Page 7, 17th January 1964

17th January 1964
Page 7
Page 7, 17th January 1964 — LETTER FROM ROME By Alan McElwain
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LETTER FROM ROME By Alan McElwain

DOME, naturally, is still full of reactions to Pope Paul's spankingly successful visit to Palestine, and is likely to be for a tong time to come.

When he was elected on June 21 last year. the Pope took over a Vatican the windows of which had already been opened upon the world by his predecessor, Pope John. Now Pope Paul has thrown open the doors as well wide and welcoming at that.

From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Paul has, of course, more than fulfilled his promise to follow good Pope John's warm, human. ecumenical line. But nobody dreamed that he would buttress that promise with a gesture so tremendous in its significance and historic in its context that it must be some time before it is possible to fully assess its impact upon the minds of men everywhere.

We know that the Pope's pilgrimage has made him the only successor of Peter to go from Rome to the Holy Land in the 2,000 years since Peter himself Left it to come to Rome. This in itself writes an eloquent new page both in the history of the world, and of Christianity in particular.

Pope Paul's unprecedented meeting with Patriarch Athenagoras also put the seal upon the ideal of unity, now implicit in practically every major Papal move, and it marks, too, the greatest step taken towards healing the 900-year breach between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

But 1 think we can say that the ordinary people of all faiths and creeds—and even of none at all—senee something simpler and correspondingly deeper in the Pope's historic trip.

Released

First, they see the Pope himself not as a remote, whiteclad prisoner of unchanging Vatican protocol and tradition, but as a human being, close to them, who not only talks of his good will towards all his fellow men, but gets out among them actively to pro claim it. ik

From now on, I imagine, we will see the Pope releasing himself more and more from traditional Vatican trappings, bringing the world nearer himselfand the Vatican—as a result.

Since Pope John first proclaimed the Ecumenical Council, the eyes and minds of men have turned increasingly towards the Vatican. Now that it is seen coming more and more into the open, providing the lead towards mutual understanding, tolerance, universal peace, and all those things dear to the common man, it emerges in a completely new light to millions to whom previously it was "distant" and a complete enigma, Pope Paul's pilgrimage must surely strengthen those "winds of change" that began to blow, so refreshingly, in Pope John's time.

Repercussions

We should keep in mind that repercussions. religious and political. of the Pope's trip are hound to affect future deliberations and decisions of the Ecumenical Council, due to reassemble later this year. and to whose members the Holy Father first made known his decision to go to the Holy Land.

The Vatican newspaper Osserrarore Romano has described the pilgrimage as being of "such importance as to form an entire new chapter in the present phase of the Church and of the Council".

The newspaper added that the trip raised such hopes of contact, comprehension and brotherhood that it left the Council, for the moment, overshadowed, " hut the Council is actually its basis, its inspiration the final aim for the recognition of union, reconciliation and the rise of all brlievers and all men upon the prospects of a new, if gradual, future."

Memorable

What an unforgettable moment that was when the Pope, on the evening of his return, stepped from the door of his plane on to the top of the landing steps, and. in the full glare of television lights, waved to the thousands of us assembled to greet him, then drew his long crimson cloak about him.

The effect. although he didn't intend it. of course, was superbly dramatic. The strong lights heating upon it made the cloak positively pulsate and shimmer, and the Pope was transformed into a glowing figure against the dark and wintry sky.

There were a m u si n g moments at Ciampino Airport, too. as. for instance when, blinded by the garish lights. the Pope turned to the right to greet the welcoming heads

of State and prelates grouped on the tarmac. whereas they were actually to his left and had to make a swift. concerted move to get in front of him.

Then the moment when, ready to leave at last, Pope Paul looked for Italian President Antonio Segni who, all unawares, had his back to him and was talking to someone else. After waiting patiently, the Pope finally tapped the

Presidential shoulder. Still getting no response he smiled and gave one of those typical Latin "Well, that's that" shrugs. It was wonderful TV material.

How thoughtful, incidentally, of the Pope to keep the hood of his ear down, despite the bitterly cold weather, during his more than two hours' drive back to the Vatican, so that he could stand repeatedly to acknowledge the wildly excited greetings of people assembled all along the route.

And what a night it was for Rome. many of her classic monuments bathed in great floodlights, the hells of hundreds of churches ringing, and buildings everywhere glittering with flares.

There was some doubt when Brescia horn Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini became Pope Paul VI whether the proud Romans would accept him as "one of us".

Write him down now as the Noblest Roman of them all!

Spirited

That magnificently foreveron-the-ball pocket cartoonist, Osbert Lancaster, had an amusing cartoon in the "Daily Express" the other day, showing our old Anglican friend, Canon Fontwater, sternly rebuking an cm barrassed, umbrella-holding Catholic prelate thus: "It is my duty to tell you, Monsignor Canteloupe, that there is a widespread feeling in the club that your attitude towards umbrellas is too ecumenical by far"

Archbishop Murphy, of Cardiff, would enjoy this. Back on February 8, 1963, the "Catholic Bulletin" reported that, at the close of a Christian unik meeting in the Methodist Church. he said, "I would hesitate to make any uncharitable remarks contrary to the advice of other speakers, but I must tell you of a visit which the (Anglican) Bishop of Llandaff paid to my house a few days ago. When he came to leave, he took my hat, I think this is carrying the ecumenical spirit a bit too far".




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