Front a C.H. Reporter That the Vatican is able to cope efficiently with the overwhelming work entailed in tracing war prisoners and others, news of whom is being sought by absent relatives and friends, has been demonstrated in investigations I have been making into what may be called " the Pope's work in Wimbledon." There is a story of a Polish Jew now in America who, having tried in vain to get news of his parents in German-occupied territory through the International Red Cross and other channels, was finally advised to try the Vatican. Within three weeks the Vatican informed him of their whereabouts, but to the newspaper reporters the Jew said :
I railed at the Apostolic Delegation at 54, Parkside, London, S.W.19, where one of (lie secretaries found tune to talk to tree on what is a unique work of charity. He pointed out that tracing prisoners is no: the mission for which the Vatican or its Delegations throughout the world primarily exist, but apart from the main purpose, which is spiritual, the Pope and his representatives are always ready to relieve suffering mankind, irrespective of creed or nationality.
WE HAVE NOT INCREASED OUR STAFF " True, the number of applications from all parts of Great Britain and Ireland, from Catholics and from those who are not, which come to this Delegation is considerable," the secretary told me, " but we have not increased our staff to deal with this added work. It is attended to personally by His Grace and his two secretaries, who arc priests."
Over 60,000 applications involving a quarter of a million enquiries have reached the Vatican from all parts of the world, and one report gives the figure for London alone as 10,000.
" The gratitude of those whom we have been able to help is most touching," said the secretary, " and it is most noteworthy in non-Catholics who thus have been brought into contact with the universality of the Church. Their expressions of thanks are frequently made known to His Holiness personally."
VATICAN RADIO'S HELP There is no secret in what appears to be an amazingly business-like international enquiry bureau, with very remarkable results; it is just a concrete demonstration of the Church's catholicity.
The Vatican's aloofness from war enables it through its Nuncios, Delegates, Bishops and parish priests everywhere in the world to reach quickly and methodically the remotest corners. " There is a particular factor that adds to efficiency," the secretary went on, " which was absent in the last war when Pope Benedict XV was similarly engaged in this work of universal charity. I refer to the Vatican Radio, which conveys news and messages from missing relatives, in all languages. In fact, on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. G.M.T., you can hear the radio giving a list of prisoners and messages for relatives and friends of prisoners."
To my question as to procedure in making applications to the Delegation the secretary replied: " People wanting news of friends and relatives in occupied territory write here in the first instance. They should not call or telephone, but are expected to send a stamped addressed envelope for the reply. Then they receive a form to he filled in. on which can he added a brief message. There is no fee, of course."
NEAR EAST PRISONERS
When it is borne in mind that there are Apostolic Delegations in Cairo, Sydney, and Bangalore, it will be realised that the Vatican Bureau is in an unrivalled position for
The Pope, in addition to his endeavours to assist communication between those separated by war, has assisted the needy in material things, food, clothes, and even money have been given to those who required it. To allay the anxiety of many minds the Vatican has not hesitated to send long and expensive cables from one end of the world to the other.
The whole vast undertaking is centralised in a department of the Papal Secretariate of State set up at the outbreak of war, where everything is highly systematised and ensures smoothness in investigation.
MITIGATING SUFFERING Apostolic Nuncios and Delegates themselves have been tireless and unremitting in their efforts to visit all those who in one way or another are suffering from the war. In England, Archbishop Godfrey has visited German and Italian internees, in Egypt the Apostolic Delegate has visited Italian prisoners of war, while Mgr. Panico, the Apostolic Delegate in Australia, has continually been in touch with the imprisoned and the interned.
Though no tribute is high enough to the work the Vatican does in this war, as it did in the last, it is interesting to recall that the Turks set up at Istanbul a monument after the. conflict of a generation ago to the memory of the Pope—Benedict XV in those days—who had done so much to relieve distress everywhere.
" His Holiness, Pope Pius XII," said the secretary, " did his utmost to prevent the outbreak of hostilities two years ago. But once his efforts had proved unavailing, he at once gave himself up to the task, with unremitting perseverance, of consoling, and relieving, and of mitigating suffering wherever it was to he found."