No. 46 NAI DFA 219/5

Confidential report from Colman O'Donovan to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(MP30/39) (Confidential)

Holy See, 4 October 1939

Within the past week or so the question of the attitude of Ireland towards the fate of Poland has arisen several times in the course of discussions on the war which I have had with Irish priests here. In view of the common faith and similar past of the two countries it was natural enough that the topic should arise, but I did not observe any tendency to argue that there was anything that Ireland could have done to save Poland from her fate.

A few days ago, however, the Rector of the Irish College1 told me that he had come into possession, under a pledge of secrecy, of information which caused him to suggest to me that it might be desirable that we should prepare ourselves to meet criticism that Catholic Ireland had been found wanting in the moment of Catholic Poland's trial. I told Dr. MacDaid that it was difficult for me to take any action in such a matter without knowing the source or the nature of the information which he had received. He said that he would try to release himself from the pledge of confidence and would see me again when he had done so.

I have since received by post the enclosed anonymous message2 written across a newspaper article about the surrender of Warsaw and the end of Polish resistance. The message itself and the method of its transmission bear the familiar stamp of the crank and I should not ordinarily think it worthy of notice. I mention it now merely because it, and the conversations to which I have referred may be the outcrop of a sentiment, more or less widely felt, which it would be well to take under notice.

I introduced the matter casually in my conversation with Mgr. Montini3 at the Vatican yesterday, and said that I did not see what, in her position, Ireland could have done beyond raising funds for the relief of sufferers in Poland and that I understood that a fund had in fact been started. Mgr. Montini agreed with my remarks, saying that Ireland was neutral and had entered into no engagements with Poland, but he thought it should be a good thing to publish the news of the fund and any other such news (e.g. resolutions of sympathy, if any) in the OSSERVATORE ROMANO. He would see that full publicity was given to anything of the kind that I would send him. I therefore telegraphed to you today making that suggestion.

[signed] C.J. O'Donovan

1 Mgr Denis McDaid, Rector of the Irish College in Rome (1939-51).

2 Not located.

3 Mgr Giovanni Battista Montini (1897-1978), assistant to the Cardinal Secretary of State (1933-44), Archbishop of Milan (1954-63), elected Pope Paul VI (1963-78).

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