A Pope for this season
I was lucky enough last Saturday to be sitting only a few feet away from the Pope as he delivered an astonishing and very moving homily to the people of Rome. He was concelebrating Mass with about fifty priests to inaugurate the Holy Year for his own diocese of Rome, And, being such a short distance from the high altar of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, it was possible to take in the Holy Father's very revealing facial expressions as he spoke.
He exhorted those present to be "sons of our times" but to be even more than this. He reminded one of the imperial rescripts of first century Rome, constantly urging the citizens to be worthy of the age in which they lived, combined with the exalted message of Virgil to soar far above the everyday in one's dreams and endeavours.
The Pope's voice broke with emotion as he slipped into the very unusual first person with the cry that he was incapable, on his own, of giving the lead that must be provided. But he spoke as another as Christ's Vicar; and even, one couldn't help thinking, as another Paul "I live, and yet not I, but Christ lives in me."
If there was a suggestion at times of near desperation in the Pope's tone and words, it is perhaps scarcely surprising considering the ground covered in the homily. And it need not be forgotten that Pope Paul has lived through turmoils that have made this coming year in Rome what it will be: a victory over extremism, as he saw it, and fought it, in the Fascist days before the war, the Communist ones afterwards, and the internecine ecclesiastical tensions ever since. He has never wavered, despite much attack, from a steadily pursued policy of patience, personal suffering and the overall "containment."
His clarion call that men should be Christians of their time is no new one for him. He gave us his treatise on the subject many years ago in his book on "The Christian in the Modern World." He repeated it in Rome last Saturday, and then rose to go behind the altar to finish his simple but immensely spiritual celebration of the Mass. One was not, as in the old days at Papal Masses. watching a pageant, but witnessing a living sacrifice and a charismatic message.
Others perhaps may aspire to be men for all seasons. Paul VI appears content to serve Christianity during the season for which he was providentially chosen.
Tolerance of Rome
Fifty-eight per cent of the French are satisfied with the development of the Church since the Second Vatican Council, according to the results of a survey carried out by the Sofres Institute and published in the daily newspaper Le Figaro.
A representative population sample were asked a series of questions on various aspects of Church renewal since the Council. Most interviewees were of the opinion that the Church had adapted better to the modern world without forfeiting essential characteristics.
The results showed that an overwhelming majority welcomed liturgical changes. Of the sample, 61 per cent took the view that return to the vernacular and reform of the Mass were "a good thing," while 27 per cent said that through the reforms the liturgy had lost the solemnity they considered necessary.
And in the heart of Rome itself, as I was being told last week by the head of one of the Colleges and some other friends in the ecclesiastical swim, there is a new tolerance abroad. Students. for example. are more "tolerant" of authority because authority has proved itself more worthy of its own mandate.
And as for the new liturgy, well after all in Rome it is the only liturgy. as used by the Pope himself and authorised personally by him in the 1969
document "Missale Romanum." What about those who think they know better than the Pope? To them as well, Rome is eternally tolerant.
Good friend indeed
Irish girls have been the largest group contacting Let Live, the non-denominational pregnancy advisory service, since it began its telephone service ten months ago. Dr. Mary Belton, the founder, who is also president of the Ladies of Charity, said the reason for the large number of Irish girls may have been because advertising has been largely restricted to religious publications, apart from cards displayed in stationer's shops and other places. "We have been able to accommodate all those who came to us for help so far", she said.
Several of the girls helped have had their babies and a mother of twins, whom Let Live persuaded to tell her parents about her pregnancy, wrote: "All my family are absolutely mad about them (the twins) and if I am not careful they shall both end up spoilt. I never thought my family would take it all so well. "
Another girl helped was under 16 and her mother had committed suicide. Her father was threatening to take the 18-yearold boy-friend who wanted to marry the girl to court. Let Live found a foster-mother, convinced the girl's father that drastic action would do no good, and the couple are to marry next year, when the girl is 16.
A travellers' help bureau, supported by the Church of England Social Responsibility Board at Heathrow Airport, London, referred all girls arriving for abortions, who had not yet booked into a clinic, to Let Live, Dr. Belton said.
A Let Live telephone service is now operating in London, Guildford, Chippenham, Plymouth, Hartlepool and Sunderland, and there are welfare organisations at Kingston-on-Thames and Sutton, Surrey. Many members all over the country have offered accommodation to girls during their pregnancy.
The telephones are manned by trained volunteers between 8 p.m and 10 p.m. daily. In London, callers to 231 0271 during the day hear a well-worded message of encouragement with
the invitation to call again in the evening.
Dr. Belton said: "One girl who contacted us was so impressed by the message, recorded with the help of a piofessional broadcaster. that she rang it again and again for reassurance." Hundreds of calls have been received, but statistics are not yet available on the total number helped.
Let Live is supported by Catholic, Anglican and Free Church women's organisations, and Dr. Belton has spent a busy year addressing groups from many organisations, including Jewish ones. It numbers among its allies Lord Longford and Dr. Trevor Huddleston, Anglican Bishop of Stepney.
The preface to the November issue of the Jesuit periodical The Month which has as its theme "The Church and World Population," suggests that many Catholics have been sceptical about the existence of a population problem.
'They fail to see how fulfilment of the divine command to 'increase and multiply' can lead to disaster, though it is limited by the injunction: 'and fill the whole earth'," says the preface.
"They' make use of a concept of Providence which takes little account of the corresponding doctrine of human stewardship and responsibility for history::
Welcoming Church participation in the United Nations World Population Year and Conference the author of the preface emphasises that the Church must "grasp the factual situation in its complexity'. by gathering and handling evidence in a competent fashion.
Only then may ethical questions be asked. such as the meaning of "optimum population" and the role which governments may play in limiting population,
"A strong case can be made for saying that since human reproduction occurs in the context of the most intimate human relationship, and that ideally and often actually it results from a couple's deepest love for each other and their intended child, it is here and here alone that the freedom to determine the number arid the spacing of children should lie." adds the author.
"However. this freedom of the parents is not an ahsolute. The act of bringing new life into the world affects the entire community. Its meaning, socially and economically, cannot be limited to the family itself. The sum total of individual decisions does not necessarily add up to the public good. "A Church which lays such emphasis on the image of the Body and human inter-dependence, ought in principle to he sympathetic to this idea."
Copies of Thr Month may be obtained from 114 Mount Street, London XV I Y 6AH.
C.W. L. : No euthanasia'
Mitre than I.300 mem hers ol the Catholic Women's League, from every diocese in England and Wales, assembled in Blackpool last weekend for their National Council meeting. It was the best attended gathering in the C.W.L.'s history.
A resolution strongly opposing the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia was passed unanimously, as se cwraest aanotherry o srt ea st oe 1 uf toi ro nsurgingoci Social steh re
vices to look into the problem of cruelty by husbands to wives.
Mrs. B. M. Davies. the National President, said she had been at the recent annual council of the Knights of St. Columba, where it had been suggested that there should he closer collaboration between the two organisations. She urged all C.W.L. branches to co-operate with the K.S.C. in setting up constituency committees.
Bishop Moverley. Auxiliary of Leeds, the League's Ecclesiastical Assistant. said Mass on Saturday and addressed the meeting on his re cent visit to missions in Peru.