It is hard to believe today but when La Pira, as Mayor of Florence had a meeting with the Soviet ambassador Bogomolov (who was later to give him a preview of Kruschev report on Stalinism) in Florence town hall at the height of the Cold War when anti-communist feelings were running high it made headline news, with the usual run of biased newspapers attacking the “pinko in the sacristy”.
In this letter to Pius XII, La Pira summarises the topics discussed among which (with great simplicity) he had raised the issue of religious liberty and State Atheism.
… And I said just think Excellency what a dawn of authentic peace there would be that saw the liberation of bishops, priests and the faithful, with the proclamation of real creative religious freedom. I told him that this was the underlying political problem with regard to the west and the whole world.
… that “mysterious” conversation that worried so many people in Italy and abroad was a conversation pivoting on the Gospel, a conversation that the grace of the Lord had woven, that the grace of the Lord had created for its own mysterious purposes! And that this conversation, conceived, fostered and crowned by grace left a trace of “personal liking” on a human level in the heart of the Soviet ambassador is seen by his wish to return to Florence and his desire to express to journalists his impressions about Florence – spiritual capital of the west in a way”.