No. 315 NAI DFA ES Rome 1921-1923

Joseph Walshe to W.T. Cosgrave (Dublin)

Summary of correspondence between George Gavan Duffy and Count O'Byrne (Rome) relating to O'Byrne's attempt to gain an audience with Pope Pius XI

Dublin, 14 August 1922

A Chara,


I beg to send herewith nine copies of the Correspondence between Mr. Gavan Duffy and Count O'Byrne in reference to the question of an official or private audience. The Commander-in-Chief has already received a copy.

Le meas,
Joseph Walshe

Copies Of Correspondence With Count O'Byrne Re Audience With The Holy Father

Extract from Report No: 1, dated 23rd February, 1922 from COUNT O'BYRNE:-1
He (Dr. Hagan) continues very friendly and though he does not wish to be directly identified with any negotiations he will assist me from behind the scenes when I see my way to make a move. I was told it would be better to wait a bit as owing to the interregnum a lot of work had accumulated at the Vatican offices, and they would not be disposed to take on new business for a time. I shall move cautiously and am sending out feelers first through a friend to the Irish cause in the principal office we are concerned with, to find out what view will be taken now by the Secretary of State. I must tell you candidly that from what I hear there is very little prospect of making any headway at present. . . . . . . . . I'm told if they consent to see me at the Vatican, they will surely ask me for my credentials. They may object in the first place that the ones I have were issued by a former Government, and next that they are too extensive as they appoint me representative in Italy. The Vatican it appears does not like that the same person should be authorised to deal with itself and the Quirinal. As I consider my task is primarily to get recognition from the Vatican, I have done nothing to broach the subject with the Italian Government.

Extract from Report No: 2, dated 28th February, 1922, from COUNT O'BYRNE:-
I beg to report that having got a letter of introduction from a friend I called yesterday on Mgr. Francisco Borgongini Duca Pro-Secretary of State at the Vatican and met with a friendly reception. I broached immediately the subject of recognition of the Irish Government and he seemed to me to be fully prepared to discuss such a demand. He spoke to me quite frankly and I gathered from what he said that as far as he was concerned he would be only too pleased if possible to smoothen difficulties. . . . The view of the Holy See is that, having regard to the present divergence of opinion, it would be premature for it to give any recognition until the people had expressed their wish at an election. The Monsignor asked me had I any credentials and I told him I had ones appointing me last November as representative in Italy but not specifying whether to the Vatican or the Quirinal. To that he replied that if the Holy See gave recognition at any time, it would be necessary for the Irish Government to appoint a special representative as the same person could not also represent it at the Quirinal. To his query about the power of the Free State to appoint an envoy I replied by quoting the Canadian Precedent but he thought that it was for the purposes of Trade and Commerce that the Canadian Government had appointed a representative in Washington. Though I was under the impression that he was principally a diplomatic agent I was not sufficiently conversant with the case to contradict the statement. You probably know definitely what kind of representative the Canadian Government appointed and might let me know accordingly. Finally the Monsignor told me definitely, and I took it to be the considered view of the Holy See, that once a Government was established by the will of the Irish people and that England raised no objection to it the Holy See would be only too pleased to enter into relations with such a Government. He told me he did not anticipate any such objections; but whether he came to this conclusion in consequence of some feelers he had put out or that it was merely surmise I cannot tell. He cited as a precedent in our case Bavaria which though a compound part of the German Reich has an envoy at the Vatican while the Reich has one there too . . . Before my leaving, Mgr. Borgongini told me he would be very pleased to see me 'officieusement' but not 'officiellement' for the present, at any time I liked to call in case I had any communication to make from my Government or otherwise.

Extract from letter from Mr. Gavan Duffy to Count O'Byrne:-
9th March, 1922. No: 34/1922

(4) There is not the slightest objection to your having a private audience with the Holy Father at any time either with or without your family, and in your private capacity. I realise that this is the only way you could have an audience in present circumstances.

Extract from letter from Mr. Gavan Duffy to Count O'Byrne:-
15th March, 1922. No: 38/1922

With reference to your two reports in this matter, I never expected you to be recognised at present, but merely wished you to pave the way for eventual recognition. It seems to me that in the meantime it should be quite easy to get into close touch with all the important persons at the Vatican who are friendly, and to establish our relations with those people on a firm basis.

Extract from letter from Mr. Gavan Duffy to Count O'Byrne:-
No: 99/1922 20th June, 1922.

It is very desirable that you should have your audience with the Holy Father before you leave and on that occasion you will no doubt find an opportunity of explaining the position in Belfast and the responsibility for the unfortunate developments in that City.

Extract from letter from Count O'Byrne to Mr. Gavan Duffy:-
No: 95/1922. 25th June, 1922.

Your letter No: 99 to hand.
I note your desire that I should get an audience. I shall set about it immediately and will see the Under-Secretary of State with reference to it on Monday.

I had been putting off such a request for reasons my wife may have stated to you, which, however, were contrary to my judgement. I am all the more pleased that you also see the necessity of making a move.

Extract from letter from Count O'Byrne to Mr. Gavan Duffy:-
No: 102/1922. 3rd July, 1922.

The attitude of the Secretariat of State seems one of nervousness and they are apparently afraid to see anybody who might remind them of the persecution of the Catholics in Ulster. It would seem a case of a guilty conscience. The insults alone to Cardinal Logue brought home to them by the letter of the Irish Bishops recently delivered at the Vatican would demand a protest but so far it has only upset them tremendously. I saw that clearly at my interview with Mgr. Borgongini Duca whom I called on, on last Wednesday according to your instructions to ask again for an audience of the Holy Father. He almost implored me not to insist just at present of all reasons alleging that it would be inopportune just now on account of the assassination of Wilson.2 I saw that was merely an excuse but as he begged of me to postpone the demand till the middle of the month I yielded to his pressure as he seemed distressed about the matter. He had just been with Cardinal Gasparri for at least an hour, for I was kept waiting that length of time, discussing apparently the Bishops' letter for he told me that they had just drawn up a despatch to the Cardinal asking him for a full report on the holds up. They are evidently living in the moon and not in the Vatican or more likely more than ever under the predominant influence of England. I rather imagine the disinclination comes not from the Holy Father but from the Secretary of State. Delicate negotiations are being carried on in London I believe about Palestine and they are afraid to do anything to offend the British Government such as condemning the Belfast murders which would be an indirect condemnation of England for not having put a stop to it. The Cardinal Secretary may fear that I might tell the Holy Father even more than he knows so he is not anxious I should see him. Unless you direct me to the contrary I shall call again in a fortnight and urge on them the bad impression it will make in Ireland if the ban on their representative is still continued having regard to the fact as the Under Secretary of State admitted to me himself last Wednesday that the Pope freely receives the representatives of heretic, Mahommedan and Jewish peoples.

Extract from letter from Mr. Gavan Duffy to Count O'Byrne:-
No: 112/1922 8th July, 1922.

The other matter you mention is very much more serious. I shall be glad if you will intimate to those concerned that I shall advise the Government to take a very serious view indeed of the position if your application is not granted before you return home, nor shall I consent to any policy of silence in the matter. I shall advise the Government that it is essential to get publication in full in Ireland and also beyond the seas and, whatever the eventual decision, I think it will be wholesome that the fact that this will be the attitude of the Irish Government should be realised; there is a limit even to our patience.

Extract from a letter from Count O'Byrne to Mr. Gavan Duffy:-
No: 119/1922 16th July, 1922.

The day before I got your letter I called at the Vatican as the fortnight I had been asked to wait had elapsed. I found then that Mgr. Borgongini Duca, with whom I had had all the previous conversations had gone off on his holidays. I saw however Mgr. Ciriacci who is acting for the Pro-Secretary for Foreign Affairs during his absence. I may say that he also is very friendly and would I think further my request if he could but he is only a junior and may not have much influence. I was surprised when he told me that Mgr. B.D. had not spoken to him about the conversations we had had together. We discussed the matter about my application for an audience and I told him of your desire as expressed in your letter 99 that I should endeavour to see the Holy Father before leaving Rome. He told me of difficulties that stood in the way and asked had I credentials from the present Government. I had of course to admit that my only ones dated from the 8th of November last. You may remember my urging in an early letter to you after my arrival here the advisability of having them renewed but you thought better not. The Mgr. then asked had I any letter showing I represented the Government. To that I replied I had the correspondence with you. I imagine the objection they may raise to that is that you are not a member of the Provisional Government. He then urged that I should be satisfied to be received in a private capacity while the Pope would know beforehand the position I occupy in Rome. I was not sure what attitude I should take on that point and whether I should be satisfied with that as you would have been when you applied. However times have changed a good deal since so I was non-committal in my reply. I would imagine however from your letter 112 that you would wish me only to be received in my representative capacity. The upshot of our interview was that he asked me to send a formal request for an audience in writing addressed to Mgr. B.D. as he had been already the intermediary but in a covering letter addressed to himself. He on his part will do his best. I am accordingly going to bring the letter myself to the Vatican to-morrow so as to endeavour to see Mgr. C. and impress upon him personally the serious view you would advise the Government to take in case of a refusal. Having regard to their present mentality I have grave fears I will not be successful. As you may remember I was to have made a formal application the 2nd week after Easter but unfortunately I was called back to Dublin during Easter week. At that time I would have stood a better chance. They seem to have got very nervous since.

Telegram from Mr Gavan Duffy to Count O'Byrne:-
21st July, 1922.

Letter from Mr. Gavan Duffy to Count O'Byrne:-
21st July, 1922. No: 123/1922

Your confidential letter No: 119.
I confirm my wire of this day, as follows:-
'UNDER PRESENT CONDITIONS CANNOT REJECT PURELY PRIVATE RECEPTION' I had not contemplated anything amounting to recognition under present circumstances, as that would be unreasonable, though one would be very glad if we were met half way in the matter. That is why the question of Credentials does not really arise.

Letter from Count O'Byrne to Mr. Gavan Duffy:-
21st July, 1922. Unnumbered.

I had just posted a private letter to you when your wire 'Under present conditions cannot reject purely private Reception' arrived this afternoon. I am writing these few lines to acknowledge receipt of it and have to do so myself as my lady typist is laid up. Since my formal application on last Monday I have heard nothing but didn't expect to, as I was told I would be given the reply only on Wednesday the 26th. If the occasion arises I shall follow your instructions in wire.

Letter from Count O'Byrne to Mr. Gavan Duffy:-
25th July, 1922. No: 129/1922

I had gathered from former communications that some kind of recognition was required, which I thought myself, under the present circumstances, would be difficult to obtain. Hence it was I asked you in case of a refusal not to act in the matter until my return.

The reply to my request is to be given me to-morrow, and I shall then see whether being satisfied with being privately received would not make matters easier.

Letter from Count O'Byrne to Mr. Gavan Duffy:-
27th July, 1922. Unnumbered.

I attended yesterday at the Vatican to hear the reply to my request and was duly received by the acting Under Secretary of State. He communicated to me the official reply of the Cardinal Secretary which I regret to say was not favourable. His Eminence said that having regard to the state of affairs at present prevalent in Ireland and to the fighting that was going on there he did not consider it opportune to grant my request just now. He said it should not be taken as a refusal but merely as a postponement and gave as his opinion that once peace was restored and that a Government could function normally in Ireland, he had no doubt the Pope would receive its representative with due formality.

The alternative of being received in a totally private capacity of course remained but on reflection and on having consulted some trusted friends I came to the conclusion that having regard to the position I have openly occupied for the last six months my applying for an audience in my private capacity might be misunderstood. I have therefore determined not to take any further steps at present and I think when I lay the matter completely before you, you will approve of my course of action.

1 This is an extract from No. 247.

2 Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson.

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