A Papal Bull issued by Pope Pius IX found its way back to Italy. The Monuments Men and Women Foundation restituted this rare document, and turned over custody of the document to Italian officials in June. Pope Pius IX signed the papal bull, an official decree issued by the Vatican, in 1862.
A Papal Bull Established Scascoli Catholic Church
This rare document established the Catholic Church of Santo Stefano in Scascoli, just south of the city of Bologna. The church is still in existence today. The organization’s president expressed strong emotions. “We were thrilled to return this papal bull”, said Anna Bottinelli, president of the Monuments Men and Women Foundation. During WWII, portions of northern Italy suffered devastation by bombing and artillery, including the church that housed this papal bull.
United States Army officer Wolfgang Lehmann was attached to the 88th Infantry Division when he found the document among the church rubble, picked it up, and took it home to the United States as a souvenir of his military service. Lehman was a member of the “Ritchie Boys”, a special group of American soldiers trained at Camp Ritchie in military intelligence.
Following several years of service, the army honorably discharged Lehmann from the US Army, with the rank of major. With this, he began a long and distinguished career in the United States Foreign Service. He and his wife are interred at Arlington National Cemetery. His nephew, Walter Lehmann, reached out to the Monuments Men and Women Foundation to identify the object and also to coordinate its return to Italy.
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Walter Lehmann also spoke about the document. “My uncle would have been pleased to know that a document that he rescued from the destruction of war is now on its way back home to the church where he found it 79 years ago”, said Walter Lehmann. “I know he would want to encourage other veterans and their family members who may possess similar objects to follow in his footsteps and contact the Monuments Men and Women Foundation”.
Recovering Historical Artifacts; Important Identity Part
“Collaborations such as this are essential to the Foundation’s continued efforts to locate and return works of art. This also includes other cultural heritage missing since the end of World War II”, explained Anna Bottinelli, president of the Monuments Men and Women Foundation. “I am grateful to all those who helped us in our research. From Eric Lee and his team at the Kimbell Art Museum, to Lt. Sebastiano Antoci of the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, Also Monsignor Sergio Pagano, Prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives”.
The restitution ceremony occurred on June 6th. This is the 79th anniversary of the historic “D-Day” landings in Normandy. The Italian Cultural Institute in New York is the host. “Recovering artworks and historical documents involves regaining our history and identity”, states Prof. Fabio Finotti, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in New York. “It is also a way of reflecting on what has been destroyed by war”.
A Bank of America grant helped fund a portion of the research. Also Sondra and Toby Eoff of Odessa, Texas, generously helped underwrite the restitution costs. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to connect with the past, both in our Catholic faith and our country’s heroic service during World War II“, Sondra and Toby Eoff said.
If you or someone you know has a work of art, also a cultural object brought home from Europe that may have been displaced during and after WWII, please call the Monuments Men and Women Foundation, You can call them on their toll-free tip line: 1-866-WWII-ART, or complete an online submission form. The Foundation and its team of experts respond to every lead.