Letter from Apostolic Delegate Cicognani to General Secretary Carroll, with enclosure, Letter to Cicognani from the Vatican Secretariat of State, September 26, 1947


NCWC staffers preparing to greet Displaced Persons at Ellis Island, Bruce M. Mohler papers

Cicognani encloses, with his letter to Carroll, a directive from the Holy See which the US bishops will take as a guide for their future course of action, particularly in their efforts to persuade Congress to pass more permissive legislation on immigration. The letter from the Vatican Secretariat of State expresses appreciation for the efforts that the US bishops have made on behalf of refugees thus far, and speaks of the Vatican’s plans for further aid. Interestingly, the letter speaks of a perceived American “spirit of hospitality” that enabled European immigrants to settle on the United States’ shores in times past, and which will now move Americans to welcome refugees and Displaced Persons (DPs) into their homes and communities. As history tells us, Americans were not as hospitable as this letter makes them out to be, either during the nineteenth century, when immigration was at its height, or towards the post-World War II DPs. x



Cicognani to Carroll with letter from Vatican Secretary of State

The vision of a multicultural society has always competed with a far narrower vision of what it means to be an American. Although America is, in fact, a nation of immigrants, American culture has also displayed a great deal of hostility to various groups in the past, particularly Catholic Irish, Italians, and Eastern Europeans. In the post-World War II moment, however, the Vatican sees fit to gloss over this aspect of history and to focus on a rosy vision of America as an ethnically and religiously tolerant society. The Vatican’s positive view of America is not limited to this letter, but will be seen many times in the postwar decades. Whereas Vatican correspondence in the past had focused on America’s secular nature and lack of Catholic culture, now the Church embraced the United States as a defender of freedom and democracy against Communism.


  • Who is the representative of the Vatican Migration Bureau at meetings of the International Refugee Organization in Lausanne, Switzerland?
  • Other than the United States, what area of the world is mentioned in the Vatican’s letter as a potential destination for refugees?