[Kertzer's] argument, presented not as polemic but as gripping storytelling, is that much of fascist ideology was inspired by Catholic tradition—the authoritarianism, the intolerance of opposition and the profound suspicion of the Jews ... From the copious records of their exchanges Kertzer has uncovered a fascinating tale of two irascible—and often irrational—potentates, and gives us an account of some murky intellectual finagling, and an often startling investigation of the exercise of power ... Avoiding overt partisanship, Kertzer coolly lays out the evidence; he describes his large and various cast of characters, and follows their machinations ... a book whose narrative strength is as impressive as its moral subtlety.
... captivating ... The pomp and shadowy intrigue of The Pope and Mussolini—reports from Mussolini's network of spies in the Vatican have also come to light—is a grim update on Machiavelli. Any publisher's marketing department will try to peddle this as the real Da Vinci Code—only it's rigorously documented and far less implausible.
... vividly recounted history ... Kertzer had access to recently opened Vatican archives regarding Pius XI, and his thorough research goes a long way in overturning conventional notions about Catholic church resistance to Mussolini. If anything, it's a tragic story of a pope's too-late realization that Hitler's and Mussolini's pagan tide of anti-Semitism had drowned any rationale for church support.
In this fast-paced and well-written historical narrative David Kertzer...[writes] a readable popular history, with well-drawn characters and interesting incidental detail. It is also a serious study that incorporates the most recent scholarship ... Of particular interest in this study is Kertzer’s demonstration that Pacelli’s formal relationship with Pius XI was not a particularly close one.
David Kertzer...includes in his riveting account the prevalence of anti-Jewish attitudes among the Vatican hierarchy—ranging from extreme to mild prejudice, with Pius XI among the former. Kertzer ‘s volume makes it clear that an understanding of the 'silence' of Pius XII during the Holocaust requires taking into account his reluctance to confront fascism and Nazism as the pope’s secretary of state, as well as his attitudes towards the Jews during the papacy of Pius XI.
How relations between [Pope Pius XI and Mussolini] developed until the pope’s 1939 demise occupies this original history, which rests on Kertzer’s thorough research ... An important work of history, Kertzer’s adroit profiles of Pius and Mussolini will broaden its audience.
[Kertzer] brings to life an intriguing and unlikely alliance of two powerful individuals, using extensive primary sources from both sides. Whether or not it was truly a partnership is suspect, but they undoubtedly needed each other’s cooperation. The reader is taken inside the papacy in incredible detail ... Kertzer unravels the relationship between two of 20th-century Europe’s most important political figures and does so in an accessible style that makes for a fast-paced must-read.
The author spares no toes in his crushing of the church’s 'comforting narrative' around its relationship with Mussolini’s fascist regime ... Kertzer is unflinching and relentless in his exposure of the Vatican’s shocking actions.