No. 79 NAI DFA Secretaries’ Files S2

Report on mission to Rome by Joseph P. Walshe

9 May 1923


29th April - 9th May, 1923

29th April ? The Minister arrived in Rome.
Interview with the Marquis MacSwiney, arranged beforehand by Mr. Sean Murphy who had already conveyed to Cardinal Gasparri the President's message about Monsignor LUZIO.
PRELIMINARIES It was decided that the Marquis should go with Mr. Murphy the following morning to see Monsignor Pizzardo, Secretary to the Cardinal Secretary of State to inform him of the purport of the Minister's visit and to secure an appointment.
30th April, morning
The Marquis pointed out to Mgr. PIZZARDO that the Minister had come to express the gratitude of the President and the Cabinet for the prompt action taken by the Holy See in recalling Mgr. Luzio and to put the relations of the Holy See with Ireland on such a friendly basis that no hitch could in future occur between them. Mgr. Pizzardo was particularly cordial and showed much anxiety to repair the harm that had been done by Mgr. Luzio's visit and seemed impressed by the fact that the Government considered it advisable to send a Member of the Cabinet to explain the whole situation to the Holy See. The interview with Cardinal Gasparri was arranged for 7 o'clock the same evening.
Evening The Minister accompanied by Marquis MacSwiney, Messrs. J. Walshe and S. Murphy went to the Vatican.

After a few minutes wait in the Council Chamber, the Minister and the Marquis were conducted to the study of the Secretary of State. The Minister having been introduced was greeted very affably by the Cardinal. The Minister explained the situation at great length, referred particularly to the Con Murphy incident and assured the Cardinal that the Government had ample reason for arresting him (Documents produced showing that Con Murphy's house was distributing centre for Irregular despatches). The Cardinal urged that the telegram sent to the Archbishop of Dublin was in no sense an order. The question of intervening to secure Murphy's release from prison was left entirely to the discretion of the Archbishop. The telegram was occasioned by the great number of wires sent from Ireland and America, all stating that Murphy's imprisonment was due to his visit to Rome.

The Minister went on to explain that the release had taken place before the Government had any knowledge of the telegram to the Archbishop, that in any case the Government, had they desired, could have prevented the departure of Con Murphy for Rome, that it was not the wish of the Irish Government to prevent peaceful action of any sort by the Irregulars least of all to prevent them putting their case before the Holy Father.

Both the Minister and the Marquis emphasised the bad impression created by the attitude of the Vatican towards the visit of Messrs. Clery and Con Murphy to Rome. A notice appeared in the Irish and Foreign Press about January of this year saying that these gentlemen had come to Rome to protest against the interference of the Irish Bishops; that they had seen the Cardinal Secretary of State who promised to communicate their memo. to Cardinal Logue to obtain further information; that they had received an assurance that the Sacred Congregation would study the matter. This Press notice remained uncontradicted by the Holy See with the result that Irish Catholics of whom the vast majority support the Government were gravely alarmed. Their political convictions remained unshaken but the apparent consideration shown by the Vatican to the enemies of the established Government and its apparent indifference to the express public declaration of the Bishops had been a source of grave scandal and disedification to them. These feelings and doubts were accentuated when the report of Mgr.
Luzio's intended visit was published and the people could only conclude that the Holy See believed all the reports received from Ireland and the U.S.A. against the Bishops and the established Government. The report, still uncontradicted[,] that the Papal Benediction had been sent to Con Murphy gave still further ground for anxiety.

The Cardinal was evidently much perturbed at this exposé of the situation created by the interference of the Holy See, and he hastened to explain to the Minister that the action of the Holy See had been misinterpreted.


The Papal Benediction was not sent to Con MGR. LUZIO'S Murphy. It was understood in Rome that the elections VISIT were to be held in May and Mgr. Luzio's presence in Ireland was regarded by the Holy See as a means of aiding the Government to convince the people that the result of the elections should finally decide the controversy.

To complete his explanations the Minister informed the Cardinal of the visit of the Red Cross Delegates to Ireland; their inspection of the prisons: their excellent impression of the prisoners' treatment. With 10,000 prisoners on their hands the Irish Government could not allow the hunger-strike to be used as a means of obtaining release even if death supervened in some instances.

The Marquis here interrupted to impress on the Cardinal how pained and surprised the Irish people would be if the Holy See intervened on behalf of rebel strikers when no steps whatever had been taken on behalf of

Terence MacSwiney, whose sufferings had lasted for seventy days or on behalf of Thomas Ashe who had been MacSWINEY killed by inexpert physicians while being forcefully fed.

Cardinal Gasparri did not admit that the Holy See had been indifferent to the case of the two Irishmen mentioned. Mr. Lloyd George at that time had made strong representations to the Vatican in order to get hungerstriking condemned, but the Pope refused to take action.

Before leaving the Minister impressed on the Cardinal how happy he was to find the Holy See so favorably disposed to the Government of the Irish Free State. He felt quite confident that henceforth similar painful incidents would not occur; that doubts would be solved by open and amicable communication. The President and the Ministers were now as always in the past devoted to the Holy See. The Irish Government would do all in its power to make the relations now begun ever closer and more cordial.

1st May: Morning Officials of the Vatican Library. The Minister was introduced by the Marquis to Mgr. Mercati, Prefect of the Library, whom he thanked in the name of the Irish Government for the facilities given to the Marquis in LIBRARY
the founding of an Irish section of the library. the founding of an Irish section of the library. Mgr. Mercati’s present post was held immediately before him by Pius XI.

In the Records section, the Minister was received by Mgr. Ugolini, Cardinal Gasquet’s First Assistant Keeper of the Records.

Amongst other interesting MMS. Mgr. Ugolini showed to the Minister a series of Minutes of Papal Bulls addressed to Irish Bishops during the period immediately preceding the Anglo-Norman invasion.

Evening: 6 o’c. Visit to Mr. Theo Russell, British Minister Plenipotentiary to the Holy See.
Visit to British

The Minister informed Mr. Russell of the purport of his visit. Mr. Russell was extremely courteous and expressed his desire to help and facilitate the Minister in every way during his stay in Rome. He seemed amazed that it had been possible to arrange the interview with Cardinal Gasparri so soon after the Minister’s arrival.

During a short general discussion on Roman Affairs, he remarked that he had never come in contact with the Irish College Authorities but he hoped that with the with the new order of things amicable relations might be established.

7 o’clock Visit to Cardinal Vanutelli, Dean of the Sacred College.

The Minister having been introduced by the Marquis told the Cardinal that though his visit was very short and only semi-official he could not leave Rome without presenting his respects to the Cardinal and through him to the Sacred College. It was well known that the sympathies of the Cardinal were always strongly pro-Irish.

Cardinal Vanutelli replied that it gave him very very great satisfaction to meet a member of the Irish Government. He had indeed a great affection for Ireland and he almost considered himself an Irishman since he had been honoured with the freedom of her chief cities (Cork, Dublin, Drogheda). He would be delighted to inform his colleagues of the Minister's act of courtesy. He asked the Minister to convey his best wishes to the President and the Government.

2nd May, Wednesday Visit to Cardinal Ranuzzi di Bianchi, Protector of the Constantinian order of Saint George.

After having inquired about the situation in Ireland, he told the Minister how desirous he was that a distinct branch of the Order should be founded in Ireland. Branches had already been established in France and England.

The Order is somewhat similar to that of St. John, but is exclusively Catholic.

3rd May,

In view of the impending change in the method of select- THURSDAY ing Bishops in Ireland, the Marquis, at the Minister's request interviewed the Brazilian and Portuguese Representatives for the purpose of finding out what system was in operation in their respective countries, neither of which has at present a concordat with the Holy See.

The Bishops are selected by the Nuncio resident in Rio and Lisbon without direct reference to either the local clergy or the Government.

Before recommending his choice to Rome, the Nuncio finds out unofficially whether the individual is a persona grata with the Government, but the wishes of the local clergy are completely ignored.

4th May,
11 o’clock

Audience with the Pope The Minister accompanied by the Marquis and followed by Messrs. Murphy and Walshe arrived at the Vatican. The party was ushered to the Throne Room, Military honours being given by the officers of the Guards in all the halls leading to the Pope's private study. Mgr. Confalonieri, the Maestro di Camera, conducted the Minister and the Marquis to the antecamera segreta (to which only Cardinals and personnages of high rank are admitted) to await the Audience.

After a few minutes they were led into the Pope's private study in which the Pope very rarely receives visitors.

When the Minister had kissed his ring the Pope invited him to sit in a chair placed immediately in front of his writing table.

THE MINISTER The Minister spoke briefly to the Pope about the attachment of the Irish Government and people to his person and office; about the strong Catholic spirit in Ireland which had lasted for centuries and was still as strong as ever. The legally constituted Government of Ireland not only represented the views of the overwhelming majority of the people in every political matter but also in their attitude towards the Holy See.
THE POPE The Pope who spoke for almost half an hour assured the Minister that every time he offered the Holy Sacrifice, Ireland was present in his thoughts. During his stay in Poland as Nuncio he often thought of the similarity between the history of the two peoples. He referred to the work of the Irish Missionaries in Northern Italy. BOBBIO had been the centre of an intense intellectual and religious movement. (Messrs. Murphy and Walshe were introduced at this point.) In a short time - probably about September - a Papal rescript would be issued restoring the ancient abbatial title of Bobbio.1 

The Holy Father spoke at length about the Irish MMS. in the Ambrosian Library of Milan (of which he had been Curator before coming to Rome) especially about the Antiphonarium of Bangor with its scoliae in old Irish. His study had made him familiar with the Irish characters in which these MMS. were written.

The Pope gave his Benediction to the four present and through them to their relatives and friends 'according to their intention'.

He had previously asked the Minister to convey his special blessing to the President and Ministers of the Government.

The Pope accompanied his visitors to the ante-camera segreta to examine a set of books which the Marquis had received for the new Irish section. He was particularly pleased to see the bound volumes of 'Hermathenae' presented by the Provost of Trinity College.

The Holy Father, with further good wishes to the Minister and his friends, bade Good-Bye.

5th May.
6 o’clock

Interview arranged by the Marquis with Signor Con- tarini, permanent Director of Foreign Affairs. Interview. The Minister was very cordially greeted by Sig. Contarini. The latter conveyed Sig. Mussolini's regrets to the Minister that his departure for Milan prevented him receiving the Minister personally. If the Minister remained a few days longer, Sig. Mussolini would be very gratified to have an opportunity of meeting him.

Signor Contarini inquired about the exact relations between the Irish and British Governments and expressed great pleasure on hearing from the Minister that the relations were amicable.

Signor Contarini hoped that it would soon be possible to have a trade convention with Ireland and that the most cordial relations would be established between Italy and Ireland.

The Minister left his card on the British Ambassador.

7th May
6 o’clock
The Minister visited Cardinal Von Rossum, head of the Propaganda. The Cardinal displayed an intimate knowl- edge of Irish affairs and declared himself greatly pleased at the strong position of the new Government, owing to its wise and just administration.
TUESDAY, 8th May. The Minister left Rome.

[signed] S.P. BREATHNACH

1A handwritten textual note reads '13th Centenary of foundation of the Abbey'.

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