Page 5, 12th November 1965

12th November 1965
Page 5
Page 5, 12th November 1965 — THE MEN WHO PRINT THE VATICAN'S SECRETS

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Locations: Rome


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THERE is at least one group

of workers in the Vatican who won't mourn the end of the Council. And that is the staff of the Vatican's Polyglot Press which handles most of the Council's printing requirements. The Polyglot bears the brunt of last-minute changes to texts. It has had to reset extensive sections of schemata from midnight to dawn. But just as remarkable as its speed, is its secrecy, although it is used to handling confidential documents.

The Polyglot handles all Vatican printing apart from the production of L'Osservaiore Romano and L'Osservatore dc/la Domenica.

It produces the Acts of the Holy See. and does printing for the Vatican library, the curial congregations and the Propaganda Fide college. But during the Council sessions this work is put aside to cope with the flood of "debate" material.

For each session it has produced schemata, the reports which accompany and explain them, the lists of Council Fathers and folders for each morning's liturgy in St. Peter's. Some of the texts occupy a few pages, others a few hundred. Most of them are in Latin which is difficult enough in itself. but others deal with the liturgical languages used in the Matses at the Council.

The work is carried out night and day by a staff of more than 200 laymen in a three-storey building just inside the Vatican's St. Anna gate. They live in Rome itself and not in the Vatican. Many of them ate members of religious confraternities, Third Orders, or the Palatine guards.

At noon each day they say the AnRelus standing by their machines. They attend a first eriday Mass at the church of the Vatican Governorate, and have half an hour's religious instruction each Saturday morning. They also begin each year with a three-day retreat. The most outstanding of these employees, from the point of view of craftsmanship and character, are chosen for the Polyglot's secret section which occupies the first floor of the plant.

The secret section's proudest boast is that from t926 to 1929 it prepared many versions of the Concordat between the Vatican and Italy but not one word leaked out.

This involved a treaty between the Holy See (Pope Pius XI) and the Kingdom of Italy (King Victor Emmanuel Ill) whereby the Vatican became a separate State.

And associated with the treaty was the actual domestic concordat and a financial convention whereby the Italian State paid the Holy See more than £.8 million in cash and el I million in Italian State bonds. This was accepted in restitution for material damage consequent on the loss of the States of the Church. The treaty and concordat were incorporated in the constitution of the new Italian republic after World War 11.

The secret section shares only the entrance with the rest of the plant, otherwise it is completely independent. Those who work there must take the vow of secrecy which binds the members of the Roman congregations.

Papal encyclicals are printed in this section which is supposed to have been engaged recently in preparing a "White Book" on the relations between the Vatican and Nazi Germany. According to reports widely current in Rome, Pope Paul has decided to open the Vatican archives for the issue of a definitive dossier on the diplomatic exchanges between Pius XII and the Nazi authorities.

Pressure for such a publication has mounted in recent years, especially since the production of the controversial play. The Represenative, by the German playwright, Rolf Hochhuth. Pope Paul is understood to have been advised strongly by Bishops in many countries to authorise the issue of an official document which would meet the allegations against his predecessor made by flochhteh and other authors. Another. feature of the Polygrot which. like L'Oewrentore plant. is under the supervision I of the Salesians is its extensive range of characters. There are nine different types for Greek, seven for Arabic, four for Hebrew, three for Syriac, two for Armenian and. of course Sanskrit. The Polyglot can handle Malgasch, Gaelic,Theban Copt, Tibetan, eccelesiastical and plebian Georgian, Tamil. ancient German, Nestorian Chaldaic ancLthe hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt. The main type face used for Council documents is a handsome Garamond. It is large so that it can be read without tiring the eyes. The Conciliar documents are printed on fine quality paper especially chosen to last. The Polyglot is always conscious that its work is of historic importance.

It has a long and interesting history. It was founded by Pope Sixtus V but was attached to the Vatican library until Pius X moved it to its present site and fused it with the printing section of Propaganda Fide which was famed for its ability to print in many languages. As the original Vatican "riotcry also had an unusual gamut of characters necessary for printing liturgical texts the two together formed a press difficult to equal. The Propaganda Fide press founded in 1610 has printed Bibles and catechisms in various languages for the missions. During the first Vatican Council the Propaganda press won the gold medal at a competition held in Italy. because it printed the Our Father in 250 different versions. The Polyglot deserves a cold medal at the second Vatican Council for printing and reprint jog the iehernnia in what must seem to its employees like 250 versions.

Christopher Smith

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