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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1831 > Propaganda

It is hardly necessary to say that one of the very first visits which he paid in Rome, was to the Propaganda. On the morning after his arrival, the feast, as it would seem, of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, he went to the sacristy with the intention of saying mass; and having, with his habitual retiringness, knelt down to say the usual preparatory prayers without making himself known, he remained for a considerable time unobserved and therefore neglected. He was at length recognized by Dr. Cullen, the present archbishop of Dublin, fat that time professor of Scripture in the Propaganda,) who at once procured for the distinguished stranger the attention which he justly deserved in such an institution. It is a pleasing illustration, at once of the retentiveness of his memory and of the simple kindliness of his disposition, that in an interview with Dr. Cullen not very long before his death, he reminded him of this circumstance, and renewed his thanks even for so trifling a service. After mass, he made his way, unattended, to one of the camerate, or corridors. The first room which he chanced to meet was that of a Turkish student, named Hassun, now archbishop of the United Greek Church at Constantinople. He at once entered into conversation with Hassun in Turkish. This he speedily changed to Komaic with a youth named Musabini, who is now the Catholic Greek bishop at Smyrna. From Greek he turned to English, on the approach of Dr. O'Connor, an Irish student, now bishop of Pittsburgh in the United States. As the unwonted sounds began to attract attention, the students poured in, one by one, each in succession to find himself greeted in his native tongue; till at length, the bell being rung, the entire community assembled, and gave full scope to the wonderful quickness and variety of his accomplishment. Dr. O'Connor describes it as the most extraordinary scene he has ever witnessed ; and he adds a further very remarkable circumstance that, during the many new visits which Mezzofanti paid to the Propaganda afterwards, he never once forgot the language of any student with whom he had spoken on this occasion, nor once failed to address him in his native tongue.

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