Hybrid Unions: The Catholic Church and the Racial Laws in Italian East Africa (1935-1939)

On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the anti-Jewish laws in Italy, Prof. Lucia Ceci’s talk examines how the Holy See developed a doctrinal statement and assumed an institutional position towards the first racist laws which the Fascist Government introduced in the colonies after the conquest of Ethiopia, when Mussolini planned to build an Italian Empire that was homogeneous from the biological and cultural point of view. The analysis of one of the most thorny questions for historiography on the Catholic Church in the contemporary age (the hiatus between the affirmation of truth and the search for modus vivendi) links the specificities of the Italian case and some transnational processes. Analyzing public and private documents, Prof. Ceci shows the complexity of the reason that convinced the Pope Pius XI to reach a compromise with Mussolini on the matter.