Tuesday 21 May 2024

Postwar Ukrainian Parishes in Winnipeg

While preparing a work on the history of the Ukrainian (Greek-)Catholic Church in Canada from the 1930s to 1950s, I came across a few reports referring to the foundation of a number of parish churches in Winnipeg, some of which are this year celebrating significant anniversaries.

            A third wave of Ukrainian immigrants came to Canada after the Second World War. This necessitated pastoral ministry to areas of the city where Ukrainians were migrating from their original base. The North End already had three churches located very close to one another: Saints Vladimir and Olga (as it was historically known in English, rather than Volodymyr and Olha), Saint Nicholas, and Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary (or Boyd Church). Vladimir and Olga was oldest and smallest building and Saint Nicholas belonged to the Basilian Order.

            When the single Greek-Catholic Ordinariate was divided into three apostolic exarchates, on 3 March 1948, Vladimir and Olga was designated the cathedral church of the Central Exarchate. Since the existing building was unsuitable, its parish priest Father Vasyl Kushnir began to build a large stone and brick edifice modelled after Saint Boniface Cathedral. Saint Nicholas, located directly across the street, also began to build a large church but was only able to complete the basement as a hall. Local Roman Catholic bishops, the Apostolic Delegate, and Auxiliary Bishop Andriy Roboretsky recommended that Saint Nicholas be transferred further north to new suburbs where Canadian Ukrainians were migrating. Nevertheless, Archbishop Ladyka was determined to keep the Basilians at the original location. After fraught negotiations, a new location was agreed upon in 1963 and the current Saint Nicholas was completed in 1966. 

The area further north, where Bishop Roboretsky recommended the Basilians move in 1949, was left without ministry. In 1951, Roboretsky was replaced as auxiliary bishop by Redemptorist Father Maxim Hermaniuk and the Winnipeg Exarchate invited the Redemptorists to begin a mission in West Kildonan. On 17 December 1952, Hermaniuk’s successor as Redemptorist Superior, Father Volodymyr Malanchuk, reported the following to Cardinal Tisserant in Rome:


… One of our Fathers has begun work in Winnipeg, in the area of North Main Street, among our neglected people. We are hoping to establish a new community there together with a new centre of pastoral zeal [parish]…


And on 15 December 1954, Malanchuk gave the following update:


… In Winnipeg, in West Kildonan, our Fathers organized a new parish with 300 families and they have already built a basement which can serve as a temporary church.


An agreement establishing Saint Joseph's Parish and its boundaries was signed by Archbishop Ladyka in Winnipeg and Redemptorist Superior General Gaudreau in Rome on 12 April and 24 May 1955. The first parish priest was Father Joseph Denischuk, CSsR.


On 17 December 1956, Malanchuk wrote to Father Coussa, Assessor (second-in-command) of the Eastern Congregation: 


… In Winnipeg-West Kildonan we have just finished building our monastery next to the parish church. We hope to transfer … the seat of the superior of the vice-province. Winnipeg is situated at the centre of communication between western and eastern Canada and the USA.


This year, Saints Peter and Paul Church Ukrainian Catholic Parish celebrates its 75th Anniversary. Archbishop Vasyliy Ladyka mentioned its foundation and progress to Cardinal Tisserant, in a letter darted 29 December 1949:


Last year we began the erection of a new a new church in St. Boniface, St. Peters and Paul Church, and we are pleased to say that it is nearing completion, and that the upper part will be used for services this January 7th, 1950, for the first time. The basement has been used till now, as it had been completed quite some time ago. The Catholics of the Roman Rite will be using this basement regularly till they erect their own church in this district. Father Constantine Hawryliw, a newly arrived priest from Europe, is very zealously carrying out his work, helping in many ways in the work itself, and in the spiritual development of this district. The average attendance at this new parish is also well over 200.


Saturday 16 December 2023

The Pontifical Ruthenian College, 1897–1915

Between Roman Universalism and National Consciousness

The Collegio Ruteno in Rome was founded, in 1897, to educate Ruthenian-Ukrainian seminarians from Austrian Galicia in a Catholic universalist spirit (Romanitas). The Ruthenian College eventually fulfilled its purpose, but its early years were characterized by mediocre leadership and burnout among the superiors, and factionalism among the students. College life was played out against the backdrops of political-religious events in Rome and in Galicia. Rather than simply imbuing Ukrainians with Romanitas, the College also brought Ukrainian problems to Rome. 

Very little has been written about the College’s early years perhaps because of the many tragedies and difficulties that occurred. The few works that exist are quasi-hagiographical chronologies that scrupulously avoided controversies. Based on archival sources, this paper seeks to present a contextualized view of the its early history and to reveal aspects passed over by its official chroniclers.


Ruthenians in Urbe

            In 1596, a portion of the Orthodox Kyivan Metropolia entered into full communion with the Roman Church (Union of Brest). The same year, two Ruthenian seminarians were sent to Rome to study at the Greek College for three years. One of them, Yosyf Veliamyn Rutsky, later become Kyivan Metropolitan. He obtained four places for his seminarians at the College in 1615, expanded to six in 1623. Thenceforth to 1803, when the College was closed during the Napoleonic occupation, thirty-nine Ruthenian seminarians graduated from the Greek College, including most of the Uniate hierarchy.

Under Austria, Ruthenian seminarians studied at Propaganda Fide’s Theatine College in Lemberg (Lviv). But in 1784, Joseph II abolished the College and founded a Greek-Catholic Major Seminary. After the Greek College was reopened, in 1845, the Austrian Government retuned the Theatine Fund to Propaganda, which facilitated the return of Ruthenian seminarians to Rome. As the proportion of Ruthenians within that College increased, its name was changed to Pontificium Collegium Graecorum et Ruthenorum. From 1845 to 1897, sixty-two Ruthenian seminarians graduated, including the future Cardinal Sylvester Sembratovych, the spiritus movens behind the foundation of a separate college. Besides the Lviv Seminary, Joseph II also founded a college in Vienna known as the Barbareum, next to Saint Barbara’s, the Ruthenian Church in Vienna. Gifted seminarians boarded there and studied at Vienna University.


Their Own College

The creation of a Ruthenian seminary in Rome was primarily the result of political-religious issues in Austria. Until the late nineteenth century, the Greek-Catholic clergy was the elite class in Galician Ruthenian society. In the 1840s, the Lviv Greek-Catholic Seminary was one of centres of the Ruthenian national movement. But by the 1870s, both the Lviv and the Vienna seminaries had become nests of Moscophilism, and state and church officials demanded their reform. This was to be one of Sylvester Sembratovych’s primary tasks. His crowning achievement was holding a Provincial Council (the Lviv Synod). The Synod called for the reorganization of the seminary system and praised clerical celibacy. The married clergy saw it as an attempt to assimilate the Ruthenians to the Latin Church and Polish culture.

The Austrian Government had been wanting to suppress the Barbareum in Vienna since 1874. The college was abruptly closed in 1893 after Sembratovych was attacked by Moscophile students (including 2 seminarians). In compensation, the Ministry of Religion and Education agreed to send six more seminarians to the Greek College, bringing the total to ten). The Government also promised to establish seminaries in Lviv’s suffragan eparchies of Przemyśl and Stanyslaviv.

With Leo XIII’s Unionist reforms in full swing, the Greek-Ruthenian College needed a larger building just at the time when Ruthenians were enrolling there in greater numbers. Their increased number provoked conflicts with the College's other nationalities such as Italo-Greeks and especially Romanians. As a result, Sembratovych and his suffragans began to lobby for the creation of a college exclusively for Ruthenians. In his dying year, Sembratovych convinced Propaganda Fide to build a new 4-story building with room for 16 students. It was adjacent to the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus in Piazza Madonna dei Monti, where the Ruthenian procurature had stood since the 1640s. Emperor Franz Joseph paid 100,000 Lire, Propaganda loaned the College 42,301, and the rest of the total 181,807 Lire was paid by benefactors.

On 18 December 1897, Leo XIII issued the bull Paternam benevolentiam, founding the institution specifically for the Greek-Catholic Ruthenians of the Metropolitan Province of Lviv-Halych (Later, Hungarian eparchs also sent seminarians). In the College, Sembratovych saw one of his principal goals accomplished but he was too ill to attend its opening and died of cancer the following year. In his stead he deputized Bishop Konstantyn Chekhovych of Przemyśl to perform the inaugural blessing on 19 December 1897. Twelve seminarians transferred from the Greek College.


Jesuit Superiors (1897–1904)

Sembratovych settled for the Jesuits of the Roman Province, who were already administering the Greek College of St. Athanasius, but only until the Basilian Order could assume command. The Jesuits were very unpopular among Ukrainians in Austria, and tensions between them and their pupils had already shown themselves ta the Greco-Ruthenian College. As a result, Ukrainians were reluctant study in Rome. Another difficulty was that the Italian Jesuits were not familiar with the Byzantine-Ruthenian Rite nor with the Ukrainian language, and culture. They were unable to identify challenges faced by the Greek-Catholic clergy and did not sympathize with their national concerns.

At the beginning of the academic year, the autumn of 1897, Jesuit superiors transferred from the Greek to the Ruthenian College and the Greek College was entrusted to Benedictines. The Jesuit superiors consisted in three priests: a Rector, a Minister, and a Spiritual Director. Two or three Jesuit brothers also served as cooks and sacristans. In addition, lay servants were engaged as porters, cleaners, and waiters. The Minister responsible for all matters concerning discipline and provisions. the spiritual director offered Confessions and spiritual talks, counselling, and preached the annual retreat. Unlike the Greek-College, seminarians worshipped liturgically in the Byzantine Rite only. Nevertheless, outside of the liturgy parallel disciplines were maintained: Latin for the Jesuits and the servants, and Byzantine for the Ukrainians. The Jesuits prayed privately except for the Spiritual Director, who administered Benediction at the end of the day according to the Latin Ritual. Dual disciplines meant that, on certain days, the superiors were feasting while the seminarians were fasting, and vice versa. In addition, the Jesuits also passed on their Latin-style non-liturgical practices and devotions to their charges.

College food was local and of a high standard. The Jesuits maintained a regimented system of meals in which the number and kind of foods was regulated according to the rank of the liturgical feast. In addition to Latin and Ruthenian Feasts, the feasts of major Jesuit Saints were also commemorated, at which the Superiors were served coffee with rosolio (liqueurs) and deserts. Meals were held in silence with readings from spiritual books, as was the custom in all Catholic seminaries. The Superiors took their daily recreation separately.

The first Rectors were Rodolfo Isolani (1897–1899) and Eugenio Polidori (1899–1903). Isolani published books on spirituality and Marian sodalities. Polidori published on the history of Italy (1886), on the exclusion of religion from Italian public education (1892), and a refutation of von Harnack’s rationalist exegesis (The Fourth Gospel, 1903). It is likely that Polidori was appointed to impose stricter discipline, as he appears to have been more austere than others. For example, he discontinued the traditional fave dei morti on All Souls Day, to the disappointment of staff and students alike. 

Polidori’s heart was at the Civiltà Cattolica where he often lunched. After four years, he was appointed superior of that apostolate. On 4 October 1903, Father Giovanni Maria Nobili Vitelleschi (1853–1908) was transferred from the elite Mondragone College to succeed him. The last and most popular Jesuit rector of the college has been airbrushed out of the College’s history by Ukrainian chroniclers. Vitelleschi, was well known for his pedagogical skills. He was a musician and tolerant in discipline. One of his compositions had been admired by Giacomo Puccini. In November, he restored the fave dei morti to everyone’s delight. He made various improvements to the college, including installing electric lighting and buying a pianoforte. He was also the only rector whose biography was published.

The Minister of the College was Father Galeassi. He kept the college chronicle meticulously and oversaw the finances and the day to day running of the instruction. After it was announced that the Jesuits were withdrawing, he lost his initiative and forgot to arrange for festive meals on several Byzantine Rite feast days. In the last month of the Jesuit administration, he was replaced, due to exhaustion. In December 1902 the Spiritual director Pietro Borselli became ill (dying 4 months later) and had to be replaced temporarily by Giovanni Soriani and Pietro Castelloni, and permanently by Pio De Mandato from May 1903.

The Jesuits accepted the charge over the Ruthenians seminarians but, as their chronicle reveals, their concerns were with their Order’s affairs. They prayed privately and continued to teach and hear confessions in other colleges and churches. Guests at the College were mainly Italian Jesuits in transit or on retreat, and alumni from their institutions such as the elite Mondragone college near Frascati. In turn, the College superiors lodged at other Jesuit institutions to rest or make their own retreats

In July 1904, Cardinal Gotti informed the Jesuit General that the College was to be entrusted to the Ukrainian Basilians in November. The College Superiors were officially informed on this on 28 July. On 9 October, shortly after the seminary had returned from summer vacation, Vitelleschi left for his new assignment, leaving the Minister and Spiritual Director in charge until the Basilians took office. The remaining two Jesuits left at the end of the October 1904.


Ukrainian teacher and Prefects

The Greek College had to engage a priest of their nationality to teach the Ruthenian seminarians their particular liturgical ritual and music. This arrangement was maintained at the Ruthenian College, but the priest also had an additional duty of celebrating Divine services for the seminarians. The only priest in Rome was the bishops’ procurator, Vasyl Levytsky, who was already functioning in this role at the Greek College. After only a short time, however, he stepped on toes by complaining, on behalf of Bishop Chekhovych, that Jesuits were introducing Latin devotions to the seminarians. By the autumn of 1902, he had lost interest in the College and had to be replaced by Aleksander Ulytsky, who abandoned his post without warning after serving only five months. The new Procurator, Mykhailo Jatskovsky, took over the role in April 1903. On Sundays and feast days, Bulgarian Bishop Lazar Mladenov celebrated Divine Liturgy in the church for the seminarians. Otherwise, services were held in the domestic chapel, especially in winter.

            Given the Jesuits’ reserve, greater influence was exercised over the students by the prefect (a student priest) or the vice-prefect. The Prefects were a go-between between staff and students and wrote the instructions for seminarians in their native tongue. In 1903, Ivan Lutsyk was named prefect after his ordination, and seminarian Yosyf Kotsylovsky was made vice-prefect who was known as the beadle.


Basilians (1904–1915)

The Jesuits had been charged, in 1882, with reforming the decadent Basilians into zealous reformers that would educate a clerical and lay elite in a loyal Catholic spirit. By the end of the nineteenth century, Government and Church officials were clamouring for reformed Basilians to take charge of the Greek-Catholic seminary system. In Ruthenian-Ukrainian society, there were heated debates over the role of the Jesuits, which hastened to end their direct involvement in the Greek-Catholic Church. 

Some of the Ruthenian clergy thought it should have been given to Basilians from the beginning. Already in September 1902, the conflict between the Bishops’ procurator and the Jesuits led Sembratovych’s successor, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, to suggest that members of his own Order might be more suited to run the College. The following summer, the Prefect of Propaganda Fide asked Sheptytsky and the Jesuit Provincial of the Basilians, Father Peter Bapst, if the Basilians were prepared to do so. Sheptytsky dithered for a year, to the annoyance of Bapst, who demanded a decision. In July 1904, Sheptytsky finally agreed, and Bapst accepted on the Basilians’ behalf.

Bapst consulted Sheptytsky on the choice of personnel. He first proposed priests who had studied in Rome and knew Italian, Luka Ivantsiv as Rector and Pavlo Demchuk as Spiritual Director. A brother scholastic was to serve as prefect and a lay brother as cook. Before the decision could be made, the Jesuits resigned from the Basilian reform and the new superiors had to make their own selection. Arseniy Lozynsky was selected over Ivantsiv (fortuitously, it turned out) and he and Demchuk arrived in Rome on 14 October 1904. For two weeks, they observed the workings of the college under the two remaining Jesuits. The Basilians took charge on 1 November 1904.

Like their predecessors, the Basilians stood somewhat aloof from their diocesan seminarians although they were more austere than Jesuits, for instance, in diet. Nevertheless, were unable to deal with the nationalistic conflicts between seminarians. The stress caused Lozynsky to lose his health and, by the end of the academic year, the new Basilian Provincial, Platonid Filas, proposed that he be replaced by Demchuk. Propaganda would not permit this because, as spiritual director, Demchuk had been privy to the seminarians’ private faults. This would constitute a violation of the canonical separation between the internal and the external forums. The Basilian Provincial Council recommended Adrian Davyda, superior of Drohobych. Filas presented the candidate and Cardinal Gotti appointed him rector after obtaining Metropolitan Sheptytsky’s approval.

Father Davyda had a stronger character but was unable to resolve the conflict between the different national tendencies. In June 1907 a group of seminarians complained to the Congregation of about the tensions within the College. Davyda favoured the majority Ukrainophiles and tried to ban Moscophile seminarians, but his proposed rules were not approved by the Congregation.

Father Demchuk’s health also began to fail, and he was recalled to Galicia and replaced with Ivantsiv in March 1908. Luka Ivantsiv suffered from mania and severe scruples and began to complain incessantly to Propaganda about the rector. In July 1908, he had a complete mental collapse and was confined to a religious house in Ancona, where he died.

To resolve the situation, Filas proposed to replace Davyda with Lazar Berezovsky, who had been student prefect in the Lviv Seminary and superior of the Basilian community and press in Zhovkva. Metropolitan Sheptytsky suggested that Davyda remain for a time and later be recalled for health reasons, since Ivantsiv’s accusations had been exaggerated. Gotti asked Father Filas to do just that, but Davyda did not return to Rome so, on 23 September 1908, Berezovsky was named rector.

Lazar Berezovsky’s tenure, from 1908 until the closure of the College in 1915, brought peace and stability to the College. By 1910, the superiors were adding the title, “ad S. Josaphat” to the name of the College, a title which replaced the designation “Ruteno” in 1932. In July 1910, Berezovsky prepared a fresh draft of the College rules, which were approved by Pius X ad experimentum in September 1911. The following year, the esteemed pedagogue Teodoziy Halushchynsky was named spiritual director. During this period, the College rectors became consultants to the Roman Curia on Ruthenian-Ukrainian affairs. 


National Identity

Indoctrinating the young Ruthenian-Ukrainians with Roman Universalism was difficult, since their hearts and minds were oriented toward their native land. The principal question among the Ruthenians was national identity and national rights within the Empire. Indeed, this question was the principal problem in Austrian politics of the time. In the year of thew College’s opening, the nationalities question led to a parliamentary crisis and the fall of the government. And a month before the opening, a group of seminarians protested the Propaganda that devotions at the college should be in their own language.

There were two main tendencies of Ruthenian national identity in Galicia: Ukrainophile and Russophile (the Russophiles, in turn, were divided between Old Ruthenophoiles, who were basically church traditionalists, and Moscophiles). Moscophiles saw themselves as a branch of Russian imperial culture; Ukrainophiles saw themselves as part to the culture of Little Rus from Russian Ukraine. In addition, Ruthenians struggled against the assimilation program by the Polish ruling classes. 

Moscophiles were religiously conservative but pro-Orthodox and politically pro-Russian. Ukrainophiles were ideological liberals some of whom gravitated toward anticlericalism and socialism. At first, the Greek-Catholic hierarchy favour one or the other. The student prefects were ordered to write instructions in the neutral phonetic script used by Greek-Catholic chanceries, which was neither Church Slavonic nor vernacular Ukrainian. Many of the Moscophile seminarians belonged to the Lviv Archeparchy because Metropolitan Sheptytsky had not yet made up his mind on the issue. In 1902, he issued a pastoral letter to his clergy, admonishing them not to bicker over national identity. And Fathers Ivantsiv and Demchuk had been proposed for the College because they were neutral, while the majority of Basilians were Ukrainophiles.

In May 1905, the simmering tensions between the factions exploded. The first-year alumni were due to swear the oath that they would be ordained in celibacy. When the Secretary of Propaganda came to receive their oath, five out of eight had scruples about the contents of Alexander VII’s bull, which had been read in the refectory the day before. Rolleri told them that everything would be clarified by the rector but Lozynsky was unable to provide a convincing explanation and had to call for backup from his deputy. Demchuk argued that the archaic contents of the bull was not binding, only the oath. Lozynsky was unable to cope and confined himself to his room. Solemnities were cancelled and a tense atmosphere hung over the college. Lozynsky tried to lay the blame others and sought to expel the leaders of both factions, including the future Bishop Kotsylovsky, the student prefect and a leader of the Ukrainophiles.

Meanwhile, both factions wrote to the Pope and to Cardinal Gotti. The first Basilian chronicler of the College wrote that the Pope threatened to close the college unless harmony was restored. In fact, the Pope’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Merry del Val, called Cardinal Gotti of Propaganda to discuss the situation, but did not propose any drastic measures. Lozynsky assured Propaganda that harmony had been restored but he had lost control and was allowed to leave gracefully, in October 1905.

The conflict simmered quietly for the next two years. Rector Davyda allowed Ukrainian newspapers but forbade the Moscophile Galichanin and wrote to the bishops not to send any more Moscophile seminarians. Lviv Archeparchy ignored him and sent two out of fourThe Ukrainophile party gained a permanent foothold in the 1907 Austrian elections. Metropolitan Sheptytsky began to favour the Ukrainophiles and isolate the Moscophiles. The Rector did the same at the College. In 1906, he expelled four seminarians and, in December 1907, dismissed the leader of the Moscophiles, Ivan Kozorovsky. In March 1908, Davyda attempted to enshrine the ban on Moscophile seminarians in the College rules. Although his draft was rejected his successor’s (approved in 1911) included “inciting political discord” as grounds for expulsion. The national identity conflict was never mentioned in the chronicle after 1906 and the College appears to have avoided any reverberations from the fierce battle waged at the Lviv seminary, in February 1912, which resulted in its closing for several months. At the beginning of that year, several seminarians left the Ruthenian College rather than take the mandatory celibacy oath envisioned in the new rules.

Father Davyda was credited with having given the College a Ukrainian character. Thenceforth it became a place to visit Ukrainian hierarchs, clergy, and pilgrims, as well as leading intellectual figures such as Mykhailo Hrushevsky, Vadym Scherbakivsky, and Modest Sosenko. Metropolitan Sheptytsky made annual visits and Bishop Soter Ortynsky was given a grand send off on his way to the United States to become the first Greek-Catholic bishop in the Americas. 

Despite their Ukrainian focus, students participated in the principal Roman holidays (such as All Saints and All Souls and Corpus Domini) and annual festivities such as the anniversary of the College’s founder, Pope Leo XIII. On occasion, they spoke with Pope Leo and more often with Pius X at private audiences. Each year, superiors and students celebrated the onomastic, birthday, and regnal anniversaries of Emperor Franz Joseph, and brought greetings to the Austro-Hungarian embassy. Seminarians went to the Vatican to see visiting monarchs such as Britain’s Edward VII and Germany’s Wilhelm II. They took part in the mourning for the death of Leo XIII and celebrated the election and coronation of Pius X. The college chronicler also recorded the rector and students attending a rally at the French College to protest the anti-clerical laws, in 1907.

On 28 June 1914, the Basilian chronicler recorded their shock and disappointment at the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. Ukrainians considered the Austrian heir to the throne sympathetic to their cause. This event and the ensuing First World war completely eclipsed the death of Pius X and the election of Benedict XV, which were passed over by the chronicler.



The second major issue at the College was mandatory celibacy, which was tightly connected with the question of national identity. Pressure from the Roman Curia to promote clerical celibacy was looked on as a Polish plot to decapitate one of the core Ukrainian institutions. Ukrainians looked up their married priestly class, highly engaged in national affairs, as a cornerstone of their national movement. And many seminarians were themselves sons of priests. The Papal Legate had attempted to favour celibacy at the 1891 Lviv Synod, prompting fierce opposition from the clergy. 

Some Ukrainian seminarians were reluctant to study in Rome because they had to swear the oath prescribed by Urban VIII and Alexander VII to remain in celibacy. In addition, before receiving a doctorate, they had to have been ordained a deacon. Many chose to return home at their end of their fourth year of theology, without a doctorate, so they could be married before being ordained.

The Jesuit Rectors took a very moderate approach to the issue. Their philosophy was that it was better to encourage voluntary celibacy than force the seminarians. The Jesuits allowed the old oaths to fallen into disuse. Father Polidori had wanted to make the oaths into partial promises because the Ukrainian bishops were more concerned with forced celibacy than with the normative married clergy. Yet, Propaganda Fide ordered him to bring the oath back int practice. Polidori had to call the seminarians together to inform them of the decision. In addition, on 31 May 1900, he gave them a long talk about the oath and the educational and financial benefits of studying in Rome. He also called each seminarian to his room to have a personal discussion about the oath. Most were still reluctant but 12 finally took the oath and two left. The following year, everybody accepted the oath without protest. Polidori continued to promote celibacy as a free choice because he believed that a Roman education was already exerting a powerful influence in that direction.

The debate over the status of the celibacy oath considerably delayed approval the college rules. After approving a draft, on 12 July 1910, Pius X added the proviso that no one was to be formally admitted unless they promised to live in celibacy. Nevertheless, the oath could be delayed for a year after their arrival. In July 1912, Cardinal Gotti ordered that anyone seeking to prolong the oath beyond a year had to be sent home.


College Life

The course of theological studies lasted four years. Ukrainians were slightly older than many of their other Roman counterparts because the Austrian authorities required them to complete gymnasium before entering the seminary. The pontifical education system was stricter than in Austria and mature seminarians found it difficult to accept being deprived of previously held freedoms. The seminarians spoke Ukrainian and Polish among themselves but very little Italian, leading Vitelleschi to remark: “In an attempt to be understood, I spoke to them in Trastevere (Roman) dialect and Germanize the endings.”

The academic year began on 1 November. New students wore secular attire for six months or a year, until they swore their oath. After this they were clothed in the blue college cassock with a yellow sash, the Ukrainian national colours, chosen by Sembratovych. Correspondence with outsiders was discouraged except with family, their bishop, and benefactors. During the month of May, each seminarian had to preach a short practice sermon in his native language. Inside College, they were to keep silent in corridors and required permission had from the prefect or beadle to speak with other seminarians. Conversations were limited to 4 to 5 minutes and then only at the student’s door, as they were forbidden from entering their rooms. During free time, they were permitted to speak with others in common room and to go for walks but only in pairs. Cash was to be deposited with the rector. Seminarians were permitted to bathe weekly but not more, except during vacation when they stayed near the sea and groups went swimming daily.

The daily schedule was virtually identical to that of other Roman Colleges. Awards were handed out annually to the best students at Propaganda Fide College. During their last year, seminarians were to dedicate an hour daily to studying the liturgical services and Church Slavonic. Those who remained for higher studies, beyond the fourth year, could be ordained in Rome after taking ordination exams from the Vicariate of Rome. From 1897 to 1915, the Bulgarian Bishop performed these ordinations.

Although it had an historical connection, Piazza Madonna die Monti was not particularly suited for seminary life due to the clamour in the streets. In the piazza, fish, meat, and fruit mongers sold their wares in the morning. At night and into the early morning hours, revellers shouted and sang, accompanied by mandolin and guitar. Father Vitelleschi, whose window faced the Piazza degli Zingari, compared the atmosphere disparagingly to Naples. The Roman climate and diet did not agree with all the seminarians or even the superiors, and some returned home for health reasons. Each year, the college left Rome for the summer. The Jesuits had arranged to rent the seminary in Tivoli. Gita or outings were organized regularly for sightseeing and exercise.


The First World War

On 28 July 1914, the College chronicler recorded Austria’s declaration of war on Serbia, when the seminary was still on vacation. They returned to Rome, as usual, in October, but no new diocesan seminarians arrived that year, only three Basilian scholastics, who had been forced to study abroad due to the Russian occupation of Galicia. The College celebrated Christmas but there was to be no Easter because, once Italy entered the war on the Entente side, 8 May 1915, the Austrian Embassy informed its subjects they they must leave the country. On 9 and 10 May, the superiors and eleven seminarians left via Zurich for Vienna, where they were met by Father Filas. The diocesans went to a temporary seminary in Kromeriž, Moravia, run by Father Kotsylovsky. (Among them was future Archbishop Ivan Buchko, who was ordained a priest in Kromeriž. From 1942 until his death in 1974, he resided at the new College building on the Janiculum.) Father Halushchynsky took the Basilian scholastics to a seminary near Vienna owned by the Verbite order. They all returned home once the Russians retreated from Galicia.

Father Berezovsky retuned to direct the College when it was reopened, in 1921. At that time, Ukrainian identity and self-determination became a major issue. To eliminate the title “Ruthenian” but without adopting “Ukrainian” which was banned in Galicia (under Polish rule), the name was changed to “Pontifical College of Saint Josaphat.”

Both Berezovsky and Halushchynsky were destined to spend a lifetime in the Eternal City. Berezovsky served as rector for a second time from in 1921 to 1925 and returned to Rome as a General Counsellor of the Basilian Curia from 1932 to 1946. Halushchynsky became Spiritual Director for a second time in 1931 and served in that position until his appointment as Basilian Superior General, in 1949. Both men died in 1952.

I am very grateful to my friends and colleagues Father Yeronim Hrim, OSBM, Father Joseph Koczera, SJ, and Dr Gianfranco Armando, who lent assistance and advice on this topic.

Presented on 15 December 2023  the international academic conference I collegi per stranieri a Roma, 1850–1915, hosted by the Instituto Nazionale per i Studi Romani. Publication forthcoming in February 2024.

Saturday 4 November 2023

The Polish Ambassador to the Holy See and the Holocaust


Archival research can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. But, along the way, you find some fascinating and even disturbing things of great significance, which you we not seeking.  My field of research is Ukrainian oriented, but Ukraine's story is part of a larger narrative and is interconnected with Polish, Austrian, Russian, and German history. A better understanding of the former can only be had by grasping its context upon the backdrop of the others.

 I used to wonder what the fuss was about in Poland about Auschwitz and why it was considered a memorial for Poles as well as for Jews. Although these reports have an indirect connection to Ukrainian history (there were several Ukrainians at Auschwitz), and perhaps are already published elsewhere, I felt compelled, as a witness before history, to post them. Tragically, the cycle of racial hatred and violence introduced and maintained by the Germans continued, later in the war, between Ukrainians and Poles.

Kazimierz or Casimir Papée (1889–1979), served as Ambassador of Poland to the Holy See from 1939 to 1958. He was born in Lemberg or Lwów, which is Lviv in modern day Ukraine. The majority of the city's population were Poles and in 1919 it became part of the Second Polish Republic. Lwów also had a large Jewish population which exceeded Ukrainians in number. Papée was appointed Ambassador in June 1939, only a few months before the onset of the Second World War. It was a time of high tension between the authoritarian "Regime of the Colonels" in Poland and the Holy See, and the post had remained vacant for two years after the death of long-time ambassador Władyslaw Skrzyński. 

Papée bombarded the Vatican with reports throughout the war. He was one of the strongest voices pressuring the Holy See to speak out against the Holocaust and became a thorn in the side of the papal Secretariat of State (Section for political affairs). He continued to maintain the embassy for the Polish Government in Exile after 1939. Even though his ambassadorial rank was revoked by John XXIII in 1958, he headed the Legation of the Government-in-Exile until his death, in 1979.

Below are English translations of two of Papée's French-language reports to the Vatican Secretariat of State concerning Auschwitz and the Shoah:

Vatican, November 21, 1941 

The situation in occupied Poland


[…] III Prison camp in Oświęcim

It is reported from reliable sources that Gestapo agents recently carried out a terrible massacre among those they had locked up in the Oświęcim Camp. It is said that 3,000 inmates were killed there during a single day in October. We still don't know their names.

The Oświęcim Camp – (the Germans gave this locality the name “Auschwitz”) – has existed since the spring of 1940. It was installed in the former barracks of the 73rd Polish Infantry Regiment. The number of prisoners – which can be determined by comparing the numbers that each of them wears sewn into their clothes – comes to 17,000; there would be among them more than 12,000 Poles and more than 4,000 Germans. – It must be emphasized that the vast majority of detainees in this Camp are subject to simple administrative provisions, without any court, in which they could have defended themselves, having ruled against them, and without any accusation made against them: the Gestapo arbitrarily sends there all those who seem dangerous or simply undesirable.

The Camp is surrounded by recently constructed walls, barbed wire and high voltage electrical wires. Surveillance is entrusted to a detachment of the Gestapo, which at its command – a strong military troop of SS men and numerous police dogs. The Camp depends on a higher office of the Gestapo, based in Katowice.

In order to isolate the Camp as far as possible from any contact with the population, last march, the Gestapo deported the inhabitants of the entire two kilometre zone around the barracks. For this purpose, the entire population of 3 neighbouring villages, as well as 80 % of the inhabitants of the town of Oświęcim, were deported. After these expulsions, approximately 5,000 prisoners from the Camp were often employed in work outside the barracks, always under the very strict supervision of the agents. The others never come out.

Recently, 19 prisoners were released. Those who have seen them say that they are almost mad, that several of them have broken limbs and that they are terrible to see. Those who have seen them note, with the deepest emotion, that the very appearance of the prisoners is terrible proof of a cruelty which cries to heaven for vengeance.

Stefan Petekycky from Auschwitz
There are children from 16 months old, and old people over 60 years old. The cold, the hunger, the bodily and moral tortures, to which they are subjected night and day, exterminate them. A crematorium, set up in the middle of the Camp, consumed no less than 10 corpses per day in summer, and up to 60 corpses in winter. Almost none of those who were locked up in the Camp in March 1940 have survived to date. The dead are replaced by new victims who are arrested throughout the country. They are, for the most part, intellectuals, and there are many priests and religious people. Recently, His Excellency Monsignor Wetmański, Auxiliary Bishop of Płock, also joined them.

The women from around Oświęcim, despite the terrible danger to which they were exposed, managed to come to the aid of the prisoners by smuggling them food. The poverty which reigns everywhere restricts these women’s Christian heroic activity to a minimum. No more than 300 prisoners are able to obtain additional food through these clandestine channels, which allows them to survive for some time to come.

Recently, in Warsaw, on the square in front of the central station, a film was shown entitled: “Europe on the front lines against the Bolsheviks”. After speaking about this “crusade”, the loudspeaker asked the question: “Where are you, Poles?” Voices immediately rang out from the entire crowd in response: “In Oświęcim!” - The show had to be suspended and various people were arrested. The word “Oświęcim” is written, like the “V” [Victory] on the walls and palisades, despite the Germans.

One of the Germans, a collaborator of the head of the Gestapo, publicly announced that “the Oświęcim Camp is one of Himmler’s glories”. They call this Camp “Todeslager” [Death camp].

Vatican, November 23, 1942

We are informed from Warsaw...  “[…] Mass executions of Jews continued. In Warsaw, Lwów, Wilno, Lublin, Przemyśl, Przeworsk, Tarnów – the number of Jews killed is calculated by many tens of thousands for each of these cities, not to mention all the others. They are killed by means of asphyxiating gas in rooms specially prepared for this purpose (and often in wagons), and by means of machine-gunning, after which the dead and the half-dead are covered with earth together. There are frequent cases of collective suicides of Jewish families; Jewish mothers throw themselves out of high-story windows with their children. In Lublin, the Germans themselves threw Jewish children onto the streets. In Przeworsk, a crowd of desperate Jews gathered around a cross, invoking the pity of Christ. We see everywhere convoys of Jews being led to death. Rumours circulated about the Germans using their corpses in chemical factories (soap factories).

It is already foreseen that the extermination of the Jews in Poland will soon end and that the special detachments, trained for this work, unable to stop shedding blood every day, will have a pressing need for other victims. Already in Eastern Little Poland [Eastern Galicia], men and women beggars have been hunted down and killed. It is feared that a general suppression of the elderly will soon be ordered. All these measures are taken because the aim is to reduce the number of mouths to feed. The sight of these deeds has immense repercussions on the mentality of the Poles: feelings of hatred continue to grow. [...]

Wednesday 19 July 2023

Nil Savaryn: Founding Bishop of the Edmonton Eparchy

Savaryn by Julian Bucmaniuk

Bishop Nil Mykola Savaryn was the founding bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton. ... Born
 in Staryi Sambir (Western Ukraine) on 19 May 1905, he entered the Basilian Order in 1922 and was ordained a priest in 1931. The following year, he volunteered for mission work in Canada. On 3 April 1943, Pope Pius XII named him titular bishop of Jos and auxiliary bishop. On 3 March 1948, he was named Exarch of Western Canada (Alberta and British Columbia) And on 3 November 1956, he became the first Eparch of Edmonton. Savaryn died on 8 January 1986. See the full biography at The Founding Bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton.

A Ukrainian-language version, which combines this and my article on the 75th of the Eparchy Eparchy, has appeared on the site of the UGCC Synod of Bishops.

Monday 12 June 2023

Ukrainians Immigration to Canada: the Apostolic Delegate 1943

Louis St-Laurent and Bishop Nil Savaryn

A recent article in Canadian Press proclaims that "Canada Is Facing the Largest Wave of Ukrainian Immigration Ever," with a million applications having been filed with the Canadian Government. A new wave of immigration will affect a significant change and in the Ukrainian community in Canada and the country as a whole. 

Ukrainian immigration to Canada began in 1891, when the Government enticed Ukrainians of Austrian Galicia and Bukovyna (today in Western Ukraine) to settle the western Canadian prairies with the offer of free land. Other waves arrived after the First World War, in the the Interwar period, after the Second World War, and following the collapse of the Soviet Union and Ukrainian independence in 1991. The first and last waves were made up of economic migrants whereas others were political refugees fleeing the turmoil brought to their homeland by occupying countries.

In 1897, the plight of Ukrainian settlers became a major issue and concerns in the Ukrainian press and the spiritual welfare of the settlers came to the notice of Catholic Church leaders in Austria, Canada, and Rome. Among those monitoring the situation was the papal representative in Canada the Apostolic Delegate (since 1969 raised to the rank of Apostolic Nuncio, when Canada and the Holy See established full diplomatic relations).

Every three years, the Apostolic Delegate or Nuncio had to send a "Triennial Report" to Rome, outlining the activity of his mission and the situation of the Church and general trends in the country to which he is assigned.

From time to time, the material and spiritual situation of Ukrainians (the majority of which belonged to the Greek-Catholic Church) made its way into these reports. Surprisingly, the Delegate of the time, Idelbrando Antoniutti, did not mention Ukrainian immigration in his 1948 Triennial Report but did dedicate a lengthy section to this topic in his 1940–1942 report, which was sent to Rome in 1943.  Below is an English translation of the relevant passages form the original Italian:


"A serious problem, connected with immigration, is above all that of the Ukrainians of Canada, who according to the latest census rise to 400,000, scattered in the various provinces of the Dominion. Frugal, hardworking, with large families, they made a large and effective contribution to the colonization of Western Canada. Three quarters are Catholics of the Byzantine Rite, belonging to an Exarchate which extends from one end of the Dominion to the other, with its own Ukrainian Bishop having personal jurisdiction over all [of them].

If the birth rate of the Ukrainians which have settled here continues at the current rate, in a century they could reach the figure of eight million in Canada. Yet, their assimilation to the Anglo-Canadians is methodical and progressive, and this will bring far decrease, in time, if not neutralize their national characteristics, starting with the language.

Mr. Walter J. Bossy, inspector of Ukrainian schools erected for his countrymen, asked that French-Canadians do something more for the newcomers of Europe, declaring the following: "If the attraction that English Canadians exert on immigration is considerable from an economic point of view, it is no longer so when one considers the social point of view. The European arriving in Canada would be more easily solicited by the turn of the French spirit than by the manifestations of English culture, if French Canadian would only bother to show him the benefits. But that French-Canadians appear to be indifferent to this.”

In fact, the said gentleman adds that, wishing to make the history of Canada known to the people of his country of origin, he had translated a manual into Ukrainian but he did not find a publisher among the French-Canadians, but among the English . . .

What is said of the Ukrainians, who constitute the most numerous immigrant group, should also be extended to the other foreign communities, Polish, Slavic, German, Italian, Hungarian, etc. The second generation of these immigrants has already lost contact with the country of origin, and the third is almost exclusively Canadian.

Unfortunately the Protestant influence is felt among the newcomers. Sometimes due to political resentments against the leaders of the mother country from which they had to take advantage, sometimes due to economic advantages, most often due to indifference and lack of religious instruction, as for lack of assistance both from the clergy of the countries of origin of both the local one, several immigrants have abandoned their faith to embrace that of the majority. . ."

"Walter" (Volodymyr) Bossy was a well known Ukrainian activist who had his own political-social agenda (see Orest Martynowych's, Ukrainians in Canada: the Interwar years).

There are many differences between the situation of 1943 and today. For one thing, the "faith" of the majority, which exercises an influence, would not be that of Anglo-Protestantism or even Roman Catholicism but of agnostic indifference or secular wokeism. The single Ukrainian Greek Exarchate was subdivided in 1948 and has since become a Metropolitan Church with an Archeparchy in Winnipeg and 4 Eparchies. (although currently, two are still awaiting the appointment of an eparchial bishop.) In addition, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada is Metropolitanate with an Archeparchy and 2 Eparchies. The Province of Quebec, with its discriminating language laws, continues to have less attraction for Ukrainians.

Statesmen, churchmen, and community leaders have already begun considering how to best assist the newcomers, so that they can take their place in contemporary Canadian society and themselves contribute to its prosperous development.

Sunday 26 March 2023

Papal Envoys to Modern British Coronations

            The Coronation of Their Majesties The King and Queen is fast approaching. We nevertheless have very little information about it, including the guest list. Recently, I unearthed correspondence in Vatican archives on the Holy See and the Catholic Church’s roles at British coronations of the twentieth century. As a result of this research, the question arises whether a papal envoy will be dispatched, according to precedent.


Monarch versus Pope


            From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, the Papacy and the English/British Monarchy were at odds in matters of religion, politics, and diplomacy. Catholics of the realm were persecuted and discriminated against for over 300 years. The situation began to change toward the end of the Eighteenth Century, when the decriminalization of  Catholic worship was sought by lawmakers. In 1829, Catholic emancipation became law, despite the opposition of George III and IV, who considered it a violation of their Coronation Oath to uphold the Protestant Reformed Religion. For the King's subjects, however, oaths containing passages forswearing Catholic beliefs, designed to ensure Protestant domination of the state and society, were relaxed. Thenceforth, discrimination and prejudice gradually waned, as Catholics demonstrated their loyalty to the Crown and took their place as equals in British society. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, thousands embraced the Catholic religion, and millions of Catholic immigrants altered the religious landscape of Britain. By the beginning of the third millennium, Catholics in England would outnumber Anglicans.

In 1850, Pope Pius IX restored the Catholic Hierarchy in England and Wales (Scotland came in 1878). Anti-Catholic feeling was fuelled by a polemic between Archbishop Wiseman and the Prime Minster, Lord Russell. The Queen was not amused. In 1851, an Act of Parliament was passed banning Catholic bishops from using the titles of their residential sees. The Act was never enforced and was repealed in 1871. Nevertheless, its effects continue in the moratorium for Catholic bishops to use their titles when addressing the Sovereign or Court functionaries. Yet, there were no such repercussions in the British Empire, especially in Canada and India, where British officials showed special deference to the bishops and to the Pope's representatives, Apostolic Delegates.

Queen Victoria and Pope Leo XIII


The relationship with the Royal Court improved significantly with the accession to the papacy of Gioacchino Pecci, in 1878, who took the name Leo XIII. An aristocratic prelate, Pecci had served in the papal diplomatic corps as Apostolic Nuncio in Belgium. His tact and moderation were appreciated by King Leopold I (a Protestant). Leopold presented Pecci to his niece and nephew, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, during their state visit to Belgium, in September 1845. Giacomo Pecci also had anglophile proclivities and followed the developments of the Oxford Movement closely. He visited England in 1844 with the future Cardinal Wiseman, and returned in 1846, when he was received by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle. In those years, a connection between Leo and Victoria had been established.

At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Leo held out an olive branch to those who had disagreed somewhat with some of his predecessor’s policies. Among these was the prestigious Oxford Movement leader and convert, Father John Henry Newman, whom Leo elevated to the cardinalate in 1879.

In 1887, the Pope and the Queen each celebrated Golden Jubilees, marking the 50th anniversaries of her reign of and his priestly ordination. The Pope took the opportunity to dispatch a special envoy to bring felicitations, Archbishop Ruffo di Calabria of the Princes of Scilla, accompanied by a young secretary, the future Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val. Confidentially, Ruffo Scilla was also entrusted with a secret task: to discuss important issues with the leading politicians and notables and make the Holy See’s gratitude known for the freedom Catholics enjoyed and its recognition of the benefits of British rule. 

The Church of England had organized national prayer services for Sunday, 21 June. Although Catholics were not allowed to participate in them, the Catholic Hierarchy was anxious to show their loyalty as good subjects of the Crown. Accordingly, Cardinal Manning asked the Pope for a special dispensation to celebrate a pontifical Mass. The Pope conceded the use of the votive Mass de Trinitate, for the occasion. The Mass was celebrated by Manning in Our Lady of Victories Pro-Cathedral, which concluded with the Papal envoy solemnly intoning a Te Deum. Additionally, the Cardinal wrote to his priests, asking that a solemn thanksgiving Mass and Te Deum be celebrated in every church, with “fervent prayers for the happiness and wellbeing of Her Majesty.”

Following this successful mission, Manning wrote to the Pope that the Queen and her Ministers had shown every respect and courtesy toward his representative. And the conservative Saturday Review remarked that, in sending an envoy and paying tribute to her personal merits, Leo XIII could not have done more for a Catholic monarch than he did for the Protestant Queen-Empress. Another article suggested that Leo’s attitude had improved relations to the point where Britain might even consider sending an ambassador to the Holy See.

At the end of the year, a grateful Queen Victoria dispatched a delegation led by the senior Peer of the Realm, the Duke of Norfolk (a Catholic) to deliver an autograph letter of congratulations to Pope Leo, a letter from the Prime Minister, and a gift.

1897 Diamond Jubilee


            A similar scenario was repeated for Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, in 1897. This time, Archbishop Cesare Sambucetti was chosen as the envoy, accompanied by Monsignor Granito Pignatelli di Belmonte, as secretary. For this occasion, Pope Leo had wanted to elevate Sambucetti’s rank to nuncio but, according to the Treaty of Vienna of 1815, a nuncio was entitled precedence over other ambassadors, which HM Government would not guarantee. Sambucetti was nevertheless accorded every courtesy and was taken to the Court, to Government Offices, and to religious functions (at the Brompton Oratory and the Italian Church in Clerkenwell) in court carriages.

            On the morning of 20 June 1897, accompanied by the Queen’s representative, the Duke of Norfolk, Sambucetti was received at the door of the Church of the Immaculate Heart (chosen, as it was larger than the pro-cathedral) by the Fathers of the Brompton Oratory. Father Antrobus, the Superior, held the aspersorium for the Archbishop to sprinkle the congregation with holy water, as he processed through the nave. Sambucetti ascended a throne erected on the Epistle Side of the sanctuary. Cardinal Vaughan entered in cappa magna and processed to the throne on Gospel Side. Ecce sacerdos magnus was sung for each procession, alternating with the organ. Sambucetti vested and celebrated Pontifical High Mass, while the choir sang Cherubini’s Mass composed for Louis XVIII.

Numerous foreign royals attended the Mass, including the future King Victor Emanuel III of Italy, as well as Catholic ambassadors. At the end of Mass, Cardinal Vaughan’s pastoral letter was read from the pulpit by Canon Dr Johnson, which was described by Sambucetti as: “a marvellous compendium of the freedom of the Religion during the long reign of Queen Victoria.” Afterward, Vaughan vested in pontificals and intoned the Te Deum at the foot of the altar, followed by solemn Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The following day, Sambucetti sent a description of the celebrations to Cardinal Rampolla, which was found among his private papers at the time of his death, in 1911.

Catholic bishops from around the Empire sent telegrams to the Queen-Empress for her jubilee, to which she responded. In January 1901, Pope Leo XIII dispatched Granito Pignatelli di Belmonte, who had since been made Archbishop and Apostolic Nuncio to Belgium, to bring condolences to King Edward VII on the death of his mother.


Coronation Oath


            Although the Crown had granted freedom to Catholics, the Established Church continued to be joined to the State, with the Monarch formally at the head of both. The Protestant oaths had not been abolished for the Sovereign, who remained Supreme Governor of the Church of England. In 1898, future Catholic Bishop of London, Ontario, Father Michael Fallon, lobbied to have passages removed from the Coronation Oath which condemned prayers to the Blessed Virgin, Eucharistic transubstantiation, and the Papacy. The issue was debated by Parliament in Ottawa and Westminster.  At his accession, in 1901, King Edward VII objected to those passages as offensive to his Catholic subjects, but he was unsuccessful in having them removed. The anti-Catholic references were finally expunged by an Act of Parliament, at the beginning his successor’s reign, in August 1910.  


King Edward VII 


King Edward followed his mother’s policy of friendly outreach to the Roman Pontiff. In March 1902, he dispatched the Earl of Denbigh to Rome, to deliver a letter of congratulations to Leo XIII on the Silver Jubilee of his pontificate. The Pope attempted to reciprocate by sending Monsignor Merry del Val to Edward’s coronation, in June 1902, but the ceremony had to be postponed due to the King’s poor health. Instead of the Te Deum, which Merry del Val was to have intoned at the Brompton Oratory, Cardinal Vaughan ordered solemn prayers to be said for the King’s health. Edward VII and Alexandra’s coronation was rescheduled for August, after many envoys had returned home, including the Pope’s. Nevertheless, a precedent had been established by which a papal representative was sent to each British coronation, and royal congratulations were sent to each Pope, upon his election.

Beginning with Edward VII, British Royals began paying courtesy calls on the Pope, when visiting Rome. In April 1903, Edward VII paid a courtesy call on Leo XIII. His grandson (the future Edward VIII) visited Benedict XV in 1918, and his son, George V with Queen Mary, saw Pius XI in 1923. British Monarchs also began to attend Roman Catholic Requiem Masses for deceased continental sovereigns. King Edward and Queen Alexandra were the first to do so to mourn the assassinated King of Portugal, in 1908. Their visit to Saint James’s Spanish Place marked the first time that a British monarch attended a Catholic Mass since the reign of James II, over two centuries previously. King George and Queen Mary attended the solemn requiem Mass for the assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Westminster Cathedral, in 1914. 


1911 Coronation


In 1911, Pope Pius X dispatched Archbishop Genaro Granito Pignatelli di Belmonte, who been part of the papal delegations to the Russian Emperor’s coronation (1896), Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee (1897), and the same Queen’s funeral (1901). He was accompanied by Monsignor Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII), as secretary, as well as papal privy chamberlain, Count Medolago Albani, and Count Bezzi-Scala of the Noble Guard.

Upon his return to Rome, Archbishop Granito filed a detailed report of the mission: The papal party left Rome on 15 June for Brussels. On 19 June, they were met at Dover by the military authorities and presented Captain the Hon. Donald Forbes as the King’s equerry assigned to their mission. At Victoria Station, each foreign mission was greeted by HRH the Duke Connaught and assigned a court carriage. The papal party was given hospitality at Norfolk House, the Duke of Norfolk’s London residence (until 1938). 

The extraordinary missions were received by The King and Queen at Buckingham Palace, the following day. The papal mission the first to be received. The Archbishop envoy presented His Majesty with an autograph letter of the Pope. The King thanked him and politely asked for news of the pontiff. Archbishop Granito had also given a letter of credence addressed to the Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, by Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val, papal Secretary of State. 

In the evening, the party were among 560 princes, diplomats, envoys, and court dignitaries who attended a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace. The papal party was seated at the Duke of Connaught’s table and Archbishop Granito led HRH Princess Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein into dinner. Prior to dinner, in the Throne Room, The King and Queen each approached the Archbishop to speak with him. He thanked The King for having amended the Coronation Oath, which had been appreciated by the Pope and HM Catholic subjects. The King was pleased with these remarks and thanked the Archbishop, noting that he counted 32 million Catholics among his subjects worldwide. The Monarch’s children also asked for news of the Pope. The French envoy, Vice-Admiral Eugène de Fauque de Jonquières, pointed out the Commendatory Decoration of Pius IX which he wore on his collar, and wished better times for France. Archbishop Granito was the recipient of much courtesy from the other guests but noted that he was ignored by the Orthodox princes present. 

On the evening of 21 June, the party was invited to a dinner for 100 princes and special envoys by the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, who were very gracious and introduced the papal envoy to all their children. 

On the day of the Coronation, 22 June, despite an understanding that they could not attend the Anglican service, they nevertheless received formal invitations to the Abbey. After making their apologies through Captain Forbes, they were immediately issued with cards to watch the procession from a stand erected outside the Abbey. When the sovereigns’ carriage passed, the King saluted the papal envoy two or three times and said something to The Queen. The Archbishop thought he might have imagined their attention but, the following day, at luncheon, the Queen said to him: “HM the King saw you yesterday when leaving the ceremony, and he told me.” On Friday, 23 June, the papal party watched the procession of troops and on Saturday, the 24th, the great Naval Review at Portsmouth. Pius X had even dispensed Catholics throughout the British Empire from Friday abstinence, during the Coronation festivities.

The official celebration of the Coronation for British Catholics took place on Sunday, 25 June. The court carriages took Archbishop Granito and his suite to Westminster Cathedral, where he was received by the Cathedral Chapter and clergy. He donned the cappa magna at the great door, visited the Blessed Sacrament, then vested and celebrated a Pontifical Mass. At the end, the Archbishop of Westminster, Francis Bourne, intoned the Te Deum, and Domine salvum fac regem, and imparted Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament. A luncheon followed at Archbishop’s House, followed by a tour of the cathedral given personally by Bourne, and an opportunity for the public to greet the papal representative. On the way back to Norfolk House, the party stopped at the Brompton Oratory to review a group of young Catholics from the Boys Brigade. In the evening, Counts Medolago Albani and Bezzi-Scala attended a gala opera for special guests and a ball given by the Duke of Westminster.

On Tuesday, 27 June, the envoy and his suite were invited to luncheon by the Marquis of Bute, followed by a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. Once again, George V showed preference to the papal envoy. When the Sovereigns arrived, the King immediately left the royal party and came to speak with Archbishop Granito. Their Majesties had very kind words and Queen asked if they were happy with the reception they had been accorded.

            When leaving Norfolk House on 28 June, the Duke and Duchess, their children, and the servants, knelt in the atrium to receive the Pope’s blessing from Granito. The Duke accompanied the party to Victoria station and, a few minutes before departure, HRH the Duke of Connaught came to bid farewell to the foreign representatives. Captain Forbes accompanied them all the way to Dover. 

A few months after this highly successful mission, in November 1911, Pius X raised Granito di Belmonte to the cardinalate. Three years later, at the outbreak of the First World War, His Majesty’s Government set up a legation to the Holy See, which became a permanent legation in 1923.


1935 Silver Jubilee


            In its first years, the Permanent Legation was the source of much tension between Britain and the Holy See. In 1925, Sir Odo Russel tried to pressure the Curia into discussing episcopal candidacies and the appointment of apostolic delegates. He even implied that too many appointments throughout the Empire were not British Subjects. Although a compromise was agreed on for apostolic delegates, Cardinal Gasparri noted that all bishops in Britain, the Dominions, Malta, and Gibraltar were British Subjects. Foreign missionaries were another matter which, he argued pointedly, were necessary due to “a scarcity of British Subjects who give themselves to missionary vocations.”

Tensions increased in the 1930s under Sir Charles Winfield, who had little regard for the Catholic Church. In 1934, he failed to bring to his Government’s attention two allusions to King George V’s upcoming Silver Jubilee which Pope Pius XI had made in the beatification of John Fisher and Thomas More. Consequently, the Holy See did not receive official notice of the celebrations. On 1 April 1935, the elderly Canon of Saint Peter’s, Arthur Hinsley, was unexpectedly appointed Archbishop of Westminster. He took steps to resolve the jubilee issue by contacting Viscount Fitzalan of Derwent, a Catholic peer and close friend of the King. Fitzalan discovered that George V was expecting a telegram from the Pope, in line with the practice of other sovereigns. The congratulatory telegram was sent, and, on 5 May, Archbishop Hinsley celebrated a Pontifical High Mass with Te Deum in Westminster Cathedral. 

On George V’s death, the British Legation thanked papal foreign secretary, Archbishop Pizzardo, on behalf of the new King Edward VIII, for attending a propitiatory service at San Silvestro in Capite, on 28 January 1936. In Ottawa, Canada, the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Andrea Cassulo, went beyond the customary service and celebrated a pontifical votive mass pro quacumque necessitate for the occasion.


1937 Coronation


Complaints from Cardinal Pacelli about Winfield and his immediate predecessors led to the appointment of “a delightful man,” Francis D’Arcy Godolphin Osborne, as Legate to the Holy See. On 18 September 1936, he forwarded an invitation to send a papal representative to the Coronation of King Edward VIII, scheduled for 6 May 1937. Following Edward’s abdication (of which the Vatican was forewarned by the Nuncio in Ireland) the Coronation was reconfigured for George VI and Elizabeth for the same day. 

On 7 November, Archbishop Hinsley asked for a dispensation to celebration a votive Mass de Trinitate with Te Deum for occasions of national rejoicing, such as coronations. Hinsley reasoned, as did apostolic delegates in countries of mixed religion, that Catholics appeared to others as disloyal because, not only did they not participate in national services but they even refrained from celebrating their own.

It took the Holy Office seven months to rule that a Te Deum could be sung but not a Mass. However, arrangements for Masses had already been made, so Cardinal Pacelli went to Pius XI and, on 18 April, obtained a dispensation for a pontifical Mass with Te Deum. In this way, the Apostolic See sanctioned the innovation with one of its not uncommon toleretur dispensations.

The 1937 coronation took on particular importance for international diplomacy, as war encroached over a Europe ruled by an increasing number of authoritarian dictatorships. Over 12 centuries, the British Crown had evolved into a Constitutional parliamentary Monarchy, representing one of the world’s leading proponents of democracy. British officials noted the juxtaposition between Catholicism and Naziism and sought a direct liaison between HM Government and the Holy See, which they hoped to court against the Fascist regimes. 

On 13 April 1937, Pius XI named a veteran diplomat and foreign minister (Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs), Archbishop Giuseppe Pizzardo, as his special envoy to the Coronation. Pizzardo’s suite included an English prelate, Monsignor William Godfrey, rector of Rome’s English seminary (Venerable English College), and Marchese Francesco Pacelli, a Vatican jurist and brother of the papal Secretary of State. Official circles in Britain were very pleased that such a high-ranking prelate had been named. In turn, the King named the Earl of Granard to head Pizzardo’s British suite, with Captain Walter Legge and W.I. Mallet. Granard was chosen as he was a Catholic convert and had been a friend of Pizzardo for 40 years.

As his predecessor and successor, on 12 May 1937, Pizzardo and his suite were taken to Westminster Abbey in court carriages, where they witnessed the Coronation Procession from a stand at the Abbey’s entrance. The following day, the papal envoy led the Catholic celebrations at Westminster Cathedral. Pontifical Mass de Trinitate was celebrated by Archbishop Hinsley with Pizzardo and his suite seated at a prie-dieu at the head of the congregation but outside of the choir and sanctuary (as per instructions from the Vatican). At the end of Mass, he vested in pontificals, intoned the Te Deum, and imparted the Eucharistic Benediction. On the following Sunday, 16 May, the legate returned to the Cathedral, where he gave an address to Catholics of the British Empire, instructed them that, as good Catholics, it was their duty to be good subjects of the King and good and loyal citizens. This discourse was much appreciated by the King and his ministers.

As his predecessor had done, Pizzardo and his suite attended the formal luncheons and dinners arranged by the Court, the Foreign Office, and by the Duke of Norfolk. At the Foreign Office dinner, on 14 May, he was among those, including the Soviet Ambassador, seated at the Queen’s table. Unlike his predecessor, he did not stay at Norfolk House, as the Duke felt he could not accommodate his entire suite. Instead, Pizzardo accepted Archbishop Hinsley’s invitation to Archbishop’s House. On this occasion, the Foreign Office had not arranged for an audience with Their Majesties prior to the Coronation. Thus, Pizzardo had to leave both letters, from the Pope to the King and from Cardinal Pacelli to Anthony Eden, at the Foreign Office.

While in London, an interesting event occurred: Arthur Koestler’s first wife, Dorothy, appealed to the papal envoy to intercede for her husband, who was being held captive by Nationalist forces in Spain. (Hinsley had also assisted her). Pizzardo promised her that he would speak to Cardinal Pacelli about it, upon his return to Rome. We do not know if the Holy See intervened, but Koestler recognized that his wife’s lobbying of influential figures had been a factor leading to his release.

The mission was not all pomp and circumstance. Pizzardo had received identical instructions to those given to previous legates: to sound out government opinion on matters that touched on the Church and the world. Of particular urgency, at that moment, was the Civil War and the persecution of the clergy in Spain. After listening to British civil and religious notables, Pizzardo cautioned his superiors against recognition of Franco, explaining that the British people “were very proud of their democratic system and opposed to dictatorships, which they considered to be backward and opposed to [human] liberties.”

Two months after the Coronation, King George VI sent the following letter to Pope Pius XI:

Your Holiness, It was with profound pleasure that I received the Letter which Your Holiness addressed to Me on the Twenty-ninth day of April last, and in which You informed Me that, being desirous of manifesting in a Special manner Your interest in the solemnity of My Coronation, You had chosen His Excellency the Most Reverend Monsignor Giuseppe Pizzardo, Archbishop of Nicaea, to be Your Special Envoy on this occasion.

            I desire to express to Your Holiness My sincere gratification at Your selection of so distinguished a person as Your representative and to thank You most cordially for the sentiments of congratulation and good-will to which You have thus given expression, assuring Your Holiness that in the discharge of the Mission thus entrusted to him, the conduct of Monsignor Pizzardo has been much as to merit My entire approbation and esteem and has contributed in no small measure to the maintenance and still further improvement of the relations of good understanding which so happily subsist between My Realm and the Holy See.

            In thanking Your Holiness also most warmly for the good wishes which You have expressed towards Me and My beloved Consort and My Family and people, I avail Myself of the present opportunity to renew to Your Holiness the assurance of My sincere friendship and of the unfeigned respect and esteem which I entertain for Your Person and Character.

            Given at My Court at Buckingham Palace, the Second day of July, One Thousand Nine Hundred and Thirty-Seven.                    George R.I.

The King’s letter arrived at the Vatican toward the end of July. On 1 August 1937, the Cardinal Secretary of State brought it to his daily audience with the Pope. Pius XI read the letter with great satisfaction and remarked to Pacelli that its’ tone was cordial and less formal than the letters sent by George V. 

In November 1937, six months after the Coronation, both Archbishops Hinsley and Pizzardo were elevated to the cardinalate.

Apostolic Delegation


Pizzardo’s charm offensive had won him and the Holy See much admiration in British society and government circles. While in Britain, he sounded out the possibility of a permanent papal representative and, upon their return to Rome, Godfrey was tasked with preparing a memorandum on the subject for the Secretariat of State. In the spring of 1938, the Foreign Office asked to discuss the project at a meeting with the Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Pascal Robinson. Pius XI approved and asked for the Foreign Office's proposals.

The Government agreed that formal diplomatic relations were unadvisable, for the moment, but that an Apostolic Delegate, as in the Dominions, would be welcome. Ostensibly, this legation was to be a purely religious representative to the local Catholic hierarchy. In reality, the Government agreed to grant the envoy de facto access to the Foreign Office and other ministries. Nevertheless, such access was contingent upon the appointment of a British prelate or one from the British Empire. The Pope easily granted this concession for the appointment of the first delegate. The choice fell upon Monsignor Godfrey, who was duly consecrated archbishop in 1938 and sent to London at the beginning of 1939.

Archbishop William Godfrey fulfilled his mandate to court the leading men of the realm and dispel prejudices, to establish affable relations between London and the Vatican. This he fulfilled with aplomb and soon Court officials, politicians, the insular Catholic hierarchy, and even Anglican churchmen began to regard him as a friend and man of confidence, especially during the gruesome ordeals of the Second World War. Godfrey’s success ensured that he was to remain at his post for an unprecedented 15 years, until after the Coronation of Elizabeth II. 

In their reports to Rome, Godfrey and his Irish American successor Gerald Patrick O’Hara, noted that Catholics held high positions in the government, the judiciary, and the armed forces. Yet, despite this fact, the vestiges of discrimination persisted among royal courtiers, who were fearful of showing any sign of favour toward the Catholic Church, so as not to offend the Established Church. When addressing the Sovereign, Catholic Bishops were still prohibited for using the titles of their residential sees. Nevertheless, on royal visits to the dominions and colonies where Catholics were in the majority, Catholic bishops and Apostolic Delegates were called upon to say grace at banquets held for the King and Queen.


Crown and Triregno


As with the Roman toleretur in 1937, government policy prevailed over courtly parsimony and the Monarch and his Ministers began to engage in formal, cordial, and direct communication with the Roman Pontiff.  In January 1939, a dying Pius XI received HM Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary in audience. Neville Chamberlain mentioned “a great similarity between the views of the Holy See and the British Government on many important questions.” Lauding the British Premier’s efforts for peace, The Pontiff expressed “the hope that the British people, whose ideals of truth, equity, justice, and humanity were known to Him, might make their influence felt for the ending of religious persecution” of German Catholics. Chamberlain said that “The British Government knows of the persecution of Catholics, and of Jews, in Germany, and will do all that they can in order to make it cease.” The audience concluded in front of a triptych of the English Martyrs, Saints Thomas More, and John Fisher. His final words were a request to: “Tell the King and Queen and the English people that We have England always with Us, always present before Our eyes.”

In the dark days of 1942, King George VI nevertheless sent congratulations to Pope, Pius XII on the silver jubilee of his episcopal consecration. Five years later, the Pope sent a set of porcelain dishes to Princess Elizabeth, on the occasion of her wedding. To the Loyal Address given by Cardinal Griffin, Hinsley’s successor, The King sent the following reply:

            The Queen and I thank Your Eminence for the warmth and loyalty of the Address of Congratulation upon the engagement of Princess Elizabeth which you have presented to me on behalf of my Roman Catholic subjects in England and Wales. I myself am ever mindful of the services of my Roman Catholic subjects to our cause during the war, and I am sure that I am my family may rely on your unfailing support in the years to come. George R.

            Royal visits to the Vatican followed, with Princess Margaret in 1949, and in 1951, Princess Elizabeth accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh. A few months later, when visiting Canada, the Princess soon-to-be-Queen remarked to the Apostolic Delegate in Ottawa on the solemnity of the papal audience at which she had been received.


Funeral of George VI


            The day King George VI met his untimely death, 6 February 1952, Cardinal Griffin asked to his clergy to pray Psalm 50 (Miserere) “that God, in His mercy, may console the Royal Family in their intimate personal sorrow and that He may watch over the whole nation in this moment of universal grief.” To this request he appended an instruction to celebrate Votive Mass no. 13, Pro quacumque tribulatione, followed by the prayer for the new monarch, Domine salvam fac Reginam nostram Elizabeth.

            The next day, Apostolic Delegate Godfrey conveyed the following telegram to the Foreign Office, which was immediately dispatched to Sandringham: 

            His Holiness deeply grieved has conveyed to Her Majesty the Queen expression his profound sympathy and prayerful remembrance deceased Sovereign and of Royal Family in bereavement (stop) Monsignors Tardini [,] Montini presented personally to His Majesty’s Minister at Legation condolences Holy See (stop) in Vatican City flags at half[-]mast in sign of mourning four-day period. 

            For the King’s Funeral, the Vatican dispatched its Internuncio to Holland, Archbishop Paolo Giobbe, to represent the Pope, accompanied by an entourage composed of an English Monsignor and a papal knight.


1953 Coronation


            The relations between the British and Papal Courts grew even more cordial after the Second World War. In addition to an apostolic delegate in London (Wimbledon), the Holy See also maintained representatives in number of Commonwealth realms, colonies, and protectorates, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, Malta, British East Africa, South Africa, the West Indies. The Apostolic Delegate in Canada was also invited to the Coronation but declined, stating that the Holy See would be represented by his British counterpart.

            On 5 January 1953, the Vatican Secretariat of State informed the British Apostolic Delegate that His Holiness has named the Nuncio to Belgium, Archbishop Fernando Cento, to head the Papal Mission to the Elizabeth II’s Coronation. His suite included Vatican official, Monsignor Pierre Veuillot (future short-lived Archbishop of Paris) and Marquis Francesco Theodoli of the Noble Guard. Archbishop Godfrey transmitted this news to HM Government.

In February, the Royal Court notified the Holy See that “in accordance with precedent, the Pontifical Mission will be seated in a special stand immediately outside the west end of Westminster Abbey.” The placing was one of favour and prominence given that, at the time, the delegates were prohibited from attending non-Catholic worship inside the Abbey. Four seats were offered for high Vatican dignitaries, but the Holy See declined to accept the additional places. 

On 13 April, the Lord Chamberlain notified the Apostolic Delegate that, as Her Majesty’s guest, the papal envoy would be granted a British suite consisting of Lieutenant Colonel F.G.R. Elwes OBE and Wing Commander Robert Grant-Ferris, from 30 May until 6 June. To add solemnity and importance to the legation, on 6 May, Pius XII conferred the status and title of “Extraordinary Ambassador” on Archbishop Cento, thereby raising the mission a superior diplomatic rank. Archbishop Godfrey informed The Duke of Norfolk of this development on 9 May. 

The papal representation at the Coronation was only made public on 18 May 1953, with a notification published in L’Osservatore Romano. Two weeks before the ceremony, on 25 May, immediately prior to his special ambassador’s arrival in England, the Pope sent a formal letter to The Queen. The following English translation was sent to the Apostolic Delegation together with a copy of the original Latin version:

August Queen, health and prosperity.

Whatever happens to bring joy and gladness to Your Majesty and to all the peoples of the British Community, is likewise a source of much pleasure to Ourselves Who are united by the common bond of diplomatic relations. We are aware that in these days Your Majesty is to be crowned with the hereditary diadem, symbolic of royal dignity; wherefore, since We would gladly participate in so happy an event, We select and nominate Our Venerable Brother, Ferdinand Cento, Titular Archbishop of Seleucia Pieria, so that he may officially represent Us to Your Majesty, with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary, and make known in Our name that We present to You most cordial good wishes and with suppliant prayer earnestly beseech Almighty God that He graciously vouchsafe ever to keep You from harm and, in His goodness, to bestow His richest blessings for the happiness and good estate of Your Majesty and Your Majesty’s subjects. We pray also that He may grant unto Your Majesty a long and peaceful and prosperous reign and deign to unite You with Us in perfect charity.

Given at Rome from St. Peter’s under the ring of the Fisherman, the twenty fifth day of the month of May, in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and fifty-three, of Our Pontificate the fifteenth. Pius PP. XII

            The day prior to the Coronation, L’ Osservatore Romano, published an article on its front page entitled: The Coronation of Elizabeth II: International Interest.


Prayers for the Sovereign


            The number of Catholics in Britain had increased substantially since the Second World War, not only due to immigration. As many as 75,000 adults had been received into the Roman Catholic Church as converts. Catholics felt that the tide of prejudice against them was ebbing and sensed a growing admiration for their religion, even in intellectual circles.

            The faithful in Britain and the Commonwealth were as enthusiastic about their young Queen as non-Catholics. In the lead-up to the Coronation, efforts were made in the Catholic press to connect the Monarch to Catholic history and interests: One article in the Catholic Herald described her descent from a number of saints and martyrs such as Margaret Pole, a member of the Royal family beheaded by Henry VIII for her religious convictions. A prophecy was even mentioned that that, during the reign of Elizabeth II, the Catholic Faith would “return to England.” 

            In response to The Queen’s request that her subjects pray for her on her coronation day, members of Catholic organizations, such as the Catholic Women’s League of Canada, presented “Spiritual Bouquets” consisting of Masses, prayers and other spiritual exercises prayed for the Monarch’s by the organizations 80,909 members. Britain’s Catholic Herald led a similar campaign. Ukrainian Catholics in Britain and the Commonwealth also presented tributes and published informative articles in their press.

            Manifestations of patriotic enthusiasm were not limited to the lay faithful. In March 1953, the Roman Catholic Bishops of England and Wales determined that a Mass for the Queen was to be celebrated at 8:00 PM on the evening of Sunday, 1 June. It was the first time that the hierarchy had made use of recent permission to celebrate afternoon and evening Masses. Cardinal Griffin also ordered a three-day prayer vigil in his own Westminster Diocese. This triduum consisted of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament on the evening of Sunday, 30 May, followed by the prayer for the Sovereign, Domine salvam fac Reginam. On Monday, 1 June, Mass of the transferred Feast of St Augustine of Canterbury was to be offered for God’s blessing upon Here Majesty and her realms. And priests were to encourage the faithful to receive Holy Communion at this Mass. In addition, on the Sunday following the Coronation, the Te Deum was to be sung after the principal Mass. As at the previous coronation, the papal legate attended the solemn Mass on 1 June but sat in the nave, as if to indicate his role as diplomatic representative.

            Unlike the previous coronation, the bishops had not asked Rome’s view about liturgical prayers and simply made use of the precedents set in 1937. In April, the Papal Secretariat of State prepared a summary of the issue for the Pope. It mentioned that the Holy Office’s 1937 ruling had not been communicated to the British episcopate. Pius XI’s dispensation appears, however, to have been overlooked. Vatican officials noted that a greater degree of tolerance had been conceded to Great Britain, in the past, and that it might not be prudent or opportune to force the bishops to return to a stricter observance. At the audience 4 April 1953, Pius XII agreed Monsignor Tardini’s recommendation to tolerate the Mass (although the latter had scoffed at the spiritual bouquets as being “a bit too much”). In the end, a solemn Mass was even permitted in Rome at the Basilica of the Holy 12 Apostles, to which the Secretariat of State sent Monsignor Romolo Carboni as a representative. 

            The Apostolic Delegate in Ottawa reported that the bishops and other superiors took part in civil ceremonies and celebrated religious functions. The Canadian Catholic hierarchy ordered that a special ceremony be held in all cathedrals and parish churches, asking for Heaven’s blessing and assistance upon the new Sovereign and her subjects. In addition, sermons were preached reminding the faithful of the Christian teaching on the authority of rulers, and the dependence upon the grace of God of those who governed. 


Coronation Celebrations


            An account of the papal legation’s participation was written by one of the British equerries provided to Archbishop Cento, Robert Grant-Ferris. He noted that the box where the papal party sat was “not ideally situated to see the people going into the Abbey” as “the awning over the entrance prevented us from having a view of them as they descended.” After the service had begun, the part left their box and wandered around the back of the Abbey, where the witnessed the arrival of the heir to the throne (the current King Charles III):

            “A large car drew up and out stepped Prince Charles with his nurse, he returned the salute of the soldiers and walked gravely into the Abbey to join his relatives in the Royal Box. This was very fortunate and pleased the envoy very much.”

            Afterwards, the legation was taken to nearby Ashburham House for a fourchette luncheon: “The Envoy was shown great honour and placed at the leading table on Lord Salisbury’s right hand, and he had with him the young couple he had recently married, Prince John and Princess Charlotte of Luxemburg as well as the Crown Prince of Japan on his right, and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and several others.”

Archbishop Cento was also invited to lunch by the Duke of Norfolk, on 31 May. A luncheon in his honour was hosted by the Apostolic Delegation on 1 June, attended by civil and religious dignitaries. HM Government was represented by future Foreign Secretary (and later Chancellor, and Speaker of the House of Commons) John Selwyn Lloyd, then Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

            The papal legate was invited to the Coronation Banquet at Buckingham Palace, on 4 June, at which he escorted Mary, Duchess of Devonshire in the Royal Procession to the Banqueting Room. They were seated at Table A with The Queen and The Queen Mother. Cento nevertheless declined the invitation to a garden party hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace, the following day. After the celebrations had concluded, Archbishop Centro travelled to Rome to submit an account of his mission, emphasizing the gracious reception accorded the papal representative by the Court, the Government, and the solicitude of the Apostolic Delegation in Wimbledon. 


Defensor/atrix Fidei


            Four days after the Coronation, the British Legation informed the Holy See that, on 28 May 1953, The Queen had issued a proclamation establishing the form of her styles and titles. These included the title “Defender of the Faith,” which had been granted to King Henry VIII by Pope Leo X for the former’s defence of Catholic teachings, including papal supremacy. Subsequently, however, the title had come to signify adherence to Protestant doctrines and the Established Church of England. Pius XII, in an audience granted on 1 June to Monsignor Montini (the future Pope Paul VI), ruled that “It is a title that We cannot use.” At the bottom of the audience record, a functionary of the papal Secretariat of State noted that “We have always used the titles “His/Her Britannic Majesty the King or the Queen without ever adding anything else. And I believe that all the other Foreign Ministers do the same.”  Privately, the Holy See expressed displeasure that the Catholic Prime Minister of Canada had endorsed his Parliament’s vote to retain the title. Louis Saint Laurent reasoned, in rather deist language, that there could be no objection to having the head of the civil authority described as a defender of faith in a supreme ruler over all things. Although it has no established church, unlike Australia which abolished it, Canada continues officially to entitle its Head of State as Defensor Fidei.


From 1953 to 2023


            Much water has passed under the bridges of London and Rome in the seventy years since the last coronation. After a tense period of competition in the 1950s, ecumenical relations between Catholicism and Anglicanism were established, following the Second Vatican Council. Queen Elizabeth II visited the Popes in Rome and St. John Paul II made the first papal visit to Britain in 1982. Shortly thereafter, full diplomatic relations were established with the United Kingdom. (Canada had already done so in 1969). The British Legation to the Holy See was raised to the rank of an Embassy, and the Apostolic Delegation became a Nunciature. Benedict XVI made the first papal State visit to Britain in 2010. In 2019 the current King (then Prince of Wales) led the official British delegation to the Canonization of John Henry Newman. With the transfer of the apostolic nuncio to Rome to lead the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, earlier this year, the nunciature is currently vacant.

            Cardinal Vincent Nichols recently delivered a Loyal Address to The King on behalf the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. Even though the Church now ranks as one of the “Privileged Bodies” of the Realm, His Eminence was still not allowed to address the Sovereign as Archbishop of Westminster. Nevertheless, precedents set by Queen Victoria and Pope Leo XIII and their successors warrant that a high-ranking prelate be sent as papal envoy to King Charles III’s Coronation, with the rank of Nuncio or Extraordinary Ambassador. 

UPDATE: On 19 April, it was announced that the Pope has sent a fragment of the True Cross of Christ to HM The King, to be placed in a processional cross to be used at the Coronation. Four days prior to the Coronation, on 2 May 2023, it was announced informally that His Holiness's Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, would lead the Delegation of the Holy See to the Coronation. The announcement was formalised two days before the Coronation. This was the highest level of representation to date and the first, since 1553, to attend inside The Abbey. 

The Presidents of the English and Welsh as well as Scottish and Irish Catholic Bishops Conferences were also present and Cardinal Nichols, who was referred to by his residential title in the Order of Service, imparted a blessing.

Following the precedents set in 1953, the faithful were invited to join in a triduum of prayer culminating in a Mass for The King. Also, as in 1911, Westminster and several dioceses dispensed the faithful from Friday abstinence on the day before the Coronation. 

In another extraordinary ecumenical gesture, the copes and stole worn at the Coronation by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of Durham and Bath and Wells, as well as those attending The Queen, were lent to The Abbey by the Sacristy of Westminster (Roman Catholic) Cathedral.