Alan McElwain's ROME DIARY
NEWSMEN in Rome, while appreciating being told how to go about their business in the recently-issued "Pastoral Instruction on the Means of Social Communication", are hoping that those who run the Vatican Press Office will themselves give due heed to Pope Paul's approval of full and proper use being made of all forms of mass media.
While in recent times some improvements have been made in the Vatican's approach to public relations. the Press Office still falls lamentably short of what the Holy See, both as the world's greatest single spiritual force and. in these modern times. a producer of universally important news, requires and deserves.
The attitude of its "official spokesman" is. more often than not, negative, or at least lukewarm. Perhaps he will now note remarks made by Cardinal Gray, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and a member of the Pontifical Social Communications Commission, at a Press conference in Rome when the "Pastoral Instruction" was released.
The Ecumenical Council had produced a decree in which mass media were treated with "extreme caution, almost suspicion," the Cardinal said. Their "penetrating power" was recognised more as a technique to be feared than as an instrument to be used. But, he added, while dangers were still noted and caution was advocated, the "mood is changed."
Journalists of good will are also among those who with that persons in authority at the Vatican will associate themselves with those "men in authority" who, in the asocial communications document. are exhorted to make themselves available to reporters, hearing in mind that news must .be "quick. complete and cum. prehensible."
Cardinal Cray also stressed that the document revealed a "new and refreshing openness" to discussion and the free flow of information, not only within the Church but between the Church and the modern world.
"This openness is motivated by the knowledge that the Church which possesses the Truth has nothing to fear from dialogue. nor, indeed, front the use of the modern media in which she herself must be proficient," he said.
I have friends and contacts in various Vatican departments who could not be inure kind. helpful and ready to guide me when I appeal to them. Fla unfortunately. there arc also in that vast set-up other officials who, with a built-in antagonism towards the Press or "outsiders" in general. lock themselves away from :ill but those superiors in a position to order them to open up. 1 trust the document on papal communications, commended by Pope Paul. has penetrated their monastic hideaways.
It was said. after the late Pope John's election, that the Vatican was opening its windows upon the. outside world. This was true in a general sense. but from a public relations point of view, the blinds still remained firmly down.
The social communications decree the Ecumenical Council produced was widely rated the most ineffectual of all its documents. Many bishops considered there was no need to produce it at all.
Cardinal Heenan told me: "Everything that needs to be said about modern communications can he said in two words 'Use Therit'."
This new document, which took the Pontifical Commission on Social Communications five years to produce. is as much a charter for the Vatican as for anyone else.
I feel it is only fair to mention that the Press Office is now doing its best. Last Friday, journalists were informed that copies of Pope Paul's Apostolic Letter on "The Expediting of Marriage Cases" would be available two hours before the opening of a Press conference on the subject at II a.m. A number of its got there at 9 rem.
Expeditiously. Press Office hands got the document to us only 40 minutes late
PARISH1ONERS of a Rome church going to Mass the Sunday before the recent Italian regional and municipal elections were held were delighted to see generous souls standing near the entrance holding beautiful longstemmed red roses and displaying placards saying these could he had as a gift for the asking.
It is rarely you get anything for nothing in Rome. and the rose-bearers were mobbed. What the happy recipients did not realise until they got their blooms was that with them went a little slip urging one and all to vole for a Socialist candidate in the elections. it was perhaps the most gracious piece ol publicity in a campaign noted for its noise and vulgarity.
Inside. the church was a glorious mass of roses. All available vases were full, there were Socialist red loses ou the main altar, Socialist red roses on the altar steps, Socialist red roses in the side chapels and a statue of Our Lady was banked with Socialist red roses.
Ecumenism was in flower .
"u0'1PANTS" for women
I hand hippie-type clothes for men are banned from Rome's churches by order of Cardinal Angelo Dell'Acqua. VicarGeneral of the Rome diocese, of which Pope Paul is bishop.
Scantily dressed women in general and men in "immoral" clothes scandalise the House of God and the faithful who go
there to pray, the Cardinal said in an "anguished denunciation" published in the Vatican newspaper Osservaiore Romano.
There was a duty to protect "at least the sacred places of worship against the provocation of scandal." The requirements of elementary propriety and correctness made it imperative to forbid admittance to those who "dare to present themselves in attire that is an offence to the moral sense of Christians," Cardinal Dell'Acqua said.
For some time, Cardinal Paolo Marella, Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, has been trying to apply similar "restrictive measures" against miniskirts. He hasn't got very far, mainly because if mini-skirts are barred these days, more than half the female tourists in Rome would have to be turned away.
In any case, Italian women in mini-skirts are among Rome's most regular churchgoers, who arc not barred from their local churches
or refused Holy Communion.
Once the accent at St. Peter's was on keeping out women with bare arms. This rule still applies, but it is left more or less to the whims of which Basilica officials happen to be on duty at a given time to enforce (or ignore) it.
Cardinal Dell'Acqua, while he was at it, also sternly criticised the Italian film industry for its recent preoccupation, in films like "'The Priest's Wife" (starring that internationally popular pair, Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni), with the clerical celibacy controversy.
The industry. the Cardinal said, "insists, ern the pretext of debating a topical matter. on producing films about priests and persons consecrated to God so as to expose them to derision. with vulgar baseness and cynically denigratory intentions."
"DON'T worry, I'll be -"back," said Fr. Titus Brandsma to his fellow Carmelites as they watched two members of the Gestapo lead him from his monastery in Nijmegen, Holland, in January 1942. He never came back. Six months later, on July 26, he died in Dachau concentration camp.
Now Fr. Brandsma is on the way to becoming a saint. The process was opened in Holland in 1952. In 1963, live volumes of testimony from people who had known him, together with all his writings. were sent to Rome for review. A few days ago. the "cause" for his beatification was officially introduced to the Vatican Sacred Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
This meant that the preliminary testimony had been accepted and the "cause" was over its first big hurdle. The announcement recalled to old Vatican hands a dramatic point during Ecumenical Council proceedings when Dutch, Polish and German bishops circulated among their fellow-bishops a petition for Fr. Brandsma's beatification.
Some of the witnesses who provided evidence about the little, sickly priest's virtues were men who had survived Dachau and shared the last 45 days of his life. Others had learned to love him at Amersfoort, a Nazi clearing house, where he had spent three months before being transferred to Dachau.
He had his last Good Friday in Amersfoort. Too weak from dysentery and hunger to stand, his teeth loosened by beatings, he propped himself up between two hunks and preached to his fellow-inmates on the Passion of the Cross. "His audience, composed of believers and unbelievers, rogues and thieves, priests and patriots, paid him the compliment of being exquisitely quiet," a writer
Mass for sick
CIN the feast of Corpus
14-." Christi. Pope Paul celebrated Mass in St. Peter's for thousands of patients from Rome hospitals. It was most moving.
Row upon row of stretcher and wheelchair cases were nearest him when he spoke to the "Dear, beloved patients, who bring to this celebration the burning and fragrant incense of your pains, and for us the joy of meeting you, of being with you for an hour, of expressing to you our deep affection. of sharing your sufferings and your prayers."
Young and old faced him. Sonic could move, some could not. Sonic seemed lifeless, some were smiling and alert. Pope Paul explained to them that this Mass for the sick took the place of the customary procession in honour of the Blessed Sacrament.