Letter of the Bishop of Danzig
Reports that the Bishop of Danzig, Rt. Rev. Count Edward O’Rourke, was killed by communists in January, 1940, caused a stir in his ancestral homeland. Bishop O’Rourke’s ancestors belonged to the Ua Ruairc of Bréifne, but fled to the continent with the Wild Geese in the 17th century. After first establishing themselves in France, the family eventually settled in Russia and, like many exiled Irish dynasties, could boast of distinguished military acheivements. The family maintained strong contacts with Ireland, and continued to regard themselves as Irish. During the Famine the O’Rourkes organized food relief and sent a food ship to Ireland with supplies. Bishop O’Rourke was present at the 1932 Eucharistic Congress in Dublin (“I would not have missed it for anything”). In this letter to a friend in Dublin from February, 1940, he reassures him that he is still living and denies the media reports:
I have been three months in Rome awaiting in vain for a German visum to go back to Posen. The most part of September I was in Poland; practically all the time of the warfare there.
I was in Warsaw and in Siedlce during the bombardment of these cities, and came out of Poland with the help of a sympathetic German General, who sent me, with a motor car, to Eastern Prussia, and from there by sea I reached Stettin, and then Berlin and Rome.
The Germans were very kind to me, but they did not, and do not, wish me to go back to Posen.
The rumours, spread in the papers, that I was killed by the Bolshevists, were probably caused by the fact that my cousin, Count Charles O’Rourke, was arrested by the Bolshevists, and it was said that he was killed. But he was only put in prison, and is till now detained, in horrible circumstances, in a cell with 30 other prisoners. He is 78 years of age, ill, and very weak.
The President of Lithuania, Mr. Smetana, is trying to liberate him, but till now without success.
I was very amused by the cutting of the English paper. I am sorry I cannot confirm the good news it brought about me. But, fortunately, the bad news in the ‘Sunday Independent’ was not true.
In Ireland there are many happy people and I hope Ireland will remain neutral and not take part in that terrible trouble the Continent is going through.