Robinson, Paschal (1870–1948), journalist, medieval historian, diplomat, and papal nuncio to Ireland, was born 26 April 1870 in 49 Percy Place, Dublin, and christened Charles Edward Neville, second of three sons of Nugent Robinson, secretary of the waterworks committee of Dublin corporation, and Jannet Robinson (née Neville). Both his parents were well known in Dublin literary circles; his father was a writer of plays and pantomimes and a journalist who covered the Franco–Prussian war for the London Chronicle. When Charles was five the family moved to the USA, where his father pursued a successful journalistic career and is said to have assisted P. F. Collier in establishing Collier's Weekly. Charles studied law at university but abandoned his studies in favour of a career in journalism; as London correspondent for American newspapers during the 1880s, he covered the Richard Pigott (qv) forgeries case. Returning to the USA, he was appointed (1892) associate editor of the literary magazine North American Review, through which he met the writer Mark Twain. In New York he became acquainted with a German Franciscan priest, Fr Godfrey Schilling, who influenced him to join the Franciscans; he was attracted by the order's tradition of learning. In 1894–5 he studied Latin and Greek at Holy Cross College, Worcester, Mass., in preparation for joining the priesthood, and in August 1896 entered the Franciscan seminary at St Bonaventure College, Alleghany, New York, taking the name ‘Paschal’. In both colleges he was involved in student journalism, and at St Bonaventure's he founded (1899) the Laurel, which is now the USA's oldest collegiate literary magazine continuously published under the same title. He completed his theological studies at St Anthony's International Franciscan College in Rome, where he was ordained 21 December 1901. Appointed lecturer in theology to Franciscan students in Washington, DC, in 1903, in the same year he wrote The real life of St Francis of Assisi, a refutation of the Life of St Francis of Assisi (1894) by the protestant theologian Paul Sabatier. This was followed by Some pages of Franciscan history (1905), The writings of St Francis (1906), and The life of St Clare (1910). Subsequent writing included contributions to the Catholic encyclopaedia, the Encyclopaedia of education, and a seven-volume account of early Franciscan life and literature. Returning to Italy (c.1907) to the new Franciscan school of studies in Quarrachi near Florence, he catalogued a number of previously inaccessible archives containing material relating to Franciscan history, and was associate editor of Archivum Franciscanum Historicum. In 1909 he visited Franciscan missions in the near east before returning to the USA, where in 1912 he was assigned to the friary at West 31st St., New York. In 1913 he was appointed professor of medieval history at the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, a post he held till 1925. The CUA subsequently conferred him with honorary doctorates of theology and laws, and in 1914 he was made a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, London.
In 1919 he was appointed by the US government to its educational and economic mission to the Paris peace conference, where he delivered a report on the custody of holy places in Palestine. He remained in Europe and undertook a number of Vatican missions as apostolic visitor to the holy land (1920) and apostolic visitor to the Latin patriarchate in Jerusalem and the uniate churches in Palestine, Transjordan, and Cyprus (1925–8). During this period he also served as consultor to a number of Vatican congregations: Sacred Congregation of Religious (1924); Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities (1924); and Sacred Congregation for Propagating the Faith (1925). In recognition of his contribution as a Vatican diplomat he was consecrated titular archbishop of Tyana 24 June 1927. In April–June 1929 he undertook one of his most important diplomatic missions on behalf of the Vatican, when Pope Pius XI appointed him apostolic delegate to Malta to investigate a serious dispute that had arisen between the Maltese clergy and the prime minister, Lord Strickland. His subsequent report, placing most of the blame for the situation on Strickland's anti-clericalism and anti-Italian policies, did not immediately solve the crisis, which soon developed into a confrontation between Great Britain and the Vatican, and did not end till Strickland was voted out of office in 1932.
On 27 November 1929 Robinson was appointed papal nuncio to the Irish Free State, the first papal delegate to Ireland since GianBattista Rinuccini (qv) in 1645. While the appointment of a nuncio to his native country was unusual, he was seen as primarily an American priest. His appointment was not welcomed by the Irish hierarchy, who feared interference by Rome in the domestic affairs of the Irish church, a situation exacerbated by the failure of the minister for external affairs, Patrick McGilligan (qv), to inform the hierarchy of the appointment prior to its official announcement. However, after his arrival (14 January 1930) Robinson did much to allay the fears of the Irish bishops, making it clear that he did not intend to be an interventionist. Also, his official residence, the former under-secretary's lodge in the Phoenix Park, was seen as keeping him ‘well out of harm's way’ (Keogh (1995), 78). In fact, contrary to the hierarchy's fears, his presence contributed to maintaining good relations between the Irish church and the Vatican: ‘The Vatican. . . received the most incisive reports from Ireland, which made it unlikely that misunderstandings would arise between Rome and Ireland’ (Keogh (1986), 157), and he proved a useful conduit for expediting official business between Ireland and the Vatican. His public appearances as nuncio were confined largely to religious events, such as the eucharistic congress in 1932, and he took a particular interest in catholic charities and the Catholic Action movement. His personableness and good relations with Irish political leaders assisted in smoothing church–state relations, and as doyen of the diplomatic corps he was considered a valuable addition to the Dublin diplomatic circuit. He was particularly friendly with W. T. Cosgrave (qv), whose sons often stayed at the nuncio's residence while Cosgrave attended the Phoenix Park races, and he also celebrated mass in the private oratory at Cosgrave's home. He was also a close friend of Seán T. O'Kelly Ceallaigh (qv), although his relations with Éamon de Valera (qv) were more formal. Although consulted on issues such as the position of the Roman Catholic church in the 1937 constitution, he refused to interfere in Irish political or religious affairs. In Ireland he continued his study of medieval history. His health began to deteriorate in the 1940s; he suffered from rheumatism and from cardiac and eye problems. He died suddenly at his residence in the Phoenix Park 27 August 1948. In accordance with his wishes he was buried, after a simple requiem mass, in his Franciscan habit, barefoot, without any archepiscopal insignia, and interred in the Franciscan plot in Glasnevin cemetery.