Mission Accomplished

  • Norman C. Tobias


Upon his arrival in Rome on 9 June 1960, Isaac received a visit from Israeli embassy staffer Hagai Dikan (whose acquaintance Isaac had made when Dikan had been the Israeli consul-general in Marseille), preparatory to a meeting on the following day with Israel’s ambassador to the Vatican, Eliyahu Sasson. The Israeli foreign ministry had been caught flatfooted by the Isaac papal audience. When Maurice Fisher, who would be posted to Rome two months later as Israeli ambassador to Italy, learned of the papal audience, his reaction in correspondence to the Israeli consul in New York City was, “There is no purpose, and in the foreseeable future, there will not be any.” Isaac then paid a visit to France’s ambassador to the Holy See, de la Tournelle, to discuss the personalities with whom he ought to meet preliminary to his audience with the Pope. “Mgr. de Provenchères told me,” Isaac told de la Tournelle, “to meet with his friend, Mgr. Baron, Rector of Saint-Louis des Français, in whom I would find the most knowledgeable of advisers. [de Provenchères] has alerted him of my arrival in Rome.” The French ambassador nodded his head, but cautioned, “He has the temperament of a mystic; you must meet him at Saint-Louis des Français together with Mgr. Arrighi, who is more grounded practically and has a greater network among the Italian clergy (he himself is Corsican).” De la Tournelle thought it unlikely Isaac would be able to meet with Cardinal Tardini, whose secretariat responsibilities left little time. Rather, de la Tournelle counseled Isaac to connect with Ottaviani, and among the French cardinals, with Tisserant and Julien. Unbeknownst to both de la Tournelle and Isaac, Tardini, who had declared in 1959 in conversation with Cardinal Tisserant, “there is no possibility of contact or negotiations with the killers of God,” was doing his utmost to derail what was to be a special, unpublicized encounter between Isaac and John XXIII.

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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norman C. Tobias
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TorontoTorontoCanada

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