No. 53 NAI DFA ES Rome 1921-1923

George Gavan Duffy to Diarmuid O'Hegarty (Dublin)

Rome, 15 January 1921

A Chara,
[Matter omitted]

On 11th inst. I paid a visit, at his request, to Mgr. Ceretti the Under Secretary of State at the Vatican. (I had previously called on him quite informally as he knows some of my people.) He received me very cordially and we had a long conversation of which the following are the heads:-

  1. I started on the atrocities, plus the fact that all recent advices showed the spirit of the people to be as strong and determined as ever in spite of them. Told him there was no prospect of peace at present.
  2. He said Archbishop Clune's parleys seemed to suggest the contrary - Replied this was not so and explained the Archbishop's efforts.1
  3. He said what about Fr. O'Flanagan? Told him Fr. O'F. was most popular Priest in Ireland but had acted without authority in approaching L. G. with his telegrams. That effect had been bad because certain elements in British Cabinet had made this overture an excuse for taking and making L.G. take a more hostile line on the assumption that we were caving in.
  4. He said Colonial Home Rule which the English were willing to give, should settle the matter. I replied that compromise was out of the question and even if we were willing to forego our National right the consequence would be restarting the war under far less favourable conditions; because (a) we should be bound by our settlement while (b) the English Viceroy would be compelled by the traditionally bitter anti-Irish and anti-Catholic spirit in England to attempt constantly to impose his veto with endless friction. Pointed out difference between Australia 'children of the Mother country' and ourselves, and that the only two cases where Colonial H.R. had been imposed on a foreign race viz: French Canada and the Boers had proved bad failures.

    He said the Bishops in June last year had left the impression in Rome that, while demanding Independence, they were doing so out of policy only, and would be well satisfied if Ireland got Colonial Home Rule. (I am told by the Rector that this alleged impression is due to a piece of propaganda by Cardinal Gasquet on the strength of a casual conversation with an Irish Prelate.)

  5. I said everywhere Jews and Masons were united against us in foreign press on the side of England, that we are the most Catholic people with great personal devotion to the Holy Father and so on, and that we expected the Pope to be with us. He said they were often reproached with their silence but that many Prelates in Rome were scandalised by our 'murders'. I said that was English propaganda. Explained killings were either in armed conflict or by order of competent Irish authority and instanced the case of twelve spies in Dublin. Reminded him Irish Army almost all practising Catholics, many daily Communicants, and that where one or two of the small minority of Bishops who are not with us wanted to put into the unanimous declaration of October a condemnation of our 'crimes', the other Bishops had absolutely refused. Charges of assassination were therefore absurd and invented by England for propaganda.
  6. Explained there is really state of war. He said England called it Rebellion, because we are subjects of the Empire, not internationally recognised. I said England's statements were no answers to facts and that we had learned from the Peace Conference that international recognition was found to be a valueless standard. Explained we owed no allegiance and had never owed it to England and that we were quite determined to finish the war this time.
  7. Told him terror was going to be much worse because L.G. had transferred 'Irish Question' into an asset by filling English public opinion with hatred of us, so that it would support him in any atrocities, while he had nothing to fear from Europe crushed by the war:- L.G. more secure than ever. The only power England fears is the Vatican and it should act, if only by asking all the faithful to pray for Ireland or by ordering collection for Irish sufferers, as was done for Poland in 1915. Cited the action of Cardinal Mercier and others. A gesture from the Pope would be invaluable to us and would give pause to England. He again said it would be difficult to satisfy some of the Prelates in Rome that 'murder is not murder and arson arson', though he personally understood.
  8. He raised the question of Mannix and I said Pope could have ban removed by a word of protest. He said Holy Father might do this after Archbp's. visit to Rome but could not before.
  9. He also mentioned Bishop of Cork. I spoke strongly on this and on that gentleman's erratic character, as shown by his public acts, his attack on O'Rahilly etc. Told him the example was unlikely to be followed and that Dail had taken no public action in the matter presumably because could not take Dr. Coholan seriously. Told him we did not want any quarrel with the Church. On the contrary relations vastly improved during recent years by splendid loyalty of Clergy which had done much to dispel previously existing anti-clericalism and I paid warm tribute to the loyalty of the Church of late.
  10. After I had risen to go he volunteered that he would see if he could arrange an interview for me with Cardinal Gasparri, Secretary of State.

    The interview lasted half an hour, and on the next day, the 12th January, I had a message from the Cardinal, Secretary of State and called on him and saw him for about forty minutes. He was friendly but displayed less cordiality than Monsignor Cerretti. We went over much the same ground. I told him there would be no peace in present mood of the English Government and that we were determined to make the fear of us in England greater than the hate manufactured by L.G. He queried whether we could make England afraid. Told him we had no doubt of that. Cited hysterical examples of English mentality (before the Zeppelins and in 1867).

He raised Colonial Home Rule as proper settlement. I explained why we could not compromise. He said, anyway that would be a step and 'you would be much stronger in four or five years time.'

I again dwelt on our strong claims upon the Vatican. He said they had already spoken up in the Osservatore, but must condemn assassination. Told him we wanted no more of that kind, repeated suggestions made to Mons. C. and explained truth about the 'murders' and the present state of war.

He ended up by saying that, any way, the Bishops in June had asked the Vatican to keep silence and that it had replied that was an easy request to comply with.

That is a summary of the two interviews. I am sorry I have no machine to type it out. The salient points underlined above as to the Bishops and Col. Home Rule and as to the Bishops and Vatican silence, would, I suggest, be important for Dr. F.[ogarty] to know before the forthcoming meeting of Bishops and I hope this will be in time. Obviously the position was quite different when the Pope was asked in June last not to yield to English efforts to make him speak against us, and the unanimous declaration marks a big step forward, which the Vatican should take notice of. But England has gained ground here since June. The 'murder' propaganda has been effective and every important Prelate is convinced that Colonial Home Rule will satisfy us. I fear Archbishop Clune, being Australian, is not the best man to bring the facts home as they are to-day, to the Vatican. But I need say no more.

I may be too sanguine, but personally I believe the Vatican would do something to show its affection if adequately informed and pressed by ecclesiastical authority, not otherwise.

Mise le meas mór,
George Gavan Duffy

P.S. Dr. Amigo has arrived and Dr. Clune is expected The former I have not yet seen, but he is reported to be a sturdy champion of ours and would do good work at the Vatican. The Traveller reports that the Vaterland articles which C.[hatterton] H.[ill] wanted spread broadcast are not worth troubling about. I enclose a letter from Hill to Hamilton dated 4th ult. On all these matters I shall be able to write you more fully two or three weeks hence. Fr. Magennis is leaving in a couple of weeks. He will be a great loss here. I think he is going to S. or N. America and will be away for some six months. It is unnecessary to tell you what a tower of strength is Dr. Hagan and the Irish atmosphere here among the Colony generally is wonderfully good. Would you give enclosed stamp to the propaganda Dept. The idea is worth considering.

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