IN 1579 all the English students in a body left the English College, Rome, and determined to walk back across the continent on their way to England.
What was the cause of such drastic action? Their hatred of the Welsh Rector of the College, Dr Morris Clynog and the Welsh students.
Every Jesuit pulpit in Rome resounded with eulogies of the pluck and courage of the English students. The news reached the Pope himself. He called the malcontents to him, was won over, and insisted that he had founded an English, and not a Welsh College. Morris Clynog was removed from the rectorship.
The racial animosity so lightly aroused in Rome in 1579 not only paralysed in after years the efforts to win back England to the Papacy, but led to VVales being left derelict.
Few, if any, Welshmen since then have held any positions of importance in Rome, until that is, a few weeks ago. On September 25 Pope John Paul appointed Mgr Dilwyn Lewis, apostolic administrator of the patriarchal Basilica of St Mary Major in Rome. He succeeds the late Cardinal Luigi Dadaglio in this position.
A native of Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan, Mgr Lewis now has ordinary jurisdiction over the whole of the basilica and its chapter, and the chapter includes an archbishop and three bishops.
If things continue in this way, we may see a second Welshman on the papal throne. And not before time. After all there has been quite a long lapse of time since Pope Linus.
Fr John Owen