1952 – Visit to Rome


International Office of the YCW

78 Boulevard Poincare


Account of Interviews, Observations and Impressions of Pat Keegan after his visit in Rome from September 19 to 25 1952.


First Interview with Mr. Veronese

I met Veronese coming out of Mass and immediately he suggested that I should see him the following day. I visited him at Piazza St. Callixto 16. He told me that this is part of the office of Cardinal Pizzardo, who had given free accommodations to the Secretariat of the Lay Apostolate.

He received me very cordially. He told me his future policy is to weld the Secretariat of the Lay Apostolate to the Conference of Presidents step by step. He strongly reiterated his request for a person to work at the Secretariat of the Lay Apostolate in Rome. He spoke to me of the discussions that had already taken place. I told him that when the suitable person was available, we would gladly consider his gesture. He told me that Miss Goldie (Australia) from Pax Romana would be beginning work there. He said that they were very short of money at this stage and that he hoped the situation would improve. He mentioned that he had asked Maria Carosi to come and work in the Secretariat full time. He was very anxious to get her.

He spoke to me about America, where he had been recently. He seemed to feel that Msgr. Carroll in the N.C.W.C. did not understand the ideas of the lay apostolate very well, and that it would be difficult in the USA for the development of our ideas. He asked me to send him a report of my American trip, which I said I would do when I wrote such a report.

He pointed out that there was still a big difficulty to be solved – the difficulty between the political plan carried out by people in the lay apostolate and the spiritual objectives. Apparently in Italy this was causing quite a confusion and I felt that Veronese himself was not too sure of his line and that the issue of Gedda vs. others was still very much in his mind.

He spoke to me or Claude Ryan (Canada) who had studied there and whom he felt would be a great asset in Canada.

He seemed very anxious for me to attend the Conference of Presidents and the impression he gave me was that the Conference of Presidents was to be the base of all action.

He spoke very warmly of Msgr. Cardijn and told me it was his impression that Msgr. Cardijn had been mainly responsible for the success of the last Conference in Rome by the tone he set in his talk and by his personality.

He asked me if I wished to see anyone else in Rome and I told him I wished to see Msgr. Montini. He said Msgr. Montini was in Sienna at a conference but that he (Veronese) was making a trip to the Vatican and asked if I would care to go with him and meet Msgr. Sensi who was acting for Msgr. Montini in his absence.

I drove with him directly to the Vatican and he carried with him the day’s correspondence received at the Secretariat. to discuss with Msgr. Sensi. It was apparent to me that this was a regular procedure and I got the impression that it was a daily procedure. Among the letters, I noticed some from the European Movement and some from the United Nations.

Second Interview with Mr. Veronese

At his request I met him again. He made a number of points:

1) That before Msgr Cardijn and I go to India, he was very anxious for us to spend two or three days with him and his Secretariat, namely Miss Donadeo and Miss Goldie, in order to work out our plans for the Secretariat of the Lay Apostolate and its work, and to discuss the orientations which it should take. He seemed to be very anxious about this. I told him I would mention this to Msgr. Cardijn when I saw him, but later I found that Miss Donadeo would be visiting Brussels and would be wanting to see the Canon and most likely she has done this and mentioned the matter. (see reverse…)

2) That we should nominate some person immediately – priest or layman – to be our liaison with the Missionary Secretariat which nominally is attached to the Conference of Presidents – but in fact works in the next room.

Apparently the Missionary Secretariat is in its beginning, but it is already in touch with at least 80 of the heads of religious and missionary congregations and orders. It does this by the following method:

a) a bulletin of information to the heads of orders, which deals with internal Catholic questions and in which I noticed an account of the YCW;

b) a bulletin of documentation which deals with external organizations like the United Nations and particular issues such as the program for birth control (one whole issue dealt with this latter subject);

c) direct personal and telephone contact with the heads of the orders resident in Rome. This is also easily done by the fact that it is done from the house of Cardinal Pizzardo and they are obviously in close contact with him.

3) He told me that within the next month or so he expected the outline of objectives or constitution, which he felt would be written personally by the Holy Father. He said that it was only pressure of work on the part of the Holy Father which had stopped it from coming until now. His whole ideas seemed to work around the need for unity in the lay field, and he obviously was working toward the idea of a congregation to deal with lay matters.


From what I heard from other sources, there is a strong likelihood that Veronese was “kicked upstairs” into the Secretariat of the Lay Apostolate by fact of his disagreement with Gedda, President of Italian Catholic Action. I understood from Maria Carosi that Veronese was very unsure on this question in view of the fact that he had received little or no directives since his appointment from the Holy See. For some reason or other, there seemed to be no further information coming from the Holy See at the moment,

According to Maria, Veronese himself did not know whether he would continue throughout this new structure. Apparently he had only sufficient money to carry it on for another two months and he himself did not draw a salary, but apparently had a private income. When I mentioned finance to him, he told me in confidence that there was the possibility of a new fund being set up by the Church to assist international organizations – that he had already discussed this with the Holy Father. Donors who normally gave to the Holy See for the building of convents and churches would be encouraged to contribute to this new international fund.


1. I felt that for the moment, Veronese was not sure of the direction in which he wanted to go, and that he wanted the advice and above all, the support of Msgr. Cardijn.

2. The Secretariat of the Lay Apostolate will be involved to some degree by the domestic happenings in Italy at the moment regarding the position of Dr. Gedda, who apparently is still a personal confidante of the Holy Father, having a great influence with him.

3. Veronese still feels very strongly on the whole idea of what might be termed ‘unitarian’ or working together.

He is very conscious of the strength of the YCW and its influence, and of the prestige of Msgr. Cardijn. His knowledge of the YCW seems to have increased and he genuinely wants our cooperation.

4. With prudence, I think we should cooperate with the Secretariat and get some one there as soon as we can, who can take care of our interests, as it is obviously a key spot for contacts.

5. I think our most important job is to build the YCW even train more strongly.

We should have a much more efficient method of sending reports to Rome, as one of the major impressions I got from Rome on this trip was that they respect strength!

Interview with Msgr. Sensi

I saw Msgr. Sensi for a short time and had the services of Msgr. Ryan (in charge of the English desk at the Secretariat of State) as my interpreter. od to any I got the impression, both from the attitude of other Monsignori in the Secretariat of State to Msgr. Sensi and the attitude of Veronese himself to Msgr. Sensi – as well as from what Msgr. Ryan told me – that Msgr. Senst is being groomed as the chief assistant and possible successor to Msgr. Montini. It was obvious that he was clearly in charge while Msgr. Montini was away.

I found him extremely diplomatic, but very clearly demonstrating to me his deep respect for the YCW. He spoke of it with very great admiration and regard.

I told him of the possibility of Msgr. Cardijn and myself going to India – neither of us going to Australia. I mentioned that Msgr. Cardijn had been invited by a number of Bishops. He was very keen on this and asked if he could help in any way whatsoever. Then he asked me about Msgr. Cardijn’s health, I told him the Canon was convalescing now and seemed to have made a good recovery. He wanted to know very much in detail, but I am afraid I could not answer, as I did not know the technical details of the Canon’s illness.

He insisted that when I returned, I should impress upon Msgr. Cardijn his (Msgr. Sensi’s) very best wishes and those of Msgr. Montini, for his recovery. Msgr. Montini was much concerned about the Canon’s health.

Whereas naturally I was very happy and pleased by his obvious interest, for reasons which I will explain personally to Msgr. Cardi jn, I felt slightly nervous.

He told me that he depended on me to stop the Canon from going to India if it was not sure that his health would take the strain.

I had the impression that he was in a great hurry, as he had a sheaf of papers with him and was sitting on the edge of his chair, so I asked him again what was being done regarding priests, as this was one of the great needs of the YCW – to have more and more priests who understand that the lay apostolate is not an illegitimate child of the church… and that, in this, the parish priests were the most important. I insisted that it was not just a question of (blank) it was a question of having lay people in all walks of life, trained to carry out responsibilities. He told me that the Holy Father was most deeply concerned about this, as also Msgr. Montini and himself, but that a progress had already been made and of necessity it must be slow. He emphasized again and again that the YCW had the confidence of the Church.

He obviously was in a hurry and I told him that I had no further points to discuss. He again reiterated his message to Msgr. Cardijn, which I promised to convey.

Throughout the whole interview he was very friendly. He told me to discuss the European Youth Program with Msgr. Giovannetti as he was responsible for all external international organizations: UNO, EYC, European Movement, etc.


1. Msgr. Sensi is obviously very close to Veronese. They were on the telephone at least twice during my visits to Veronese, and the morning I was there, Veronese spent at least an hour with him, with the day’s correspondence.

2. He seems to be in line for a higher position.

3. I sensed that he had a regard for the YCW, without quite understanding it.

4. It is important that we keep in regular contact with him, stressing at every convenient opportunity, how much backing we have from the local hierarchy.

5. We must send more reports to the Vatican, giving our views on current things as they arise.

Interview with Msgr. Govannetti

This is the first time I had met him and he struck me as being very open and very frank–very rough and ready. I discussed the European Youth Program with him and he said that he received reports from Maria Carosi, Tardini and others from the Italian side.

He asked me for my ideas on the training of people. He told me we needed much more training of people in international work and was very anxious to get ideas, I think that if the Canon has ideas, it would be useful sometimes to send them to Msgr. Giovannetti. He is very anxious to keep in touch with us.C

I discussed America a little with him. He said that the Apostolic Delegate in America had a good knowledge of the difficulties in regard to the Lay Apostolate in America, but that Americans themselves were always nervous, thinking that people were interested in getting money from them. He spoke further on this in general remarks. He then told me I should meet Msgr. Carboni, who is apparently the Msgr. in the Secretariat of State responsible for relations with America.


1. Every time we go to Rome, I think we should see Msgr. Giovannetti. He is very open, very keen about to the YCW and he follows all international organizations.

Interview with Msgr. Carboni

Msgr. Carboni is responsible for relations with America. I spoke with him of my trip and how things were going. He obviously wanted to talk, so I let him. He entered into an expose of his views regarding the social situation. He felt that in spite of all our efforts, we have not connected the Catholic Church with the working people and that this was the great strength of communism. He went on to say that if Russia was defeated and dissolved after the war, communism would still have won, because it had allied its national purpose with that of working people and all who are oppressed.

He obviously knew nothing of the YCW as he brought in to me a copy of the monthly bulletin of the Catholic Young Men’s Society in England, thinking we had some connection with that.

He was very fatherly in his contact with me, and very friendly. He asked me to get in touch with him anytime I was in Rome again – presumably to listen to his ideas on communism. He told me that he felt the secret of America’s success (the American Catholic Church) was that she did everything the non-Catholics do, and she did it better. It was his belief that this was the key to the future for all of us – that we do better than non-Catholics.

As this was my first contact with him, and I feel he has possibilities, I did no more than listen and interject a few exlanations on the YCW here and there.

He told me he was a good friend of Ross Dugan from Chicago who apparently writes to him at length about the situation of the Church in the States. He told me that when I was in the States again, I should visit his great friend, with whom he stays when he is in the states: Msgr. Smith, the Auxiliary Bishop of Buffalo.


While I felt that Msgr. Carboni was a little cloudy in his ideas, he was very friendly and he had certain good ideas. I feel it is imperative we keep contact with him and above all send him material in English on the YXW, as he reads this very easily.

Interview – Italian Catholic Action

I saw Carretto(who, to my acute embarrassment, kissed me profusely.) – Maria Carosi and others.

From the moment of my arrival in Rome, I felt that all of them were going through a tremendous period of crisis. Gradually, but with great reluctance on their part, I found out what it was. Apparently they were waiting for the letter coming from the Holy Father, appointing the heads of the different branches, excluding Gedda, for their future period as president. Apparently the Holy Father appoints them all directly and until the list is received, they do not know whether they are to stay or go. There is a strong feeling that a number would be dismissed – this for several reasons:

1) at the time of the recent elections, disagreement had broken out between the policy of Gedda and the heads of the branches, namely the Catholic Action: men’s, women’s and youth. Apparently Carretto had lead the opposition on the grounds that Catholic Action was education and should not be implicated so deeply and in such a detailed way with the political situation.

2) The presidents of the branches went to see the Pope and complained bitterly about Gedda. The Pope told them they must all work together and that Gedda was “the man, even though it was difficult to work with him”. The general impression was that they had to turn back, and that while the Holy Father understood their difficulties, he backed Gedda.

There is no doubt about it – the heads of Catholic Action whom I met were in fear and trembling, as apparently there was a move by Gedda to oust a number of them and get new people. There was a hope that Carretto would stay as an article in a leading paper had reported the fact that Carretto had battled with Gedda and that Gedda was now working for his removal. This accidental leak to the press would be a certain block to Carretto’s being removed – otherwise it would be used for anti-Catholic propaganda.

Up to the moment of my departure the letter nominating the presidents of the branches had not been received.

The Episcopal Commission for Italian Catholic Action was completely changed and last week the new commission of Bishops met in Rome.


If this goes on, obviously there will be great breaks in the Italian Catholic Action – I am more convinced than ever, that from our point of view, the answer is to build the YCW: organizationally, administratively and financially.

Interview with Maria Carosi

Maria Carosi was apparently in a state of nervous exhaustion when I saw her owing to the factors mentioned,

She did not know whether her president was staying, and apparently when the king is removed, all the court and government changes. She told me that the Pope personally appoints the heads of the branches of Catholic Action and that new appointments were due.

There was to be a meeting between the leaders of Italian Catholic Youth and the ACJF of France in October. Approximately twenty persons on each side would meet. The agenda would deal with representative work in such things as the European Movement, etc., a study of the differences between their conception of Catholic action.


She said there was a great division between Gedda and the president, owing to Gedda’s contact and proposed plan of work with the neo-fascists.

The people who seemed to advise the Pope the most were Count Galliacho (the head of the technical services of the Vatican) and Gedda.

Since De Gaspert has been in political life, he has not seen the Pope once as apparently, while the Pope likes the Christian Democrats in general, he does not care for De Gasperi and certain other individuals. Msgr. Montini is strongly for the Christian Democrats but he has to be very careful.

The Pope has changed the Ecclesiastical Commission for Catholic Action overnight. Rumor as to the reasons: some of the members are to be made cardinals; the Holy Father wants a change.

Gedda feels that a strong Italy and a strong Italian Catholic Action must be built – he is not interested in international work. He received a great deal of money from industrialists and apparently was embarrassed by Fr. Tondi who left the Church and who apparently was his liaison with the neo-fascists. While he (Gedda) is very kind, according to Maria, his methods of work are strictly totalitarian. His general idea is that he knows best as to what other people need and want and that their regular meetings trivial details are discussed. They do not play a part in making the policy of Catholic Action.


I have the impression that there is complete confusion, which under the totalitarian system means chaos–and again I think the answer is a strong International YCW with cap. able leaders who can deal with these personalities.

Interview with Ernest Braun (Secy. Gen. of the International Catholic Youth Federation)

This is the most pitiful figure I saw in Rome. The poor man obviously does not know what to do with his movement’. No one particularly wants it so he spends his time in collecting magazines. Apparently there is no money for the secretariat and no likelihood of getting any. At the moment Carretto finds the money for Braun’s salary and maintenance privately. Like other coordinators, he has nothing to coordinate, so the basic problem is to justify the existence of the secretariat and his own work.

It all strikes me as being a little of a farce, but rather tragic. I asked him if he saw Msgr. Montini regularly about his youth set-up and he said “no”…. that he had been to see Msgr. Montini in the beginning and did not get much satisfaction. He told me that he has seen his chaplain at least twice and that he and his chaplain visited Monsignor Montini to find out what they should do and they left after a pleasant conversation not knowing the answer.

It is obvious to me that this thing was set up in the past under the influence of Carretto, and suffers from the same nervousness that affects all the other elements of Catholic Action in Italy at the moment.

I think Braun is a very nice person himself – well intentioned, not too intelligent, but with nothing to do. He told me that the members of his governing board never wrote to him and very rarely answer his letters. But he is full of a vague hope for the future.

He told me that there was to be a meeting of the Young Women’s Federation (Christine de Hemptine’s movement) and their own, where they could discuss plans of working together more closely. Obviously we are a thorn in their sides, as we carry out our own representative action.

I sensed in my interviews with so many of them that what they want is a coordinated line of representative action on the part of Catholics. The point that I stressed very much in my conversations was that our strength lay in the fact that in the various croups, we could get a stronger representative action – much stronger than if we were all thrown together in one pen.

He told me that Rommerskirchen and Msgr. Wolker were resigning in Germany and were being replaced by the Diocesan President of Catholic Youth of Barnberg Diocese and the Diocesan Chaplain of Bamberg. Ho said that Rommerskirchen was entering the government as the head of a new department for the reeducation of Germans!

He said that they had expected a considerable financial support from the Americans in the beginning, which, owing to a number of incidents, was not forthcoming. Apparently some American Bishops had paid a quarter of the cost of the building and furnishing of Domus Pacis.


Braun’s plan for the future is to give eight bursaries for students of youth work to come to Rome where they could be maintained at the cost of the secretariat, where they could study Catholic Action and assist in his secretariat (presumably filing magazines) one half day each week. He offered to me two or three of these.


Obviously there is no strong support from Msgr. Montini or others for this international secretariat of Catholic youth. It is in the interests of Braun and others interested in this project, to give the impression that there is a strong Interest as, frankly, this is the only justification for their existence, I feel sorry for Braun personally, but obviously they have no members.

I still think that their ideas are dangerous and that while we must retain a friendly contact with them, and a contact of information, we should very clearly show that we are an international that exists in reality and that we are desirous, in fact, to cooperate with all other Catholic movements. I am sure that the fact that we are strong and have a certain capacity is to our advantage, as they have muddled ideas on cooperation and coordination.

If we wish to have anyone in Rome to do special work for us, and they are sufficiently capable, we might desire to make use of the bursary.

Interview with Father Grenet (on the return trip from Rome)

On my return from Rome. I stopped in to see Father Grenet and Rene Delecluse. He (Father Grenet) told me of his visit to Rome and his long conversations with Msgr. Sensi. Apparently Msgr. Sensi had asked to meet him in order to discuss the international Girls Federation and the fact that the French girls did not participate, but the whole of the interview turned on the International YCW.

Apparently he asked a number of questions:

– how was the International YCW organized?

– why only three countries in the Bureau, and why the specific countries of Belgium, England and France?

He apparently suffered from the illusion that we were an international with classist tendencies.

He was concemed by the strength of our representative action,

He obviously believed (according to Father Grenet) in the desire for more unity in all work and not the idea of one line going through in the political field through lay movements which dealt in any way with such action,

He paid the greatest tribute to Msgr. Cardijn, but wondered whether the International YCW would continue after Msgr. Cardijn died, expressing doubts.

Of all the conversations I have had recently, this one was the most worrying. Apparently Father Grenet explained to him that the Yow did not start from structures and constitutions but grew from experience and essentially a movement of education, etc. But apparently it was the representative side of the International YCW and its potential strength that interested and perturbed Msgr. Sensi.

This, in brief, is the main content of my conversation with Father Grenet, but obviously he is anxious and I think at the earliest possible moment, we should arrange that Msgr. Cardijn and Father Grenet get together for a dinner or something intimate, where he can tell the Canon exactly what happened.

If Msgr. Sensi is being groomed for a higher position, and in view of our own situation, we should take every possible step to have further contact with Msgr. Sensi and be more clear in our own minds as to our future program.

I asked Father Grenet if he had discussed this with Msgr. Cardijn and he said ‘no’, on the grounds that he did not have the opportunity to have any sort of intimate conversation with Msgr. Cardijn. I suggest that the next time Father Grenet comes to Brussels, that Msgr. Cardiin invite him to spend some time him, telling him that I have mentioned this to him and discussing the matter in greater detail.