His Excellency, who appeared to welcome what we should have called awkward questions, listened with great interest and sympathy to further difficulties which I raised. I asked him, for example, whether he did not fear the militarisation of the Italian people from the tenderest age.
Avoiding general statements, the Envoy asked me to consider the relations between Italy and the Vatican.
The present Government in Italy, he explained, stands out among most for the trouble it has taken to allow the Church all its freedom for the diffusion of its religious and moral teaching.
Religious education flourishes and, he emphasised, it is no pretence. Even the Ballila, or young Fascists' organisation, is protected from the Church's point of view by the appointment of chaplains who see that the State's instructions go hand in hand with those of the Church. Can one be surprised, then, that the relations between Vatican and Rome are accidentally excellent?
The Italian people, he insisted, are not aggressive. In the past it had rather been a case of too little civic pride and virtue. The present teaching was a reaction to this, and—though His Excellency did not say so in so many words— he left inc to infer that a great deal of what we hear should be taken with a grain of salt.
ITALY AND ENGLAND
Our conversation ended on the note of the future of the relations between Italy and England. He was immensely sorry for the difficulties, the more so since he had come to know the British people, and, speaking on behalf of his own countrymen, he assured me that misunderstandings and not bad-will accounted for all.
I left His Excellency with a strong impression that if there was to be one solitary exception to his own protests of the complete independence of the Vatican in politics, it would be his own future efforts to repair such damage as had been made by Anglo-Italian misunderstandings.
I was glad of the accidentally excellent relations at present obtaining between the Vatican and Rome, for I felt sure that Mgr. Pizzardo's contacts with British royalty, British ministers and permanent secretaries would play their discreet but highly important part in strengthening not only Anglo-Vatican, but also AngloItalian relations.
That was my impression: Mgr. Pizzardo never said so.
Before taking my leave, the Papal Envoy bestowed on me a special blessing on behalf of the Catholic Herald and its readers.