By a Special Correspondent Mr Cesar Chavez, president of the United Farm Workers of America, has won praise from a top Vatican official for "teaching a very important lesson: to know how to be conscious of the terrible responsibility that is incumbent on us who bear the name Christian."
Archbishop Giovanni Benelli, Pope Paul's Under Secretary of State, was speaking at a reception given in Rome for Mr Chavez by the Vatican's Justice and Peace Commission .the day after his audience on September 25 with Pope Paul.
Archbishop Benelli, in a speech released almost two weeks later, said of Mr Chavez: "What attracts our attention in a particular way is the commitment that is manifested: the commitment to work for the good of one's brothers and sisters, to be of service to them in the name of Christ, and to render this service with the full measure of all energy one possesses."
Archbishop Benelli also thanked members of the American Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Farm Labour for supporting Mr Chavez "in faith in God and love for his people" in his fight to improve he Conditions of grape pickers in America.
Bishop James Rausch, General Secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the United States Catholic Conference, who was in Rome for the Bishops' Synod, described Mr Chavez as "a man who manifests in a marvellous way all that the Second Vatican Council had to say about the role of the laity in bringing about a better society and a more just world." '
Two members of the committee, Bishop Joseph Donnelly, Auxiliary of Hartford, Connecticut, and Mgr George Higgins, attacked the tactics of the Teamsters' Union in its struggle with Mr Chavez' union over the organisation of farm workers.
Mr Chavez said his efforts for an international boycott of Californian grapes were centred on the "four or five" countries in Europe which imported grapes. In Norway, he said, dockworkers and grocery store workers were planning an embargo on non-UFWA grapes and lettuce.
He said that in England, following the General Election, he expected some efforts to stop grapes at the docks, but added that a secondary boycott would be begun if that action did not materialise.
Mr Chavez said the endorsement of his boycott by the American Bishops' Conference and the AFL-CIO were "tremendous" blows against the Teamsters' Union, which had been fighting UFWA for the right to organise farmworkers.
In November, 1973, the NCCB supported the UFWA boycott of table grapes and let= twee "until such a time as free ballot elections are held" for farmworkers to determine what union they wished to represent them. — NC.