Friday, September 14, 2012

Benito Mussolini

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini (29 July 1883 – 28 April 1945) was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party, ruling the country from 1922 to his ousting in 1943, and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of fascism.
Originally a member of the Italian Socialist Party and editor of the Avanti! from 1912 to 1914, Mussolini fought in World War I as an ardent nationalist and created the Fasci di Combattimento in 1919, catalyzing his nationalist and socialist beliefs in the Fascist Manifesto, published in 1921. Following the March on Rome in October 1922 he became the 27th Prime Minister of Italy and began using the title Il Duce by 1925, about which time he had established dictatorial authority by both legal and extraordinary means, aspiring to create a totalitarian state. After 1936, his official title was Sua Eccellenza Benito Mussolini, Capo del Governo, Duce del Fascismo e Fondatore dell'Impero ("His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Duce of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire")[1] Mussolini also created and held the supreme military rank of First Marshal of the Empire along with King Victor Emmanuel III, which gave him and the King joint supreme control over the military of Italy. Mussolini remained in power until he was replaced in 1943; for a short period after this until his death, he was the leader of the Italian Social Republic.
Mussolini was among the founders of Italian Fascism, which included elements of nationalism, corporatism, national syndicalism, expansionism, social progress, and anti-communism in combination with censorship of subversives and state propaganda. In the years following his creation of the Fascist ideology, Mussolini influenced, or achieved admiration from, a wide variety of political figures.[2]
Among the domestic achievements of Mussolini from the years 1924–1939 were: his public works programs such as the taming of the Pontine Marshes, the improvement of job opportunities, the public transport, and the so-called Italian economic battles. Mussolini also solved the Roman Question by concluding the Lateran Treaty between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See. Mussolini and the Fascist regime initiated an aggressive campaign to destroy the Sicilian mafia with mass arrests and mass trials of mafiosi.[3] Mussolini was unable to purge Sicily of the mafia, because the mafia utilized its strong base of supporters to hide and protect itself as an underground movement during Fascist rule in Italy.[4]
Since 1938 Mussolini had sought to delay a major war in Europe until at least 1942 to allow Italy to focus its resources to rearm its military, such as to rearm its army with new artillery to replace its existing outmoded artillery, to complete a squadron of new battleships, to create a large colonial-recruit army in newly-established Italian East Africa, to secure Italy's foreign currency reserves through the planned world exposition in Rome to be held in 1942, and to allow the repatriation of the largest number of Italians abroad as possible to fight for Italian forces in a major war.[5] However European war erupted in 1939 after Germany's invasion of Poland. On 10 June 1940, Mussolini led Italy into World War II, siding with Germany. Mussolini was aware that Italy did not have the military capacity in 1940 to carry out a long war with France and the United Kingdom.[6] Therefore, he waited until the former was on the verge of imminent collapse and surrender because of the German invasion before declaring war on France and the UK, on the assumption that - following France's collapse - the war would be short-lived and peace negotiations would soon take place.[6] Mussolini believed that after the imminent French surrender, Italy could gain from this country some territorial concessions and then concentrate its forces on a major offensive in Egypt where British and Commonwealth forces were outnumbered by Italian forces.[7] However the UK refused to accept German proposals for a peace that would involve accepting Germany's victories in Eastern and Western Europe, plans for a German invasion of the UK did not proceed, and the war continued.
On 24 July 1943, soon after the start of the Allied invasion of Italy, through the Ordine del giorno Grandi Mussolini was defeated in the vote at the Grand Council of Fascism, and the day after the King had him arrested. On 12 September 1943, Mussolini was rescued from prison in the daring Gran Sasso raid by German special forces. Following his rescue, Mussolini headed the Italian Social Republic in parts of Italy that were not occupied by Allied forces. In late April 1945, with total defeat looming, Mussolini attempted to escape north,[8] only to be quickly captured and summarily executed near Lake Como by Italian partisans. His body was then taken to Milan where it was hung upside down at a petrol station for public viewing and to provide confirmation of his demise.[9]



Beginning of Fascism and service in World War I

After being ousted by the Italian Socialist Party for his support of Italian intervention, Mussolini made a radical transformation, ending his support for class conflict and joining in support of revolutionary nationalism transcending class lines. [35] He formed the interventionist newspaper Il Popolo d'Italia and the Fasci Rivoluzionari d'Azione Internazionalista ("Revolutionary Fasci for International Action") in October 1914. [30] His nationalist support of intervention enabled him to raise funds from Ansaldo (an armaments firm) and other companies to create Il Popolo d'Italia to convince socialists and revolutionaries to support the war.[37] Further funding for Mussolini's Fascists during the war came from the French sources beginning in May 1915. [38] A major source of this funding from France is believed to have probably been from French socialists who sent support to dissident socialists who wanted Italian intervention on France's side. [38]
On 5 December 1914, Mussolini denounced orthodox socialism for having failed to recognize that the war had brought about national identity and loyalty as being of greater significance than class distinction. [35] His transformation was fully demonstrated in a speech he made in which he acknowledged the nation as an entity, a notion that he had previously rejected prior to the war, saying:
The nation has not disappeared. We used to believe that the concept was totally without substance. Instead we see the nation arise as a palpitating reality before us! ... Class cannot destroy the nation. Class reveals itself as a collection of interests—but the nation is a history of sentiments, traditions, language, culture, and race. Class can become an integral part of the nation, but the one cannot eclipse the other. [39]
The class struggle is a vain formula, without effect and consequence wherever one finds a people that has not integrated itself into its proper linguistic and racial confines—where the national problem has not been definitely resolved. In such circumstances the class movement finds itself impaired by an inauspicious historic climate. [40]
Mussolini continued to promote the need of a revolutionary vanguard elite to lead society, but he no longer advocated a proletarian vanguard but instead a vanguard led by dynamic and revolutionary people of any social class. [40]
Though he denounced orthodox socialism and class conflict, he maintained at the time that he was a nationalist socialist and a supporter of the legacy of nationalist socialists in Italy's history, such as Giuseppe Garibaldi, Giuseppe Mazzini, and Carlo Pisacane. [41] As for the Italian Socialist Party and its support of orthodox socialism, he claimed that his failure as a member of the party to revitalize and transform it to recognize the contemporary reality revealed the hopelessness of orthodox socialism as outdated and a failure. [41] This perception of the failure of orthodox socialism in the light of the outbreak of World War I was not solely held by Mussolini, other pro-interventionist Italian socialists such as Filippo Corridoni and Sergio Panunzio had also denounced classical Marxism in favour of intervention. [42]
These basic political views and principles formed the basis of Mussolini's newly formed political movement, the Fasci Rivoluzionari d'Azione Internazionalista in 1914, who called themselves Fascisti (Fascists). [43] At this time, the Fascists did not have an integrated set of policies and the movement was very small, ineffective in its attempts to hold mass meetings, and was regularly harassed by government authorities and orthodox socialists. [44] Antagonism between the interventionists, including the Fascists, versus the anti-interventionist orthodox socialists resulted in violence between the Fascists and socialists. [45] The opposition and attacks by the anti-interventionist revolutionary socialists against the Fascists and other interventionists were so violent that even democratic socialists who opposed the war such as Anna Kuliscioff said that the Italian Socialist Party had gone too far in a campaign of silencing the freedom of speech of supporters of the war. [45] These early hostilities between the Fascists and the revolutionary socialists shaped Mussolini's conception of the nature of Fascism in its support of political violence. [45]

Mussolini as an Italian soldier, 1917.
Mussolini became an ally with the irredentist politician and journalist Cesare Battisti, and like him he entered the Army and served in the war. "He was sent to the zone of operations where he was seriously injured by the explosion of a grenade."[24]
The Inspector General continues:
He was promoted to the rank of corporal "for merit in war". The promotion was recommended because of his exemplary conduct and fighting quality, his mental calmness and lack of concern for discomfort, his zeal and regularity in carrying out his assignments, where he was always first in every task involving labor and fortitude.[24]
Mussolini's military experience is told in his work Diario Di Guerra. Overall, he totalled about nine months of active, front-line trench warfare. During this time, he contracted paratyphoid fever.[46] His military exploits ended in 1917 when he was wounded accidentally by the explosion of a mortar bomb in his trench. He was left with at least 40 shards of metal in his body[46] He was discharged from the hospital in August 1917 and resumed his editor-in-chief position at his new paper, Il Popolo d'Italia. He wrote there positive articles about Czechoslovak Legions in Italy.
On 25 December 1915, in Trevalglio, he contracted a marriage with his fellow countrywoman Rachele Guidi, who had already born him a daughter, Edda, at Forli in 1910. In 1915, he had a son with Ida Dalser, a woman born in Sopramonte, a village near Trento.[11][12][47] He legally recognized this son on 11 January 1916.


Building a dictatorship

Assassination attempts

Mussolini's influence in propaganda was such that he had surprisingly little opposition to suppress. Nonetheless, he was "slightly wounded in the nose" when he was shot on 7 April 1926 by Violet Gibson, an Irish woman and daughter of Baron Ashbourne, who was subsequently deported after her arrest.[69] On 31 October 1926, 15-year-old Anteo Zamboni attempted to shoot Mussolini in Bologna. Zamboni was lynched on the spot.[70][71] Mussolini also survived a failed assassination attempt in Rome by anarchist Gino Lucetti,[72] and a planned attempt by the Italian anarchist Michele Schirru,[73] which ended with Schirru's capture and execution.[74]

Police state


A young Mussolini in his early years in power.
At various times after 1922, Mussolini personally took over the ministries of the interior, foreign affairs, colonies, corporations, defense, and public works. Sometimes he held as many as seven departments simultaneously, as well as the premiership. He was also head of the all-powerful Fascist Party and the armed local fascist militia, the MVSN or "Blackshirts", who terrorised incipient resistances in the cities and provinces. He would later form the OVRA, an institutionalised secret police that carried official state support. In this way he succeeded in keeping power in his own hands and preventing the emergence of any rival.
Between 1925 and 1927, Mussolini progressively dismantled virtually all constitutional and conventional restraints on his power, thereby building a police state. A law passed on Christmas Eve 1925 changed Mussolini's formal title from "president of the Council of Ministers" to "head of the government". He was no longer responsible to Parliament and could only be removed by the king. While the Italian constitution stated that ministers were only responsible to the sovereign, in practice it had become all but impossible to govern against the express will of Parliament. The Christmas Eve law ended this practice, and also made Mussolini the only person competent to determine the body's agenda. Local autonomy was abolished, and podestĂ s appointed by the Italian Senate replaced elected mayors and councils.
All other parties were outlawed following Zamboni's assassination attempt in 1926, though in practice Italy had been a one-party state since Mussolini's 1925 speech. In the same year, an electoral law abolished parliamentary elections. Instead, the Grand Council of Fascism selected a single list of candidates to be approved by plebiscite. The Grand Council had been created five years earlier as a party body but was "constitutionalised" and became the highest constitutional authority in the state. On paper, the Grand Council had the power to recommend Mussolini's removal from office, and was thus theoretically the only check on his power. Only Mussolini could summon the Grand Council and determine its agenda. To gain control of the South, especially Sicily, he appointed Cesare Mori as a Prefect of the city of Palermo, with the charge of eradicating the Mafia at any price. In the telegram, Mussolini wrote to Mori:
"Your Excellency has carte blanche; the authority of the State must absolutely, I repeat absolutely, be re-established in Sicily. If the laws still in force hinder you, this will be no problem, as we will draw up new laws."[75]
He did not hesitate laying siege to towns, using torture, and holding women and children as hostages to oblige suspects to give themselves up. These harsh methods earned him the nickname of "Iron Prefect". In 1927 Mori's inquiries brought evidence of collusion between the Mafia and the Fascist establishment, and he was dismissed for length of service in 1929, at which time the number of murders in the Palermo Province had decreased from some 200 to 23. Mussolini nominated Mori as a senator, and fascist propaganda claimed that the Mafia had been defeated.


Dismissed and arrested


Marshal Pietro Badoglio succeeded Mussolini as Prime Minister.
By early 1942, Italy's position in the war became more and more untenable. After the defeat at El Alamein at the end of 1942, the Axis troops had to retreat to where they were finally defeated in the Tunisia Campaign in the spring of 1943. Also at the Eastern Front were major setbacks and the war had come to the nation's very doorstep with the Allied invasion of Sicily.[118] The Italian home front was also in bad shape as the Allied bombings were taking their toll. Factories all over Italy were brought to a virtual standstill due to a lack of raw materials, as well as coal and oil. Additionally, there was a chronic shortage of food, and what food was available was being sold at nearly confiscatory prices. Mussolini's once-ubiquitous propaganda machine lost its grip on the people; a large number of Italians turned to Vatican Radio or Radio London for more accurate news coverage. Discontent came to a head in March 1943 with a wave of labor strikes in the industrial north—the first large-scale strikes since 1925.[119] Also in March, some of the major factories in Milan and Turin stopped production to secure evacuation allowances for workers' families. The physical German presence in Italy had sharply turned public opinion against Mussolini; for example, when the Allies invaded Sicily, the majority of the public there welcomed them as liberators.[120]
Earlier in April 1943, Mussolini had begged Hitler to make a separate peace with Stalin and send German troops to the west to guard against an expected Allied invasion of Italy. Mussolini feared that with the losses in Tunisia and North Africa, the next logical step for Dwight Eisenhower's armies would be to come across the Mediterranean and attack the Italian peninsula. Within a few days of the Allied landings on Sicily in July 1943, it was obvious Mussolini's army was on the brink of collapse. This led Hitler to summon Mussolini to a meeting in northern Italy on 19 July 1943. By this time, Mussolini was so shaken from stress that he could no longer stand Hitler's boasting. His mood darkened further when that same day, the Allies bombed Rome—the first time that city had ever been the target of enemy bombing.[121]
Some prominent members of the Italian Fascist government had turned against Mussolini by this point. Among them were his confidant Dino Grandi and Mussolini's son-in-law Galeazzo Ciano. With several of his colleagues close to revolt, Mussolini was forced to summon the Grand Council of Fascism on 24 July 1943: the first time that body had met since the start of the war. When he announced that the Germans were thinking of evacuating the south, Grandi launched a blistering attack on him.[118] Grandi moved a resolution asking the king to resume his full constitutional powers, in effect, a vote of no confidence in Mussolini. This motion carried by a 19–7 margin. Despite this sharp rebuke, Mussolini showed up for work the next day as usual. He allegedly viewed the Grand Council as merely an advisory body and did not think the vote would have any substantive effect.[119] That afternoon, he was summoned to the royal palace by King Victor Emmanuel III, who had been planning to oust Mussolini earlier. When Mussolini tried to tell the king about the meeting, Victor Emmanuel cut him off and told him that he was being replaced by Marshal Pietro Badoglio.[119] After Mussolini left the palace, he was arrested by Carabinieri on the king's orders.[122]

Mussolini rescued by German troops from his prison in Campo Imperatore on 12 September 1943.
By this time, discontent with Mussolini was such that when the news of his ouster was announced on the radio, there was no resistance.[119] In an effort to conceal his location from the Germans, Mussolini was moved around the country before being sent to Campo Imperatore, a mountain resort in Abruzzo where he was completely isolated.[118] Given the large Nazi presence in Italy, Badoglio announced that "the war continues at the side of our Germanic ally" in the hopes that chaos and Nazi retaliation against civilians could be avoided.[118] Even as Badoglio was keeping up the appearance of loyalty to the Axis, he dissolved the Fascist Party two days after taking over. Also, his government was negotiating an Armistice with the Allies, which was signed on 3 September 1943. Its announcement five days later threw Italy into chaos, a civil war of sorts. Badoglio and the king fled Rome, leaving the Italian Army without orders. Immediately after the Italian surrender was announced, German troops started taking over the Italian Peninsula by force as part of Operation Achse and occupied Rome on 10 September.[123] After a period of anarchy, Italy finally declared war on Nazi Germany on 13 October 1943 from Malta; thousands of troops were supplied to fight against the Germans, others refused to switch sides and had joined the Germans. The Badoglio government held a social truce with the leftist partisans for the sake of Italy and to rid the land of the Nazis.[124]



Death


Cross marking the place in Mezzegra where Mussolini was shot.

Benito Mussolini's body (left) beside that of his mistress, Clara Petacci (right), in a morgue in Milan.

The dead body of Mussolini (second from left) next to Petacci (middle) and other executed fascists in Piazzale Loreto, Milan, 1945
Execution of Mussolini (1945).ogg
American newsreel coverage of the death of Mussolini in 1945
Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci were stopped by communist partisans Valerio and Bellini and identified by the Political Commissar of the partisans' 52nd Garibaldi Brigade, Urbano Lazzaro, on 27 April 1945, near the village of Dongo (Lake Como), as they headed for Switzerland to board a plane to escape to Spain. During this time Claretta's brother posed as a Spanish consul.[129] Mussolini had been traveling with retreating German forces and was apprehended while attempting to escape recognition by wearing a German military uniform.[citation needed] After several unsuccessful attempts to take them to Como they were brought to Mezzegra. They spent their last night in the house of the De Maria family.
The next day, Mussolini and Petacci were both summarily executed, along with most of the members of their 15-man train, primarily ministers and officials of the Italian Social Republic. The shootings took place in the small village of Giulino di Mezzegra. According to the official version of events, the shootings were conducted by Colonnello Valerio, whose real name was Walter Audisio. Audisio was the communist partisan commander who was reportedly given the order to kill Mussolini by the National Liberation Committee. When Audisio entered the room where Mussolini and the other fascists were being held, he reportedly announced, "I have come to rescue you!... Do you have any weapons?" He then had them loaded into transports and driven a short distance. Audisio ordered, "Get down"; Petacci hugged Mussolini and refused to move away from him when they were taken to an empty space. Shots were fired and Petacci fell down. Just then Mussolini opened his jacket and screamed, "Shoot me in the chest!" Audisio complied and shot him in the chest. Mussolini fell but did not die and was breathing heavily. Audisio went near and he shot one more bullet in his chest. Mussolini's face looked as if he had significant pain. Audisio said to his driver, "Look at his face, the emotions on his face don't suit him."[citation needed] The other members of Mussolini's entourage were also executed before a firing squad later that same day towards nightfall.

Mussolini's body

On 29 April 1945, the bodies of Mussolini, Petacci, and the other executed Fascists were loaded into a moving van and trucked south to Milan. There, at 3:00 am, they were dumped on the ground in the old Piazzale Loreto. The piazza had been renamed "Piazza Quindici Martiri" in honor of 15 anti-Fascists recently executed there.[130]
After being shot, kicked, and spat upon, the bodies were hung upside down on meathooks from the roof of an Esso gas station.[131] The bodies were then stoned by civilians from below. This was done both to discourage any Fascists from continuing the fight and as an act of revenge for the hanging of many partisans in the same place by Axis authorities. The corpse of the deposed leader became subject to ridicule and abuse. Fascist loyalist Achille Starace was captured and sentenced to death and then taken to the Piazzale Loreto and shown the body of Mussolini. Starace, who once said of Mussolini "He is a god,"[132] saluted what was left of his leader just before he was shot. The body of Starace was subsequently strung up next to the body of Mussolini.
After his death and the display of his corpse in Milan, Mussolini was buried in an unmarked grave in the Musocco cemetery, to the north of the city. On Easter Sunday 1946 his body was located and dug up by Domenico Leccisi and two other neo-Fascists. Making off with their hero, they left a message on the open grave: "Finally, O Duce, you are with us. We will cover you with roses, but the smell of your virtue will overpower the smell of those roses."[citation needed]

Tomb of Mussolini in the family crypt in the cemetery of Predappio.
On the loose for months—and a cause of great anxiety to the new Italian democracy—the Duce's body was finally "recaptured" in August, hidden in a small trunk at the Certosa di Pavia, just outside Milan. Two Fransciscan brothers were subsequently charged with concealing the corpse, though it was discovered on further investigation that it had been constantly on the move. Unsure what to do, the authorities held the remains in a kind of political limbo for 10 years, before agreeing to allow them to be re-interred at Predappio in Romagna, his birthplace, after a campaign headed by Leccisi and the Movimento Sociale Italiano.[citation needed]
Leccisi, a fascist deputy, went on to write his autobiography, With Mussolini Before and After Piazzale Loreto. Adone Zoli, the prime minister of the day, contacted Donna Rachele, the former dictator's widow, to tell her he was returning the remains, as he needed the support of the far-right in parliament, including Leccisi himself. In Predappio the dictator was buried in a crypt (the only posthumous honour granted to Mussolini). His tomb is flanked by marble fasces, and a large idealised marble bust of himself sits above the tomb.[133]

Personal life

Mussolini was first married to Ida Dalser in Trento in 1914. The couple had a son one year later and named him Benito Albino Mussolini. In December 1915, Mussolini married Rachele Guidi, his mistress since 1910, and with his following political ascendency the information about his first marriage was suppressed and both his first wife and son were later persecuted.[47] With Rachele, Mussolini had two daughters, Edda (1910–1995) and Anna Maria (born 3 September 1929, Forlì, Villa Carpena – died 25 April 1968, Rome), married in Ravenna on 11 June 1960 to Nando Pucci Negri; three sons Vittorio (1916–1997), Bruno (1918–1941), and Romano (1927–2006). Mussolini had a number of mistresses, among them Margherita Sarfatti and his final companion, Clara Petacci. Furthermore, Mussolini had innumerable brief sexual encounters with female supporters as reported by his biographer Nicholas Farrell.[134]

Religious beliefs

Atheism and anti-clericalism

Mussolini was raised by a devoutly Catholic mother[135] and an anti-clerical father.[136] His mother Rosa had him baptized into the Roman Catholic Church, and took her children to services every Sunday. His father never attended.[135] Mussolini regarded his time at a religious boarding school as punishment, compared the experience to hell, and "once refused to go to morning mass and had to be dragged there by force".[137]
Mussolini would become anti-clerical like his father. As a young man, he "proclaimed himself to be an atheist and several times tried to shock an audience by calling on God to strike him dead."[136] He denounced socialists who were tolerant of religion, or who had their children baptized. He believed that science had proven there was no God, and that the historical Jesus was ignorant and mad. He considered religion a disease of the psyche, and accused Christianity of promoting resignation and cowardice.[136]
Mussolini was an admirer of Friedrich Nietzsche. According to Denis Mack Smith, "In Nietzsche he found justification for his crusade against the Christian virtues of humility, resignation, charity, and goodness."[138] He valued Nietzsche's concept of the superman, "The supreme egoist who defied both God and the masses, who despised egalitarianism and democracy, who believed in the weakest going to the wall and pushing them if they did not go fast enough."[138]
Mussolini made vitriolic attacks against Christianity and the Catholic Church, "which he accompanied with provocative and blasphemous remarks about the consecrated host and about a love affair between Christ and Mary Magdalen."[139] He believed that socialists who were Christian or who accepted religious marriage should be expelled from the party. He denounced the Catholic Church for "its authoritarianism and refusal to allow freedom of thought ..." Mussolini's newspaper, La Lotta di Classe, reportedly had an anti-Christian editorial stance.[139]

Lateran Pact

Despite making such attacks, Mussolini would try to win popular support by appeasing the Catholic majority in Italy. In 1924, Mussolini saw that three of his children were given communion. In 1925, he had a priest perform a religious marriage ceremony for himself and his wife Rachele, whom he had married in a civil ceremony 10 years earlier.[140] On 11 February 1929, he signed a concordat and treaty with the Roman Catholic Church.[141] Under the Lateran Pact, Vatican City was granted independent statehood and placed under Church law—rather than Italian law—and the Catholic religion was recognized as Italy's state religion.[142] The Church also regained authority over marriage, Catholicism could be taught in all secondary schools, birth control and freemasonry were banned, and the clergy received subsidies from the state, and was exempted from taxation.[143][144] Pope Pius XI praised Mussolini, and the official Catholic newspaper pronounced "Italy has been given back to God and God to Italy."[142]
After this conciliation, he claimed the Church was subordinate to the State, and "referred to Catholicism as, in origin, a minor sect that had spread beyond Palestine only because grafted onto the organization of the Roman empire."[141] After the concordat, "he confiscated more issues of Catholic newspapers in the next three months than in the previous seven years."[141] Mussolini reportedly came close to being excommunicated from the Catholic Church around this time.[141]
Mussolini publicly reconciled with the Pope Pius XI in 1932, but "took care to exclude from the newspapers any photography of himself kneeling or showing deference to the Pope."[141] He wanted to persuade Catholics that "[f]ascism was Catholic and he himself a believer who spent some of each day in prayer ..."[141] The Pope began referring to Mussolini as "a man sent by Providence."[139][141] Despite Mussolini's efforts to appear pious, by order of his party, pronouns referring to him "had to be capitalized like those referring to God ..."[141]
In 1938 Mussolini began reasserting his anti-clericalism. He would sometimes refer to himself as an "outright disbeliever," and once told his cabinet that "Islam was perhaps a more effective religion than Christianity" and that the "papacy was a malignant tumor in the body of Italy and must 'be rooted out once and for all', because there was no room in Rome for both the Pope and himself."[145] He would publicly back down from these anti-clerical statements, but continued making similar statements in private.
After his fall from power in 1943, Mussolini began speaking "more about God and the obligations of conscience", although "he still had little use for the priests and sacraments of the Church,".[146] He also began drawing parallels between himself and Jesus Christ.[146] Mussolini's widow, Rachele, stated that her husband had remained "basically irreligious until the later years of his life.[147] Mussolini was given a Catholic funeral in 1957.[148]