ALAN McELWAIN REPORTING
ICANNOT tell you how relieved we were last weekend when Michelangelo's Pieta had been safely placed aboard the Cri,stoforo o 1 o rtt o and started on its trip to New York.
It was labelled: "To his Eminence Francis Cardinal Spellman, Vatican Pavilion, New York World Fair—from His Holiness Pope Paul VI". The crate weighed six tons— surely the mightiest object ever dispatched by pope to prelate.
Its departure ended weeks of wrangling between New 'York and Vatican packing experts. I suppose some people were interested in the controversy over whether wood shavings were preferable to foam rubber when it came to keeping a marble object free front stresses and strains. To others, it seemed a wearisome prelude to a notable event — the firsi journey the Pieta had made from St. Peter's Basilica since it was placed there in 1499.
Now, all we can hope is that it will arrive without blemish in New York. impress with its moving beauty millions of visitors there as It does millions of tourists in Rome. and then also come hack in one piece. Come back, too, without any more ranting and raging over how modern science can best protect it — something, one would have imagined. that could be worked out quietly behind the scenes, to the satisfaction of all and with the reverence due to this unrivalled representation of the dead Christ lying across his sorrowing Mother's knees.
Law breaking NAMES police called to arrest 36-year-old Ernesto Acanfora at his home the other day. They found him ready for them with a glib interpretation of Italian law.
This, he said, defended the unity and sanctity of the Italian family, If, therefore, the police dragged him away from his wife and six children, they would be breaking the law.
Not being prepared to argue, the police look the entire family to the station. There Acanfora was charged with causing a brawl at the seaside resort of Rimini by insisting that all the customers in a public bar join him in a rollicking toast to the local police chief. who had died.
While they were charging Acanfora, senior station officials also decided to take a risk on breaking the law. They sent his wife and six children home and put the protesting Acanfora in a cell by himself.
Tax troubles WHAT a thankless task befell Italy's new Finance Minister. Signor Roberto Tremelloni, the other night. He appeared on television and begged his fellow Italians to do the decent thing and help the nation's troubled economy by making honest tax returns. This had never happened to Italians before and they were flabbergasted. Putting in honest income tax returns LS regarded over here as a spoil-sport act. calculated to ruin the most popular of all national games. This. liberally translated, is called Beat the Tax Man. It can he and is, played by any number of participants, it consists.
quite simply. of
in the citizen put ting n a completely erroneous return, the Tax Man retaliating with a much higher estimate of his own, and a subsequent battle between the opposing forces, which often lasts for years.
No secrets THERE is nothing secret about income tax in Italy. If you are interested, you can go along to the tax office. pay a small fee and look up anyone's return, just like you can examine births. deaths and marriage records at Somerset House.
I once found the porter at our block of flats in Rome wandering about with a piece of paper that some official or other had left with him. I thought it was the gas bill, but it turned out to be a tax demand, open to the fields and to the sky for all to see. Up till them I had enjoyed a certain measure of prestige among the porter and his family, all porters and their families assuming that all foreigners are rich, But from the time my tax return was touted about the building. there was a distinct cooling of porterial
Eve y year in Italy, the bigcourtesy.
gest income earners and their taxes are published in the newspapers and everyone has a good laugh.
Some well-known tycoon puts himself down as having earned a miserable £100,000. The Tax Man counters with 1100.000 at a rough guess. The ensuing wrangle continues for three or four years. Finally, a compromise 511111 iS agreed upon. This means that by, say, 1963. a citizen has disposed of his 1959 income tax problem, but already has an accumulation of two or three more years on his hands. with others rapidly coming up.
rrHERE is no gaol penalty
or any Of that nonsense. for making false income tax declarations in Italy. The game is. therefore, happily devoid of those exasperating legal interventions that make the whole tax business such a deadly bore in less en
Some Italian incomes filed in past years have got themselves written into the nation's folklore. In 1959, a leading tam producer. feeling in a more whimsical mood than usual, solemnly assessed himself at £300. The Tax Man promptly threw in a few extra noughts and just how the whole thing ended was never clear.
Although they get pretty dispirited most times, the income tax authorities do their best to trap people into upper income brackets. For instance, they like to snoop around and see what sort of jewels or clothes are sported by wives of men who have declared thelklves, income taxwise, to he illingerously near the breadline.
The result is that the more tender-hearted beggars witching the arrival of guests at what were once gala occasions are apt to offer bedraggled actresses, or business magnates' wives. a few small coins from their own meagre takings. just to tide them over.
1 he whole thing has. of course, become a sore trial to people who ordinarily would Jove to get their names and pictures in the papers. Now they simply cannot afford to do so.
1 have heard of an anguished moment at an exhibition of paintings, when a young artist was practically on his bended knees. begging reporters not to proclaim that he was having record sales.
Degradation ITALY for some time had I been degraded by a "repugnant wave of erotic sexual films" in which filth, unnaturalness, inversions and perversions were displayed with subtle seductiveness, Arch his Ito p Ermenegildo Fiord, of Florence, said in his Easter alessage. Italy, he added, was paying a "premium of degradation" on its cinema industry.
It was not necessary. the Archbishop said, for people to be Christians to become disgusted by the cinema's attempts to destroy the foundations of natural morality. Indecent immoral films were rousing the indignation of citizens of every peTreetcligliiindY"tiei ancgherlse.wHiYecalled on public authorities to do their duty and defend the common good against these films.w efWneniretroni jullefilit ,t7iret erns
nation". Archbishop Mori: said. He advised Catholics to avoid immoral films and to see that their children did too.
Parish priests were advised to display on church doors lists of films which could be seen. and those which should be avoided. He said 'Petitions signed by parents protesting against films of which they disapproved were the most egethive ?HMIS of bringing these /r) the notice of public authorities.