History has offered many candidates for the role of Antichrist, including Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, V.I. Lenin, Mao Zedong, Napoleon I, Ivan the Terrible, and Genghis Khan to name a few.
However, one name rarely associated with antichrist is Benito Mussolini. Yet there was a time when some intelligent Americans thought Mussolini was the antichrist and even said so to Il Duce’s face.
Who is the Antichrist?
In traditional Christian belief, the Antichrist is the Son of Satan, who will become history’s greatest tyrant in the End Times.
The best way to describe the Antichrist is as Jesus’s evil doppelganger. Jesus is gentle and dedicated to peace and love. The Antichrist is evil and violent and dedicated to war and hate. If Jesus is God in the flesh, the Antichrist is Satan in the Flesh, or pure evil.
The New Testament predicts that the Antichrist and his henchman the False Prophet will conquer the world and persecute Christians and Jews. Frighteningly, it is not clear if the Antichrist is one monster or several evil tyrants.
Thus, some Christians will argue that past tyrants such as Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, and Mao were Antichrists. However, almost no modern Christian will say Mussolini was the Antichrist.
Mussolini the Antichrist
In the 1920s, a group of American evangelical preachers and writers began calling Mussolini the Antichrist. As early as 1922 American evangelical Louis Bauman called Mussolini Antichrist.
Bauman decided that Mussolini was the Antichrist because the Italian Dictator announced the creation of a New Roman Empire, author Matthew Avery Sutton writes. To explain, many evangelicals think the Antichrist will reform the Roman Empire.*
In reality, Mussolini’s New Roman Empire was a grim joke; it comprised Libya and a few small colonies in East Africa. Italy was a third-rate power with a terrible army.
However, American evangelicals only paid attention to Mussolini’s arrogant rhetoric and ignored the sorry state of Italy’s army. Sutton writes that several leading American evangelical leaders proclaimed Mussolini the Antichrist and advised evangelicals to watch the Italian dictator.
Il Duce or Antichrist?
Yet evangelicals were so convinced Mussolini was Antichrist, two of them even told Il Duce himself their theory. Evangelists Frank and Edith Norton of the Belgium Gospel Mission dropped in on Mussolini in the early 1930s and told him the antichrist theory.
Sutton claims the Nortons showed Il Duce passages in the Book of Daniel to back their theory. However, Mussolini was apparently so ignorant of the scripture he found the Antichrist label flattering.
Sutton thinks Mussolini became convinced he was the future world dictator and architect of a new Roman Empire from the Nortons’ claims.* Whether the Nortons’ visit set Mussolini on his destructive course of world conquest is unknown. However, history shows that Mussolini was not the antichrist.
The simple fact that Mussolini let the Nortons leave Italy alive disproves their theory. If Mussolini had really been Antichrist, he would have quickly killed anybody who knew his true identity.
The idea Mussolini was Antichrist is ludicrous because one of Il Duce’s closest and most important allies was Pope Pius XI. Mussolini formalized the relationship between Italy and the Vatican and restored Catholic education to Italian schools. Author David I. Kertzer alleges that Mussolini worked closely with Mussolini for years.
I think His Holiness would have recognized the Antichrist and refused to help the Evil One. In addition, I cannot imagine the Antichrist helping the Church. Yet history reveals Mussolini strengthened the Church by increasing its role in Italian society.
Thus, Mussolini was a friend of the church who helped increase its power. Only bigoted Protestant extremists who view Catholics as Antichrists could buy the notion Il Duce was an enemy of the church.
I have to wonder if Mussolini ever discussed the Nortons’ claims with Pius. If he did, Il Duce probably received an interesting lecture on the meaning of Scripture from the Pope.
Moreover, there were better candidates for Antichrist in the 1930s. The most visible candidate was Stalin, a self-proclaimed atheist, who was waging a brutal war on the church, demolishing churches, and murdering millions. By the late 1930s, Mussolini’s friend Hitler was rivaling Stalin with his personality cult.
Benny the Moose as Antichrist
History, or God, had a cruel joke to play upon those who regarded Mussolini as the Antichrist.
In the 1930s and 1940s, events exposed Italy’s military as inept and incapable of waging a modern war. In fact, by 1941, Mussolini’s New Roman Empire had become a liability to its ally, the Third Reich.
On 28 October 1940, Mussolini became jealous of his friend Hitler’s successes and invaded Greece. Instead of blitzkrieg, the Greeks stopped the Italians just inside their territory. By January 1941, the Greeks were actually invading the Italian-held Albania.
By March 1941, British troops began arriving to help the Greeks. Hitler realized he had to act to rescue Mussolini and prevent the British from establishing a base on European soil.
German forces invaded Greece on 6 April 1941. It took German forces less than three weeks to defeat the Greek Army and overrun Greece. The Italian Army could not dislodge the Greeks with months of brutal combat, yet the Germans could crush the Greeks in a few weeks. When Greek troops finally surrendered on 20 April 1941, it was on the condition they did not have to surrender to the Italians.
Greece was just one of several Italian military debacles in 1940 and 1941. A handful of old British biplanes sank most of Italy’s battle fleet at Taranto and ended Mussolini’s hopes of controlling the Mediterranean. British forces easily liberated Mussolini’s African colony of Ethiopia and almost drove the Italians out of North Africa.
Yet Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and a small force of Germans almost defeated the British and conquered North Africa. The New Roman Empire could not wage war without German help. The Antichrist was nothing but Hitler’s stooge.
By 1941, nobody was calling Mussolini the Antichrist. Instead, British soldiers had a new nickname for Mussolini; “Benny the Moose.” Many German and Italian soldiers probably agreed with that assessment.
The end of Il Duce
By 1943 with North Africa lost to British and American forces and Allied troops invading Italy itself; King Vittorio Emanuele and Italy’s Grand Council fired Mussolini. The Italian government then imprisoned Mussolini.
Hitler, however, came to Mussolini’s rescue again and had German commandos rescue Il Duce. Mussolini became leader of a Nazi puppet government in northern Italy. By April 1945, Mussolini’s New Roman Empire comprised a few cities in Northern Italy.
On 25 April 1945, Mussolini learned that German forces in Northern Italy were about to surrender to the Allies. Fearing capture, Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci headed for the Swiss border in an Alfa Romeo.
On 27 April 1945, Italian partisans captured Il Duce, who was pretending to be a German airman. The Partisans shot Mussolini and Pettaci the next day. On 29 April 1945, partisans dumped the corpses of Mussolini, Petacci, and 14 fascists on the Piazzale Loreto, a public square in Milan.
The Strange Fate of Mussolini’s Corpse
Mobs of angry Italians soon appeared and began abusing and mutilating Mussolini’s corpse. Eventually, somebody hung Mussolini and Petacci’s bodies in a gas station so people could throw garbage at them.
Instead of rising from the grave like the Antichrist, Mussolini hung in the gas station all day. Finally, American troops ordered Italians to take the body down and take Il Duce to the morgue.
On 30 April 1945, they buried Mussolini in an unmarked grave in a Milan cemetery. In 1946, fascists dug up Mussolini’s body and took it to a monastery. They kept the supposed Antichrist’s bones in a Monastery cupboard for 11 years.
In 1957, Mussolini’s widow gave his body a formal burial in the family crypt. In 1966, the US government returned a piece of Mussolini’s brain; that surgeons had removed in a 1945 autopsy, to Il Duce’s family.
Today’ there’s no evidence that Mussolini has risen from the crypt in Predappio. Thus, Mussolini is not the Antichrist; whom the Bible calls the “Beast who will die and rise again” in a mockery of Jesus’s resurrection. However, fascists sometime come to honor their hero’s memory.
The story of Mussolini the Antichrist should be a lesson to all true believers. Today’s Antichrist is apt to become tomorrow’s grim joke.
* For an excellent description of American evangelicals’ strange beliefs about Mussolini See American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism by Matthew Avery Sutton pages 213-216.
Il Duce’s close relationship with the Pope is the subject of The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europeby David I. Kertzer.