Irish Peace Conference, 1921: Letter of the American Hierarchy; Resolution of the Irish Hierarchy
On 24th September, 1921, Cardinal William O’Connell, Archbishop of Boston, sent the following cablegram on behalf of the Archbishops and Bishops of the U.S.A. to Cardinal Michael Logue, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland:
In this solemn and portentous hour of Ireland’s history, we, the Bishops of the United States, gathered in Annual Conference, feel it a duty incumbent on us to extend to your Eminence and your brethren of the Irish Hierarchy, an assurance of our sympathy, our prayers, and our united good wishes for the happy outcome of the Conference in which the representatives of your people are now engaged. Particularly at this time, we are not unmindful of the tremendous debt the Church in this country owes to Ireland and its people.
For more than a century millions of your race have come to our shores, and by their strong faith and their loyal and generous help they have built up a Church which has become the pride of Christendom and the glory of the country in which we dwell, and even though they have become loyal Americans faithful to the flag under which they dwell, time has never been able to extinguish in their souls the love they bore to the Land of their Fathers — to the little Island from which they parted as exiles destined never to return.
Particularly during recent years, with anxious and expectant hearts, they have watched the trend of events, ever hopeful that Providence in His wisdom might ordain that at last Ireland was to take its place among the nations of the earth. And, indeed, during these later weeks their hearts were filled with pride when they saw the representatives of their race conduct themselves with a statesmanship that has challenged the admiration of the world.
Therefore, in this fateful hour, when the future of Ireland trembles in the balance, it is not our desire, your Eminence, by any word of ours to imperil the outcome of those deliberations upon which a world waits with bated breath — rather in that true spirit of our holy Faith, united with our people from every race and every station, our prayers ascend from every altar in the land that God in His wisdom may bring Ireland’s history of seven hundred years to an end, and that this most apostolic race among all of God’s people may receive the reward for what they have done for the Church of America and elsewhere, by obtaining the fulfilment of their National aspirations, and, finally, that God may grant you and your colleagues to live to see Ireland’s Golden Age, and find your people even more faithful to their Church in the sunburst of their New Freedom than even they were in the years of their exile and expectancy.
The cablegram was submitted to the meeting of the Irish bishops at Maynooth on 11th October, 1921, and the following reply was sent to Cardinal O’Connell:
The memorable cablegram transmitted by you to His Eminence Cardinal Logue in the name of the Hierarchy of the United States was read at the General Meeting of the Bishops of Ireland, held in Maynooth College, on Tuesday, October 11. Its noble words were listened to with feelings of profound admiration and gratitude.
That magnificent message, assuring us and our people of the sympathy, united good wishes and prayers of the Church of the United States for a happy outcome of the Peace Conference has deeply stirred the heart of Ireland and filled us with enthusiastic hope. For Ireland recognizes in that message not the voice of a province or a nation, however multitudinous its people, but the voice of a Church, after Rome the most glorious in the world, that covers half a continent, and counts amongst its myriads of devoted children representatives of every branch of the human family. We feel that the united prayers of such a Church and people will not ascend to Heaven in vain.
You justly note that this is a solemn and momentous hour in Ireland’s history. Her destiny is hanging in the balance. Her representatives have this day gone into the Peace Conference in London. (1)
Neither they nor the people whom they represent are unmindful of the difficulties awaiting them there. But they enter that Conference chamber fortified by your invaluable assurance of American sympathy, and encouraged by the noble tribute you pay them when you say that their statesmanship has challenged the admiration of the world.
In the painful struggle that has cost her so dear, Ireland is not animated by hatred of any people, nor is her heart set upon any invidious triumph. She seeks justice only, and the application to herself of the principles of freedom every nation aspires to, and which find their noblest expression in the great world of the United States. She is strong in her faith that justice, especially when sanctified by sacrifices such as she has made, and blessed with the sympathy of mankind is, under heaven, sure of ultimate triumph.
You magnanimously acknowledge the indebtedness of your Church in America to the unfading faith of Ireland. On the other hand, it is not possible for Ireland in any form of words adequately to manifest her obligations to America. That great country has in our sorrowful past welcomed Ireland’s exiled children to prosperity and honour under the American flag. And now in these latter days, when our country lay bleeding under a terror we dislike just now to mention, America has sent subsidy after subsidy, to the extent of millions sterling, through the White Cross and other channels of beneficence, to alleviate the sufferings of our harassed people, to re-house the homeless, re-stock our devastated farms, and bring comfort, as far as money could do so, to every wounded heart within the four provinces of Ireland. But more important even than this wonderful manifestation of exhaustless beneficence is the moral strength transfused into the national heart by the consciousness of your nation’s sympathy and by this inspiring message of yours from the majestic Church of the United States.
Therefore, for all this, in our own name and in the name of our people, we thank you, Lord Cardinal and all your Episcopal brothers, as well as the priests and people of America. And we join with you in fervent prayers that as a result of the good-will now existing in England and in Ireland, and under the blessing of God, the sadness of Ireland’s history for seven hundred years is at last coming to an end, and that we are on the eve of national freedom, peace, and prosperity. And when Ireland shall, as we hope, have reached that long-wished-for goal, and shall have leisure to contemplate the various forces that helped her to gain it, most certainly she will reckon amongst the first and greatest of those agencies, after the fortitude of her own children, the support she has got from the American Church and from the mighty country of which that Church is such a glory.
(1) The following resolution on the opening of the Irish Peace Conference was passed by the Irish Hierarchy at the same meeting:
In common with our people, we welcome the Peace Conference that opens in London to-day.
Fraught as that historic Conference assuredly is with issues of transcendent importance for the welfare of Ireland and England, we earnestly hope and pray that, under the Divine guidance, its deliberations will eventuate in a peace which will satisfy the national rights and aspirations of the Irish people, and thereby induce a condition of permanent friendship between the two countries.
A golden opportunity now exists of establishing that blessed and long-wished for concord by a great act of national freedom untrammelled by limitations, and free from the hateful spirit of partition, which could never be anything but a perennial source of discord and fratricidal strife.
That memorable Conference enters on its solemn work supported, as we know, by the prayers and good wishes of the British and Irish peoples for its ultimate success. We appeal for co-operation on all sides to facilitate the removal of its undoubted, difficulties. Especially do we appeal for a cordial observance of the Truce so happily established, and so faithfully kept outside one unhappy district.
And as a very potent factor towards the attainment of peace, we urge with all earnestness the immediate liberation of the internees, whose prolonged confinement, in most cases without charge or trial, is, to say the least, a cruel hardship and exasperating cause of resentment and ill-will.
To further the object of peace and to obtain the Divine assistance, we hereby order that a Novena in preparation for the Feast of All the Saints of Ireland, which falls on November 6, be celebrated throughout Ireland, beginning on October 28, the devotion to consist of the Rosary, Litany of Loreto, either said or sung, together with the recitation of the Litany of the Saints of Ireland recently approved by the Holy See, followed by the Prayer for Peace and Benediction of the Most Holy Sacrament.