by Alan McElwain
WELL. Mr. Alexis Adzhubei, Mr. Krushchev's journalist son-in-law, got his Papal audience after all—sorry, "informal talk", as Vatican officials insist —and from the point of view of one who was in on the preliminaries, I must say that, in doing their utmost to play the occasion down, the Vatican succeeded in playing it up almost into the realm of high drama.
First, those of us who were present, with Mr. Adzhubei and his wife Rada, at the International Balzan Federation peace prize ceremony which preceded the "talk", were there strictly by invitation. We were screened in the Vatican press office first and again on the stairs of the Papal Palace, where one or two journalists who bad not been invited were asked to leave.
Then we were kept in the Consistorial Hall while, as it turned out, Mr. Adzhubei and his party were arriving in another part of the building.
Finally, we were ushered along corridors to the Small Throne Room, not far from the Pope's private library.
A few minutes before the Pope entered, jauntily, Mr. and Mrs. Adzhubei, a Catholic priest of the Oriental rite, who was interpreter, and others were quickly ushered into a row near the front —and at least we knew that the editor of hvestia, who had insisted that be had not asked to see the Pope, had got this far. He and bis wife stood when Catholics knelt to receive the Pope's blessing at the end. Then we were all ushered out—all, that is, except Mr. and Mrs. Adzhubei and those with them. Later, came news—not through "official" channels—of the "talk".
Vatican officials, by the way, explained that the Pope had agreed to see Adzhubei and his wife because they well relatives of the head of a government which is a member of the Balzan Federation. which had unanimously awarded him the peace prize.
Back on form
Let me say now that Pope John has never looked better since his recent illness. His face has filled out again. He is jovial, perky and obviously full of his old vigour. He smiles spontaneously again. his eyes sparkle and it is a joy just to be near the dear old man. He was up to his celebrated "ad Jibbing" once more when he replied to an address informing him of the peace prize award. He spoke in French, but as he was about to interpolate an extract from a psalm, in Latin, he looked up, grinned and warned, "Here comes some Latin for the Pope, the bishops and anybody else who can understand it."
I was among those privileged to speak to him and he asked me, as he usually does all people presented to him, where I came from. When I said Australia, he shook his head in mock sadness and said, "Ah, Australia ... That is too far for me to travel." His immediate staff, often caught on the hop when the Pope decides to "go out". looked quite relieved.
I had a long talk with Fr. John Trivetla, the 37-year-old Verona missionary priest, who reached Rome the other day after having spent nearly three months in a South Sudan prison before being expelled from the country. He was put into a bare cell with 14 other prisoners in Yambio, deprived of shirt and shoes. refused bedding, although he suffers from a crippling form of arthritis, and given inadequate food. Why? Because it was reported that he had spoken ill of the government.
How easily these sort of charges can be trumped up was told to me by Fr. Trevilla. It appears that in the local Zandi dialect, the word "fudatise" can mean any of three things—war, persecution or difficulty. Fr. Trivella called some catechists together, warned them the missions were in for a "difficult" time under the new regime, and added that they would lust have to go along quietly and see what happened. Inevitably, there was a spy about. He reported that he had heard the priest telling his catechists that they were being "persecuted"—and his troubles began from there.
It was almost a case of not being able to see the film for the cops when I went the other night to see the controversial new Dino De Laurentiis production "The Trial of Verona", based on the trial and execution of the late Count Galeazzi Ciano, Benito Mussolini's sunin-law and wartime Foreign Minister.
Ciano's widow, Edda, who lives in Rome, is trying to have the film sequestered on the grounds that it misrepresents her and also falsifies history. Under Italian law, a film cannot be sequestered on any grounds until it is shown publicly, but despite Countess Edda's appeal to the legal authorities, De Laurentiis is able to screen it merrily because the legal authorities have postponed a decision on it. Meantime, of course, it is getting oodles of free publicity.
The film deals dramatically with one ' of the more reprehensible phases of Fascism, in its dying days, and is remarkably well acted. What strikes you forcibly is the extraordinary likeness most of the leading players bear to the characters they represent. American actor Frank Wolf is uncannily like the Ciano he portrays, well-known actress Vivi Gioi is a "livine" Donna Rachele Mussolini, the Duce's widow (who lives in Predappio, Mussolini's birthplace), and Silvano Mangano, Dino De Laurentiis's actress-wife, gives a moving performance as the wife caught between loyalty to her father and her husband, whom he refuses to save from the firing squad.
There have been a few demonstrations by noisy contemporary Fascisti against the. film. which accounts for a good part of the police force being tied up whereever it is screened.
Mrs. Bernadette Morrissey and Miss Pam Charlesworth, who for 13 years. have run, with little profit to themselves, the English Centre attached to San Silvestro Church in Rome, suffered a severe financial loss the other day when about £40 was stolen from the Centre. An appeal has been made to friends of the Centre to help Mrs. Morrissey and Miss Charlesworth recoup this,
Bishop Petit, of Menevia, who has been in the Blue Nuns' Hospital in Rome since the Ecumenical Council closed in December. expects to go home towards the end of this month. He has been able to say Mass normally for the past week or two.