Before Eugene was able to leave Rome, he still had to complete some formalities with the Vatican. While waiting, he filled in his time with various occupations that he writes about in his diary. One of them was to read the handwritten manuscript of Cardinal Pacca’s account of the Pope’s imprisonment in Fontainebleau, Paris, by Napoleon.
I ate at Cardinal Pacca’s place; he lent me the first manuscript volume relating the events he witnessed. This writing is remarkable for the impartiality with which it is written; it contains some very interesting facts…
I am very familiar with all these facts; I was at Paris at the time of these happenings, and the regular encounters I had with several cardinals, and especially Cardinal Mattei, who used to honour me with his confidence and friendship, allowed me, not only to attest to the truth of Cardinal Pacca’s account, but even to add some very interesting elements.
Roman Diary, 31 March 1826, EO XVII
Eugene recalls how he had been a part of these events while he was a seminarian and a newly-ordained priest at St Sulpice. He was more than a mere witness, but had been actively involved with the Sulpicians in helping the cardinals and Pope during this period – endangering his life in the process. Witnessing the persecution of the Church, these events explain his life-long sensitivity to the sufferings of the Church and his particular attachment to the person of the Pope.
When Eugene returned to Aix in 1812 the Pope was still a prisoner and so he narrates:
I was dying of the epidemic illness which I had contracted from the Austrian prisoners while serving them in the prisons at Aix when these events took place at Fontainebleau. That is why I have had only imperfect knowledge of them until today. I am out a year, it was the following year, at the same season, that I contracted the prison sickness .
Roman Diary, 1 April 1826, EO XVII
“To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with people.” A. W. Tozer