BY A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT ACARDINAL had branded as "fantasy and a calumny" a claim that during the 1939-45 war Vatican officials, including the present Pope,
secretly relayed to an American agent strategic information on Japan.
Publishers of "O.S.S.: The Secret History of America's
First Central Intelligence Agency," produced by the University of California Press, said the book alleged that the present Pope. as young Mgr. Giovanni Batista Montini in the Papal Secretariat of State. and Vatican representatives in Japan provided Washington with bombing targets in Japan.
The Apostolic Delegate in Japan during the war, now Cardinal Paolo Marella, working at the Vatican, said in an interview that the Vatican maintained its neutrality throughout the war. ruling out any Vatican participation in the "Vessell Project" described in the book.
But Mr. Richard Mazzerini, an American who is now an executive for the Hilton Hotel in Rome. insisted that many Vatican officials. including Mgr. Montini and the late Mgr. Hugh O'Flaherty of the Holy Office, provided vital war information for him as leader of the 0.S.S.'s secret intelligence branch in Italy in 194344.
The American Jesuit historian, Fr. Robert Graham, a specialist on the Vatican's activities during the war, insisted that if the book was based on the same type of O.S.S. reports which came from Rome in 1945. -then it "can be denied categorically and in all tranquillity."
The book says that in "Vessell Project" (which Fr, Graham said was really the code name of a 1945 peace initiative by an O.S.S. agent with the Japanese ambassador to the Vatican) Mgr. Montini received strategic information from papal representatives in Japan.
This information was said to have been sent to Dublin in the Irish diplomatic hag to be forwarded to Washington by Mazzerini, the book's publisher said in a news release. But Mr. Mazzerini said: "I was never in Dublin during the war. so that part of the book at least is inaccurate."
But Mr. Mazzerini insists that Mgr. Montini gave him and his agents "valuable information received from bishops and Catholic o rga nisations around the world which we sent on to Washington."
Asked specifically if this included information on the Pacific theatre of war, Mr, Mazzerini said: "Yes it did, although my memory fails me. Let's see how that worked. I know it was concerning naval movements of the Japanese.
"It was processed through the Vatican and given to my agents. I do not know how the Vatican got the information."
The former O.S.S. leader, who received the Medal of Freedom from President Truman for his wartime work, said that once he sent the information on to Washington he never heard if it figured in the war.
Cardinal Marella said the "sensational revelations" in the book "are so absurd that they crumble and destroy
As Apostolic Delegate in Japan from 1933 to 1949, the 77-year-old Cardinal said he was "under obligation" to declare: "As is documented clearly and irrefutably, the activity of the Holy See, once the war had begun, was dedicated entirely to the suffering of the interned, to prisoners of war and to their families."
Cardinal Marella said he maintained a close contact and collaborated with the government of Japan and, later, with the American command. He insisted that all communications, both telegraphic and over Vatican Radio, dealt solely with "the humanitarian and charitable efforts of the Holy See."
The Cardinalpraised highly the efficiency with which "the