From Joseph Carroll in Paris
rARD1NAL FELTIN, `.-A Archbishop of Paris, has been caught in the middle of an embarrassing dilemma which stems from one of France's main problemswhat to do with the hundreds of men and women imprisoned
for incidents associated with the Algerian war.
The problem has major political undertones and Cardinal Feltin has, therefore, refused to permit Notre Dame Cathedral to be used on Sunday. February 28, for an "amnesty pilgrimage", seeking the release of all the prisoners.
What makes the situation more difficult is that Cardinal Feltin himself is known to favour an amnesty and indeed the French Hierarchy issued a declaration last year in favour of one.
Despite the Cardinal's ban, however, the organisers of the "pilgrimage" have told "pilgrims" to he present in Notre Dame at ten o'clock for "a prayer which would be only in our hearts".
The affair is extremely embarrassing for Cardinal Feltin, following as it does, hard on his appeal last month for a spirit of unity among French catholics. In his appeal, the cardinal also expressed the wish that there should be a "large amnesty" as soon as possible.
On January 6, the Cardinal was approached by an association which helps the prisoners • and their families and campaigns vigorously for a general amnesty. The president of the association asked Cardinal Fain for the use of Notre Dame for an amnesty pilgrimage, involving perhaps several thousands. A special Mass would be celebrated and the priest would read the declaration by the Hierarchy last year in favour of a general amnesty.
The Cardinal replied that he judged this pilgrimage "inopportune and inefficacious" and that he refused to allow Notre Dame to be used for that purpose. He added that the reconciliation of Frenchmen was one of most urgent needs of the time and that every Christian had the duty to work for it and he asked the faithful to pray in their hearts on February 28 for "pardon and conditions of peace".
The president of the organisation, M. Jean La Hargue. has now announced that in spite of the Cardinal's refusal, he has given orders that the 36 or more organisations in favour of an amnesty should assemble in Notre Dame on Sunday week to assist at Mass "in absolute silence". On the same day there would be similar religious services in Bordeaux, Marseille, Lille, Nimes.
In an interview with a Paris evening paper, M. La Hargue said he was astonished that the Cardinal would not cooperate in the amnesty pilgrimage. He pointed out that recently he had given permission for Notre Dame to he used as a "cinema club" when 5,000 students gathered there to discuss the film "the life of Christ according to St. Mathew".
According to M. I.a Hargue, the Cardinal might have suggested that the pilgrimage be organised at the Madeleine instead of Notre Dame
but he pointed out that this would cause a serious disruption of traffic.
M. 1.a Hargue concluded his statement to the press ,thus: "I Want to say publicly to His Eminence that I would have found it normal that the Government would consider a collective prayer for amnesty 'inopportune and inefficacious'. But from the pen of His Eminence such language is absolutely incomprehensible to ma and will be also, I fear, for most of the faithful".
The Cardinal's decision will be readily appreciated by most Catholics. In view of the active extremist groups which are only too ready to capitalist: on any quasi-religious demonstration, he had no choice hut to refuse official authorisation for the "pilgrimage" which would have such obvious political undertones in mite of sincere intentions on the part of the organisers.