Most Rev. Mgr. Arthur Hughes
Papal Internuncio to Egypt ON Monday morning, November 10, 1947, an event as yet unique in the history of the world took place in Cairo. Shortly before noon a motor-car procession composed of two of the bright red bectested automobiles belonging to the Royal Household, surrounded by motor-cycle escort, crossed the Nile from Zamalek and proceeded to the Abdin Palace. Inside the first car, accompanied by one of the Court Chamberlains, sat a Catholic Archbishop who was on his way to present his credentials as the first Internuncio from the Holy See to a Mohammedan Sovereign in the person of H.M. King Farouk of Egypt. The Archbishop was received with every circumstance of honour and indeed had it not been for the cholera epidemic which made the gathering of crowds unwise, the journey across Cairo would have been made in a golden state coach with mounted escort and many thousands of Catholic schoolchildren waving Egyptian and Papal flags along the streets, NOT yet 50 years old. Mgr. Hughes started his career as a journalist until, feeling the call to Holy Church, he studied for the priesthood and, joining the White Fathers, was ordained in 1927. He commenced his ministry in Heston, Middlesex, from where he went for 10 years to Uganda, in due course doing important work for education in that Vicariate. From thence as the war clouds gathered he was transferred to the Apostolic Delegation at Addis Ababa in Abyssinia and then very shortly appointed Regent of the Apostolic Delegation to Cairo and Jerusalem where the then Delegate being Italian had, for political reasons, been recalled to Rome, In Egypt a situation calling for the greatest tact awaited Mgr. Hughes. Politically and on the relisious side his position was likely to be most difficult. Politically the Delegation did not., of course, count officially or claim diplomatic privileges, but as the religious representative of the Holy See politics could not be entirely overlooked, hence the delarture of a Delegate who was Italian. Then as the Allied position in N. Africa changed from a defensive to an offensive character, a determined Egyptian nationalism demanding British evacuation and the Union of the Nile Valley became apparent. Through these vicissitudes Mgr. Hughes watched ever for the welfare of Holy Church, but made it plain that for Holy Church in the Nile Delta her welfare was bound up with the welfare of Egypt as a whole and thus daily his prestige grew not only among Catholics but among the Moslem rulers of the country so that finally when the question of diplomatic relations was decided 'neon both the King and public opinion generally made it plain that it was Mgr. Hughes whom they particularly desired as Representative of the Holy See.
On the religious side Mgr. Hughes found a situation of great interest. Out of a total population of perhaps 17 millions there were under 2 million Christians of whom the great majority belonged to the Copt Orthodox Faith. Greeks and other Orthodox communities accounted for many more, leaving a bare 225.000 Catho'ics, Unfortunately this small minority was not a united body, it was almost evenly divided between Latins on the one hand and members of some half-a-dozen of the Oriental Rites on the other.
A most unfortunate Idea was prevalent that the Latins looked down on their Oriental brothers in Christ. The Orientals are and were second to none in loyalty and devotion to the Holy See but here again tact was called for as in many cases they have their own Patriarchs who consider themselves as depending direct upon the Holy Father and who, over their own people, exercise a power and authority of which we in the West have no conception.
ONE of the greatest and best of the good deeds accomplished by Mgr. Hughes has been his handling of the Orientals, to whom he has given every possible support and encouragement, thus putting into practice the wishes of the Holy Father who has declared that it may be by means of the Catholics of the Eastern Rites that the Orthodox will return to Rome. Mgr. Hughes was from the first indefatigable in attendance at the solemn Liturgies and Feast Days of Melkites, Maronites, Catholic Coins, Syrian Catholics and Chaldean Catholics, and as one who has been privileged to attend many of these solemn functions I can testify to the love and affection with which the appearance of "His Excellency " is greeted. At the present time Mgr. Hushes is actively assisting towards a reoseenisation of the Catholic Copt Hierarchy for whom the appointment of their own Patriarch has recently been announced by the Holy See.
In Egypt two other matters also claimed his attention—namely the spiritual welfare of Catholic members of the Forces stationed there as a result of the war and also that of the thousands of prisoners, first Italians and then Germans.
With so much to see to in Egypt it must not, however, be forgotten that the Apostolic Delegation was to Cairo and Jerusalem and thus the Holy Land was also visited. There, however, the situation was somewhat different and Mgr, Hughes appears to have wisely co-sidered that as Church affairs in Jerusalem were already in the hands of both the Latin Patriarchs and the Custos, his detailed intervention was normally not necessary.