This essay examines the life and ideology of the most representative organization of the Italian clerical-fascists, the Centro Nazionale Italiano (CNI), founded in 1924 by a group of conservative and pro-fascist Catholics who had been expelled from the Partito Popolare Italiano. The Cni ensured complete political and parliamentary support to Fascism, firmly convinced of the indissoluble and God-given ties between Catholicism and the Italian nation. Such ties appeared to be confirmed by the pro-catholic policy of Fascism, that was going to restore the public dominance the Catholics had lost with the advent of Liberalism. At first the Vatican appreciated the activity of the Cni, but further on began to entertain growing doubts about their exaggerated pro-fascist bias and manifest independence from the Holy See. This mistrust increased following frictions with the Italian Azione Cattolica and the condemnation of the Action Française. In 1928 Pope Pius XI harshly condemned the Cni, causing the end of this clerical-fascist project, while the compromise between the fascist regime and the Catholic Church was to result in the Lateran Pacts of 1929.
Keywords: Centro Nazionale Italiano (CNI), clerical-Fascism, Vatican, Catholicism, Fascism, Partito Popolare Italiano (PPI)