By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY — Today, taxis, tourists and food carts line the wide piazza in front of St. Peter’s.
Pius XII Square in front of St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)
But exactly 70 years ago this week, it was teeming with American tanks, trucks and jeeps, forcing the occupying German troops north and liberating Rome.
June 4, 1944, was the day U.S. troops and Allies reached the Eternal City, freeing it from the insecurities of wartime — hunger, persecution and fear.
A bright floral wreath of yellow and white was quietly hung today under a commemorative plaque on the side of the building that houses the Vatican press office.
A stone plaque commemorating the role Pope Pius XII played in saving Rome from bloodshed and havoc as the Germans abandoned the city and retreated north on June 4, 1944. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)
The plaque commemorates the role Pope Pius XII played during and after World War II, but specifically in preventing Rome from becoming a killing field as the occupying Germans fled from advancing American troops.
Street sign for Piazza Pius XII. The wartime pope was declared “defender (or protector) of the city” by the city of Rome. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)
The city of Rome declared Pius XII, “protector of the city,” and named the enormous piazza at the end of the Via della Conciliazione after him.
The late Arcangelo Paglialunga, eyewitness to the liberation of Rome. (CNS photo/John Thavis)
Of the people who were in that square 70 years ago, not many are still alive today.
One eyewitness I interviewed 10 years ago, died in 2011 at the age of 91.
A Vatican reporter for half a century, Arcangelo Paglialunga possessed incredible journalistic accuracy and attention to detail.
His story of that first week in June deserves to be retold — to give sight, sound and the human emotion behind what that wreath of flowers is paying tribute to today:
Veteran Vatican journalist says Pope Pius was WWII savior of Rome
By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, June 4, 2004
ROME (CNS) — While the U.S. 5th Army led by Gen. Mark Clark is remembered for being the first Allied troops to march into a Rome free from Nazi occupation, Pope Pius XII is recalled by many Romans as the man who spared the Eternal City from wartime destruction.
When Clark and his troops trundled through Rome on (Read More)