HC Deb 04 August 1943 vol 391 cc2274-5
16. Sir W. Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Air what were the approximate distances of allied bombs from St. Peters and the Vatican City in the recent bombing of Rome?

The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Archibald Sinclair)

The photographic evidence so far available shows that no bombs fell nearer to St. Peter's and the Vatican City than those which fell in the San Lorenzo marshalling yards, about three miles away.

Sir W. Davison

Is my right hon. Friend aware that about 14,000 churches and ecclesiastical buildings in this country have been destroyed or seriously damaged by Italian and German aircraft, including the complete destruction of the Roman Catholic pro-cathedral in Kensington, and has any expression of sympathy been sent to the British Government in regard to the destruction of and damage to these sacred buildings by his Holiness the Pope?

Sir A. Sinclair

It is true we have suffered very severe damage to our old and beautiful buildings in this country, but as to whether any message of sympathy has been received, my hon. Friend should address his Question to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Captain Cunningham-Reid

Why should Roman Catholic susceptibilities be considered any more than Protestant susceptibilities?

Mr. Driberg

To be quite fair, is it not the case that the Pope has sent letters of sympathy and also given money for the repair of damaged churches in Britain? And can the right hon. Gentleman say how near bombs fell to the Cathedral of Rome?

Sir A. Sinclair

I did not say we had not received any letter, but I am not prepared to answer a question on that, as it is a matter rather for the Foreign Secretary than for me.

Mr. Driberg

Can the right hon. Gentleman answer the second part of my question?

Sir A. Sinclair

As I have already said, St. Peter's is about three miles away.

Mr. Hannah

St. Peter's is not the Cathedral of Rome.

Mr. Driberg

Is the right hon. Gentleman really unaware that St. Peter's is not the Cathedral of Rome? The Cathedral of Rome is St. John Lateran.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Do air photographs show the extent of the damage to the Church of San Lorenzo, and has not the damage been exaggerated?

Sir A. Sinclair

The air photographs show very little damage to that particular building, but as is often the case, it is quite possible that more damage has been done than appears on the photographs. I am sorry that I did not catch the question of the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) about damage to some particular building, but if he will put it down, I will answer it.

Mr. Thorne

Does the right hon. Gentleman know whether the Pope has read the "Battle of Britain"?