THE oft-postponed "mo ment of truth"has caught up with Italian politicians. President Giovanni Leone. less than two months in office, has had the courage to acknowledge the irreconcilability of the elements presently forming this post-war republic's fourth assembly and has dissolved Parliament amid much party bitterness.
The outcome for a reshuffled Parliament which may achieve a majority coalition in the May 7 and 8 polling appears bleak at the beginning of electoral campaigning. And as usual, a favourite target for attack is the Vatican because of the pressures it brings to bear on the electorate.
The Holy See does play an important role in Italy's politics. But nothing here is either black or white and there is much justification for the Vatican's efforts to build up the strength of the Catholic party, the Christian Democrats.
In the past the Vatican has fought openly from the pulpit in support of this party. This, to many, appeared as selfdefeating and, in the long run, productive of growing anticlericalism and even antireligiosity.
Some days ago the Italian Episcopal Conference's permanent committee issued a statement denouncing deteriorations in the nation over the past decade ranging from lack of confidence in authority and institutions to economic ills, growing insecurity for working people, increased crime and delinquency, extremes of violence, weakening of family ties and injustice and a general sapping of morals.
is is all true and few Italians would quibble at the episcopal view of the situation. What few realise is that the Vatican, in this present crisis, is campaigning in favour of the Christian Democrats (not by name) against an all too probable polarisation of extremes —Communism and Fascism— and a weakened central counter-balance.
A decided gain for the Catholic party and for the efforts of the Holy See is that the Church has gained in political maturity and is softpedalling the clamour of its tremendous electoral efforts while working discreetly towards the same goal.
DESPITE this more socially and under-privilege-conscious latter half of the 20th Century, there is often noted a "ho-hum" attitude towards the missionaries, the so-called "dogooders" who are remembered for the most part with a slight feeling of ennui and only on mission Sundays.
Most likely this was a reflection of blind reliance in paternal authority (Pope Pius XI's Romanorum Pontificum, which gave the Pontiff exclusive solicitude for "all the Churches") or in individual efforts exerted by bishops without regard for what others might be doing in the same field.
This is all being changed today. Determined to coordinate the work involved, the Church's close to 2,800 bishops took a hard look at the situation during Vatican II and their decree is now taking concrete form.
• The first-ever meeting of the presidents of Episcopal Mis sionary Commissions was held here in February and nearly all voted for a coordination of efforts to avoid wasteful parallelism.
Such coordination is essential for there are 53 national branches for mission aid centred .in the Propaganda Fide congregation's headquarters in Rome where in 1622 fourteen men gathered to found the congregation.
Today annual contributions from mission Sundays come to 16 million lire (apart from national and organisational funds) from all over the world and are distributed also all over the world. This involves much more intricate administration than the original handling of funds which, quaintly, came in 1622 from a tax which Cardinals were required to pay for their rings, a sum of 500 scudi each.
Bishop Charles Grant of Northampton r e pces ented English missionary interests at this round-table conference of 27 nations.
JUST 390 years after it was was installed in the famous Cathedral bell-tower, Cremona's "astronomic clock," one of the few remaining in the world, is to be given a topto-bottom renovation.
Its rusty mechanism will be cleaned or replaced and it will even get a new marble face.
This clock is one of the masterpieces of the great Italian renaissance period and was built to the Cremona Bishop's order by the father and son team of Giovanni Battista and Francesco Divizioli in 1582.
Measuring 30 feet in diameter the clock-face has ten circular divisions showing the time over a 24-hour cycle, the phases of the moon and all the features of an era rediscovering astronomy — the signs of the Zodiac, the planets and stars and also the months.
Two local clock-doctors, Busini and Ferraroni, estimate that it will take them about a year to get the mechanism going again.