The Ambassador in Italy ( Phillips ) to the Secretary of State

No. 473

Sir: With reference to my despatch No. 433 of June 17, 1937, regarding the closing of foreign mission schools in Ethiopia, I have the honor to report that Monsignor Joseph P. Hurley, American Attaché to the office of the Secretary of State of the Holy See, called upon me this morning evidently at the request of the Holy See and for the purpose of communicating the following to the Department of State. Recently there has come to the attention of the Holy See the fact that an impression was gaining ground in high circles to the effect that the expulsion of foreign missionaries from Ethiopia had been furthered in some way by the influence of the Catholic Church. Monsignor Hurley called, he said, to tell me the actual situation. Immediately following Mr. Eden’s statement in the House of Commons on June 14th,19 in which he announced the decision of the Italian Government that all foreign teaching in Ethiopia should cease, the Holy See addressed a written communication to the Italian Government pointing out the Vatican’s historic rights in the matter of selection of their own teachers in any part of the world. In this case, therefore, the Holy See reserves its right to send to Ethiopia any Catholic missionaries which they desire, whether they may be French, English, or American catholics, or any other nationality. In the same communication the Holy See pointed out the dangers involved to the Catholic Church in the matter of reprisals by other governments: that there were at least ten important catholic missions in India with many Italian members; there were also important missions in Africa, also with Italian membership. The Italian Government was at the same time reminded that the Apostolic Delegate in Washington, Monsignor Cicognani, was an Italian who had always received the utmost courtesy and consideration from the American authorities.

There has been no reply as yet from the Italian Government to this note. In conclusion, Monsignor Hurley emphasized that the above communication from the Holy See to the Italian Government [Page 713] had been made immediately following the Eden speech and not as a result of the impression created by the erroneous reports in circulation that there was some form of collusion between the Vatican and the Italian Government with respect to foreign teaching in Ethiopia.

Respectfully yours,

William Phillips
  1. United Kingdom, Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons. 1936–37, Vol. 325, col. 4.