Harriet Cohen, the distinguished Jewish pianist, will be leaving her London flat on Sunday to receive in Dublin an honorary doctorate of music from the National University of Ireland.
" Isn't it wonderful," she said, " for a Jewess to receive such a great honour from such a great Catholic country."
Miss Cohen admitted to me that some of her greatest friends were Catholics. Last week, when she was over in Brussels as one of the fudges at the Brussels international music festival, she was presented to Queen Elizabeth of the Belgians. " There's an exemplary Catholic household for you," said Miss Cohen. " The Queen is over 80, but you'd never think so. She's got boundless energy, and a charming personality.'
Miss Cohen, who is well known in music circles as one who gives every encouragement to young artists, was herself given encouragement by no less a person than the late Holy Father. " I met His Holiness whilst playing in Germany when he was nuncio," she said. " The next time we met was at an audience in the Vatican."
Pope Pius never forgot Miss Cohen. When he heard that she had slipped on a broken glass and severed an artery in her right hand, he sent her a blessed medallion. " I was playing with half a hand for years, so you can imagine what comfort that kind thought gave me." Then came another major setback, and another. unexpected gesture from His Holiness: Miss Cohen had to go into hospital for a series of touch-and-go eye operations to overcome her failing sight. Pope Pius twice sent her messages of encouragement.
Says Miss Cohen I have never looked back since the Pope sent me his blessing."