for the whole world." The new era, in 1942, was a totally Nazified European continent, with Russia seemingly wiped off the map, Japan conquering half of Asia and world Fascism was at its zenith everywhere.
The Fascist empire vanished with the collapse of Hitler. In 1945, World War II ended. And Soviet Russia, to the chagrined surprise of Pope Pius XII, emerged the second greatest power on earth.
1. Description by the Jesuit Father, H.S. De Caires, authorized by the Archbishop of Dublin, 1946.[Back]
2. Description by the Jesuit Father, H.S. De Caires, authorized by the Archbishop of Dublin, 1946. "Fatima," Catholic Truth Society of Ireland.[Back]
3. See "Fatima," Catholic Truth Society of Ireland, 1950.[Back]
4. For more details of the Papal Nuncio Pacelli's role in helping Hitler to power, see the author's THE VATICAN IN WORLD POLITICS, 444 pages, Horizon Press, New York. 1949.[Back]
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