Today I attended to some business matters and made several visits, especially to His Eminence Cardinal de Gregorio who very graciously received me and invited me to dinner tomorrow.
Roman Diary, 5 December 1825, EO XVII
Cardinal De Gregorio treated me with rare kindness and cordiality. He recalled having seen me often at Paris during the time of the exile of the Roman prelates. I had actually seen him although he was not one of those to whom I rendered service… After dinner, we discussed in familiar terms at length on important matters, after which he was kind enough to describe to me in detail the work of the congregations of Cardinals. He certainly has more than his share to do and conscientiously performs all his duties.
Roman Diary, 6 December 1825, EO XVII
Eighteen years earlier, Eugene had arrived at the seminary of St Sulpice in Paris to begin his studies for the priesthood. Napoleon had brought Pope Pius VII to Savona as a prisoner and Eugene formed part of a secret network of seminarians who worked for the Pope. When the Pope was imprisoned, and the cardinals closest to him were exiled to Paris, Eugene became more actively involved – under the guidance of the Superior General of the Sulpicians, Father Emery. Leflon explains the background:
“Eugene de Mazenod was the perfect choice to act as mediator between M. Emery and the cardinals brought to Paris, and he established a tie between them that was equally discreet and effective. On the one hand, he had the complete trust of the Superior General, since, in spite of their doctrinal differences in the matter of Gallicanism, both saw eye to eye when it came to the defense of the rights of the Pope summoned by the Emperor. On the other hand, the “Purpurati” or cardinals, found everything in this young nobleman’s favor; he spoke their language, loved their native country, knew how to deal with the Italian psychology, and professed a resolute and militant ultramontanism. Unlike other French ecclesiastics, who knew little of the transalpine mentality, this young cleric who was as much at home in peninsular surroundings as he was in those of Paris, encountered no difficulty in understanding the Italians and being understood by them. Somewhat out of their element on the banks of the Seine where, as Consalvi had pointed out in 1801, perspectives are not the same as they are on the banks of the Tiber, the Italian Princes of the Church would naturally lend a favorable ear to this one-time émigré, whom a long exile had acclimated to their country.” Leflon I p. 362
“Politics is a noble activity. We should revalue it, practice it with vocation and a dedication that requires testimony, martyrdom, that is to die for the common good.” Pope Francis