In This Review

Holy War: The Untold Story of Catholic Italy’s Crusade Against the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
Holy War: The Untold Story of Catholic Italy’s Crusade Against the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
By Ian Campbell
Hurst, 2021, 336 pp.

This stunning book explores the Catholic Church’s support for and encouragement of Mussolini’s campaign against the Ethiopian Orthodox Church during Italy’s invasion and occupation of Ethiopia from 1935 to 1943. Italian forces targeted the Orthodox Church; they ransacked and destroyed hundreds of churches and summarily executed several thousand Ethiopian clergy. Amicable relations had long existed between the Catholic Church in Rome and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but the Roman episcopate embraced Mussolini’s regime and its aggressive foreign policy in the mid-1930s. In 1935, Pope Pius XI openly supported the invasion of Ethiopia as a crusade against a country of heretics, schismatics, pagans, and infidels. This papal support of the war, reinforced by church sermons across Italy, helped mobilize volunteers to join the Italian army to fight in Ethiopia. Eloquent and based on authoritative archival research in both Ethiopia and Italy, Campbell’s book sheds new light on a key episode in African history.