No. 58 NAI DFA ES Paris 1921

Extract from a letter from Sean T O'Ceallaigh to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)

Grand Hotel, Paris, 29 January 1921

A Chara,
I am asked from Rome to forward by hand, an urgent letter to the Bishop of Dromore. The letter is from the Rector of the Irish College and deals with an urgent and important matter about which I am informed, some message has already been sent to you. In case the full details may not have already reached you I think I had better give you the full story as it has reached me.

It appears that when Archbishop Clune reached Rome - about Jan. 19th - he had a long interview with Archbishop Cerretti, Papal Secretary of State for Extraordinary Affairs, to whom he gave a full account of his recent experiences in London and Ireland.1 Among other things he told Mgr. Cerretti and afterwards His Holiness himself, was that Lloyd George and the English Cabinet were solely responsible for the failure of the negotiations which he, the Archbishop, was asked by Lloyd George to undertake. In the course of his conversation with Mgr. Cerretti Dr. Clune learned to his astonishment that a papal pronouncement was ready to be issued dealing with the Irish question. It is understood that the statement was not to take the form of an open condemnation of Sinn Fein; it was rather to condemn deeds of violence on all sides but in substance it was to be taken, and I hear was meant to be taken, by friend and enemy as a death blow at the Irish Movement for independence.

Mgr. Cerretti is said to have realised the gravity of the proposed step and he was very much impressed by the information he received from Dr. Clune. He urged the Archbishop to see His Holiness at once and tell his story to him. This the Archbishop did next day and in his turn the Pope was impressed by His Grace's story. His Holiness admitted to Dr. Clune that the manifesto was on the point of being issued and the latter urgently and forcefully impressed on the Pope as he had already impressed on Mgr. Cerretti, the unthinkable nature of such a step and the calamitous effects that it in all probability would have. The Pope told Dr. Clune he should see Cardinal Merry del Val at once and recount his story to him. The result is that for the present the papal pronouncement has been held up but I am given to understand that it is only for the present and that we must make up our minds that it will arise again and maybe in a more acute form so that it behoves us to set to work at once to do all in our power to combat the big effort that our enemy is at the moment making to induce the Vatican to come out in opposition to us.

It has already been suggested to the Vatican by a very good friend of ours now in Rome that if they want to make a statement in reference to the Irish Question this should take the form of an appeal for the formation of an International committee to enquire into present conditions in Ireland generally and in particular, into the atrocities to which the people of Ireland are now being subjected by the English army of occupation. This suggestion I understand is being considered. It will be remembered that the Belgian bishops asked for such an enquiry during the late war and this demand was at the time strongly backed by the English Government.

Would it not be possible to get the Irish bishops to put forward a similar demand. The Vatican could not fail to back it. I think the suggestion should be made to them at all events. By the way I sent to Cait a few days ago a copy of a Roman paper containing a long letter issued last week by His Holiness appealing for aid for suffering Austria. Have our Irish bishops ever asked His Holiness to issue a similar appeal in aid of suffering in Ireland? If not it is time they thought about it. Our bishops should send a united demand to the Pope for a declaration to be made in public of the right of Ireland to her freedom and asking Catholics all the world over to come to our aid.
[Matter omitted]

His Holiness issued such statements and appeals in favour of Poland. Surely our bishops must admit that Ireland is no less deserving. Please see to it that this matter is put before them anyhow. This kind of offensive constantly kept up against the Vatican would in my opinion be one of the best means of countering the efforts of our bitter and - even at Rome - most potent enemy. To return to the Papal manifesto and the way to combat it; a mutual friend in Rome suggests that the first and most urgent thing to be done is to publish all the facts broadcast, he even suggests that the name of Cardinal Merry del Val, the evil genius of the whole business, should be given to the press. The next thing should be to get all public authorities in Ireland to speak publicly and plainly their minds on the matter. Their statements while moderate in language should show resolute determination not to brook interference in the political fight. All this while expressing unyielding loyalty to the Church. It should be pointed out that the issuing of such a manifesto by the Holy See while not likely in any way to deflect the Irish people from the path they have marked out for themselves to achieve their independence would on the other hand have disastrous effects so far as the Church is concerned, not only in Ireland but all the world over. All this should be done in consultation with our tried friends among the Irish bishops.

For your own information I am sending enclosed herewith a copy of a resolution drafted by the late Cardinal Manning as a protest against the condemnation of the Plan of Campaign by Pope Leo XIII in 1888. This draft is published in W.S. Blunt's 'Land War in Ireland'. London 1912. Page 437.

That I think finishes all I have to say on the Roman situation for the present. I understand Bishop Fogarty has already been written to on the subject.
[Matter omitted]

There is another message that our mutual friend in Rome asked me some time ago to convey to you. It may be a bit premature but our friend is very keen on having the matter brought under your notice nevertheless. It is to the effect that if and whenever the stage for serious negotiations with England arises the matter of the right of Ireland to its own separate representative at the Vatican should not be lost sight of. Our friends in Rome think this of the utmost importance. They consider Rome and the Vatican one of the best centres in the world for propaganda. There is no doubt either but that Rome and the Vatican have much increased in importance, diplomatically speaking, since all the states of Europe and many others besides have publicly revived diplomatic relations with the Holy See.

Archbishop Hayes is as you know now in Rome. Our friend Kelly went down from here to meet him and before his departure I had a long talk on affairs generally with the latter. I am hoping as a result that both Mr. K. and the Archbishop of New York will be of powerful assistance to us in defeating the intrigues of our enemy at the Vatican. I understand from Rome that Mr. K. is keeping in close touch with all our friends there.

With renewed thanks for your kindness in sending that interview and with warmest regards and very best wishes,


Do bhuan chara,
Seán T. O'Ceallaigh


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