No. 101 NAI DFA 19/1

Extract from a confidential report from Charles Bewley to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(B 4/32) (M I/32) (D 22/32 (2))

Rome, 6 August 1932

I had my audience with the Pope yesterday morning. His Holiness had just received Cardinal Lami,1 and naturally began to speak at once of the Eucharistic Congress, with which he expressed his very great satisfaction. He went on to speak of the great enthusiasm of the people, and said that he had heard from some who had travelled through Ireland that not only in Dublin but even in the most remote parts of the country, houses were decorated in honour of the Congress. I said that it had been a congress in which the whole people took part. He said that the Irish people, as he had expected of them, had shown themselves united in their faith, and that he hoped they would find a way to be united in other matters also, now that the Congress was over.

His Holiness then went on, without giving me much opportunity of intervening, to say that the unity of a people showed itself in its religion, but that in other matters the people was incapable of forming a judgment, especially for instance in financial matters. It was inclined to follow those who put their arguments attractively before it, and could not reason matters out for itself. It must be remembered that all important movements, whether for good or evil, in the history of the world had been the work of small bodies, sometimes of individuals. This must of necessity be so, for how could the mass come together and discuss and plan? Only at a later stage was the mass of the people useful to the minority as its material. This rendered the responsibility of the leaders a very great one. He then quoted a saying of Manzoni,2 that the senso commune was of the people and the buon senso of its leaders; and that the common sense of the people was often different from and must yield to the good sense of the leaders.

It was not altogether clear to me whether His Holiness desired me to make any particular application of what he said to Irish conditions, as it was all extremely general in character. I suggested, however, that the power of the leaders to influence the mass might be limited by the fact that a people had certain fundamental principles, e.g., that of nationality, and could not be influenced in a direction contrary to such principles. His Holiness said that nationality was a sentiment, and against sentiments it was useless to reason. This rendered all the more responsible the position of those whose duty it was to lead the people.

It was quite clear during the audience that His Holiness did not wish to speak directly of the political situation of Ireland; on the other hand, the fact that he spoke almost continuously and practically without giving me any opportunity to intervene gave me the impression that he had decided before-hand what to say. I have given as faithfully as I can the substance of his discourse, which lasted over ten minutes; it is difficult to retain accurately observations of so general a nature. The rest of the audience was taken up with conversation of a purely general nature.

[matter omitted]

[signed] C. Bewley

1 Should read 'Cardinal Lauri'.

2 Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873), Italian poet, novelist and patriot.

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