ALAN McELWAIN'S ROME DIARY
IF Pope Paul is ill, as the rumours say, he is hiding it well. He was hardly back in the Vatican after his gruel ling nine-day trip abroad, than he threw himself into
his normal demanding schedule. He has more stamina than some of the people around him.
On the Feast of the imma culate Conception, he paid his traditional visit of homage to the towering monument to the Virgin Mary, which commemorates the dogma, in Piazza di Spagna.
It was pelting with rain, but he turned up, wrapped in his scarlet cape, in an open car so that the citizens could see him. The citizens, for the most part, were protected by umbrellas. The crowd, due to the rain, was much smaller than in past years.
Earlier, the Pope had left the Vatican for the bedside of dying Swiss Cardinal Benno Out, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Divine Cult and former head of the Benedictine Order. He died last week, aged 73. Pope Paul created him a cardinal in 1967. .
The stories that Pope Paul is contemplating retirement continue here. The variations on the theme are both free and fanciful. There's the one that has him putting himself away, with the rank of bishop, in a desirable monastery. There's the other that when he steps down, he will revert to the rank of cardinal. You can make what you like of that.
No one yet has him laicising himself.
ALAN BRIEN'S delicious story in The Sunday Times about the "gorgeous creature in scarlet" who refused to dance with George Brown and, when pressed by George to say why, replied: "First, because I don't think you arc quite in condition for more dancing. Secondly, I am the Apostolic Delegate," recalls a slightly similar incident. Some years ago, I was leading a Press mission from London through Germany at the West German Foreign Office's invitation. Before a luncheon arranged for us by businessmen in Hamburg, our German hosts were lined up in single file and, in their traditional and sensible manner, introduced themselves by pronouncing, clearly, their surname and you responded likewise—"Lampe" , . . "McElwain."
One of our colleagues had picked up a few German words and phrases which he insisted on riding to death. One was 'Mein Herr." which he pronounced like "Miner." He kept adding this each time he introduced himself—"Smithers, Mein 'Err." He did this all the way down the long line until he came to a splendidly haughty gentleman at the extreme end.
"Smithers, Mein Err," he declaimed. The gentleman drew himself up to his not inconsiderable height. "I happen to he," he said, spacing his words witheringly, "the British Consul-General."
911HE Italian divorce bill, the passing of which during his absence abroad has so embittered Pope Paul, is still the big story in Italy, if you put aside the Pope's resignation predictions.
Premier Emilio Colombo, a seasoned, intelligent and astute politician, managed to avoid a threatened government crisis when the bill went through, but that is by no means the end of it.
Following a request by the Italian bishops that they should do everything in their power to abrogate the Iaw, a considerable number of Catholics are threatening to call for a referendum to give the people the last say in the measure.
This could not take place until 1972, but meantime divorce will continue to be a recurring problem for the government. It said itself that it would hold a referendum if
the bill was passed, but now it is being more cautious. So is the Vatican. Neither wants a Church-State clash, and a referendum is bound to create just that
Mounting pressure from the powerful Italian Communist Party for a share in government, now limited to the Christian Democrats, Socialists, Social Democrats and Republicans; is one of Signor Colombo's more immediate worries. His line is that the most effective way of keeping the Communists at bay is for his coalition government to show the electorate how well it can govern without them.
But there are Socialists— and members of his own Christian Democrat Party—who regard this as an ideological rather than a practical approach, and favour some kind of arrangement with the Communists.
IT is no crime for a girl to wear priestly vestments in public, a Rome court has ruled.
A 21-year-old model was arrested when she walked through the city streets in a chasuble. She was chargdti with illegally wearing priestly vestments. If convicted, she could have been fined up to about £50.
MODERN communications, Vatican Style (continued): Note from a privately-run service of church news to which I subscribe: "So far, we have endeavoured to provide our subscribers, as far as possible, with the full texts of at least the most important of the Pope's addresses during his journey to the Far East and Australia. We regret to have to announce that, from now on, it may be impossible for us to continue to do so, as the Holy See's Press Office has adopted a policy of allotting only one copy of these texts to each journalist, on the grounds that the Secretariat of State does not supply a sufficient number of copies."