Thursday, August 27, 2009

22Dec1867, An Audience with Pope Pius IX

ROME, December 22nd, 1867.
—The Pope gave us the honour of a private interview, but was so unkind as to fix the hour so as ingeniously to cut us off from both our own afternoon Services, and Benediction at the Trinità, which we wished to hear. He is a nice old man, with snowy hair, ruddy face, twinkling keen dark eyes, an amiable smile and a most pleasing, kind manner, but not dignified. He is short and rather fat, speaks good French and was wonderfully lively and cheerful. He said, "Dieu vous benit. Dio vi benedica," as we came up the room, and gave us his hand which we kissed with our best bow and curtsey ; but kneel we did not. He began almost at once upon politics, said as briskly as possible à propos of the risk and crisis his affairs had passed thro', "Mais néanmoins—cela marche!" and gave one the notion of great fearlessness, and confidence in the justice of his cause. He launched out upon the inefficiency of the King's government and the absence of any distinguished politicians—a lucky line for him to take, as we were able to agree with him unfortunately ! He spoke of Uncle W., and I made a terrible slip, saying, "Il aime beaucoup l'Italie et l'Italien," forgetting that "Italy" now means the kingdom ; but he didn't seem hurt, thank goodness. He spoke very warmly of Lord Clarendon, whom he seems to think he may convert ! but whether he meant politically or religiously, I don't know. He said, "Lord Gladstone est . . . Pooseyite, n'est-ce pas ?" to which I said, "Oui, S. Pere, et moi aussi !" at which he was much amused, saying, "Nous nous rapprochons done un peu plus . . . it faut que vous poussiez un peu plus loin !" ; whereat I felt a little insulted. Apparently he liked Lord Clarendon best of the big-wigs he saw last year, and said he hoped to see him again this year, and see what he thought of his friends (the King's people) ; perhaps he (the Pope) might convert him ! All this he came out with very chattily and with plenty of gesticulation and humour. He dismissed us very gracefully, saying to F., "Eh bien, Monsieur, je vous recommande cette Pooseyite," and we bowed out, much pleased with him.

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