The Vatican Files
On Christmas Eve, 1939, Franklin Roosevelt decided to appoint Myron Taylor as his "special envoy" to the Vatican. This decision was controversial. The United States had not had any formal diplomatic representation at the Vatican in over seventy years and many Americans opposed the move on the grounds that it was a violation of the separation of Church and State. But with Europe at war, Roosevelt felt that it was necessary to do all he could to promote the cause of peace. A few months earlier, the Germans had overrun Poland, but they had not as yet attacked France. Many world leaders, including the recently elected Pope Pius XII, felt that it might still be possible to stop the conflict from spreading. Roosevelt shared this hope. And so, in the midst of tremendous international tension, he sent Taylor to the Vatican and reached out to other world religious leaders in an attempt to stop the war. Unfortunately, hopes for a negotiated peace soon collapsed. In May-June 1940 France fell and the Italians joined the war on the side of the Nazis. All of Europe now found itself under the cloak of the Fascist powers. The Taylor Mission to the Vatican nevertheless continued, becoming an important "listening post" for the United States in the midst of war-torn Europe.
The Vatican Files are drawn from the Diplomatic Series in the President's Secretary's File (PSF) and consist of wartime reports, memoranda, and correspondence between FDR, Pope Pius XII, Myron Taylor, Harold Tittman and others.