No. 173 NAI DFA 5/7

Letter from Patrick J. O'Byrne (for Charles Bewley) to Joseph P. Walshe
(B 21/33) (Secret)

Rome, 2 March 1933

I again called to the Vatican this morning, where I had an interview with Mons. Ottaviani. He told me that he had seen the Pope and that His Holiness would be glad to receive the President's visit in the latter half of May. He then explained what has been really operating in the mind of the Holy See. The Pope is apparently afraid that, if the situation between Ireland and England were very strained at the time of the visit, or if it took place in the midst of polemics between the Irish and English Governments, the President's visit might be construed as a political gesture on the part of the Holy See; and, as Mons. Ottaviani pointed out, he would be particularly reluctant that this should be so, on account of the fact that relations between the British Government and the Holy See are strained owing to the Malta question and the failure of appoint a British Minister. He said that the position of Catholics in England and the British Empire generally was a delicate one, and that the Pope was anxious to avoid the appearance of any partiality. I assured him that President de Valera perfectly understood the position, and that he would be very reluctant that anyone should connect his journey to Rome with political propaganda. I pointed out at the same time that, while the President had always done everything in his power to avoid unnecessary bitterness, he could not guarantee what the British Government might do in the immediate future. I then asked if I might wire to the Irish Government to suggest a possible date, which could then be submitted to His Holiness. Mons. Ottaviani agreed to this course, at the same time pointing out that it would be better not to have any publication at the moment.

I think it would be better not to publish anything without the consent of the Vatican, as the visit is for the moment being fixed provisionally, subject to the reservation made by the Pope. Once the date has been provisionally fixed, I would suggest that the authority of the Vatican be sought (either through myself or through the Nuncio) for publication. When it is once published with the consent of the Holy See, it will be final: if published without their express consent, they might possibly suggest further delay.

[signed] P.J. O'Byrne
for Minister Plenipotentiary

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