No. 552 NAI DFA 19/1B

Confidential Report from Charles Bewley to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Vatican City, 1 June 1931

There appears to be a considerable competition for the post of Legate to the Eucharistic Congress in 1932 among the three Cardinals qualified for the position by their knowledge of the English language:- Cardinal Cerretti, Lépicier, and Marchetti-Selvaggiani.1 As I wrote you before, the Rev. Sir John O'Connell gave a dinner to the Governor General with the object of introducing him to Cardinal Lépicier, and later informed His Excellency of the insufficiency of Cardinal Cerretti's knowledge of English - an opinion which I understand that the Governor General did not share when he met Cardinal Cerretti. In the Collegio Beda, Monsignor Herzog, who is an intimate friend of Cardinal Lépicier, and of course also French, returned to the subject, in conversation with myself, mentioning that the post of Legate was always much coveted, and informing me (I must admit, without undue insistence) of Cardinal Lépicier's high qualifications. While recognizing these, my personal opinion is that Cardinal Lépicier's somewhat exaggerated affability would not make a good impression in Ireland: his manner lends itself easily to imitation - a circumstance of which advantage is taken even in Rome.

Cardinal Marchetti-Selvaggiani is a good English speaker and an able man. He has the reputation, how well founded it is difficult to say, of being definitely anti-Irish; he has for many years spent some part of his vacation in England (on one occasion in Ireland) and rather cultivates English circles in Rome. I was informed by the French Ambassador in a purely casual conversation that he is somewhat bad-mannered and not quite what he (the Vicomte de Fontenay) expects of a Cardinal: I do not know the origin of this judgment. I called on him, as on seven other Cardinals, to ask him to the reception for the Governor General: he was the only one who promised to come and did not either turn up or send any communication. I find him personally the least sympathetic of the three cardinals in question, but have tried to give as objective an opinion as possible. I should perhaps add that the Prior of San Clemente told me he hoped for the appointment of Cardinal Marchetti-Selvaggiani.

Cardinal Cerretti has a strong qualification for the appointment, in that he understands the present position, constitutional and factual, of the Irish Free State in a way in which the other two do not. I had ample opportunity of satisfying myself on this point when I visited him with Mr. Scullin. Although no questions of politics arise, I am convinced that such references as he might make to Ireland's position would be appropriate, and that there would not be the least danger of his misunderstanding our position. He has a manner which would, I think, make a very favourable impression in Ireland. He also knows Irish circles in Australia intimately. The Archbishop of Dublin told me twice when he was here that he thought Cardinal Cerretti would be far the best appointment possible.

The nomination is of course made by His Holiness without consultation, and Dr. Byrne told me rather markedly that he had not recommended any Cardinal for the appointment. I think it possible however that, if the appointment was discussed, as was probably the case, he let his opinion be guessed, and that his reference to the subject in conversation with me was not entirely without an object.

While the matter is obviously not one in which the Government would be entitled or desirous to intervene directly, it would not be impossible for me, in conversation with Cardinal Pacelli, to mention the high opinion formed of Cardinal Cerretti in Irish circles, and also to let drop the fact that the Archbishop of Dublin would be glad to see the appointment.

If the Minister takes the view (which I personally would advocate) that it would be an advantage to have a Legate with a thorough comprehension of our international position, I should be glad to know whether he would approve of my referring to the matter in conversation with Cardinal Pacelli as suggested, or whether the whole affair could be more suitably arranged through the Nuncio.

I may perhaps add that Cardinal Cerretti is more intimately connected with the Irish College that the other two: in the absence of Cardinal Sbarretti from age and ill-health, he is usually invited there as their guest of honour. Cardinal Lépicier lectures and dines once a week in the Collegio Beda, and Cardinal Marchetti-Selvaggiani is the protector of the Collegio of San Silvestro in Capite, which is for practical purposes an English College.

[signed] Charles Bewley

1 Francesco Marchetti-Selvaggiani (1871-1951), created Cardinal Priest (1930), President of Pontifical Commission of work for the Propagation of   the Faith (1930-31), Vicar-General of Rome and its district (1931), Archpriest of the Lateran basilica (1931).

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