Page 3, 1st December 1972

1st December 1972
Page 3
Page 3, 1st December 1972 — Prelate who controls Vatican protocol with a smile

Report an error

Noticed an error on this page?
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it.



Related articles

Four Momentous Days In The Eternal City

Page 3 from 24th October 2003

Ope Of The Space-age

Page 10 from 11th August 1978

Pope Paul Rides In Jeep To Open-air Audience

Page 1 from 2nd May 1975

A Solemn Office Becomes A Grassroots Mission

Page 7 from 28th December 1979

Letter From Rome

Page 7 from 5th July 1963

Prelate who controls Vatican protocol with a smile

HUNDREDS of thousands of pilgrims flock to Rome annually from all over the world seeking an audience with Pope Paul VI. Some are so situated that they get a private audience. Some get special audiences. Others, again, are lucky to get plaCed in the front row of the new Audience Hall for a bacciamano, or hand-kissing audience. The remainder fill the other 10,000 seats in places of greater or lesser prominence.

But few of these pilgrims recognise that it is the tall, athletic bishop with the springy walk, smilingly supervising arrangements from the throne steps, who decides whether or not they will be received in audience and what type of audience they will be given. And few, if any, know who he is.

Yet Bishop Jacques-Paul Martin, 64, is undoubtedly, outside of Pope Paul, the most photographed prelate residing in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace. Bishop Martin is Prefect of the Papal Household, a position Which today embraces a half-dozen former titles and jobs streamlined into one 'by Pope Paul in 1967.

The titles 'have gone but the jobs remain, even though some 'have been 'whittled down in importance. Bishop Martin officially is responsible for discipline and order within the Apostolic Palace, apart from the Pope's

private apartments.

He controls papal guards and attendants, directs all except liturgical papal ceremonial, arranges papal audiences and visits outside Rome, sets the order of precedence of the Church's hierarchy and the minutiae of what shall be worn at functions and is responsible for the ;heraldry Of the Church.

"My 'hardest task is to say 'No'," Bishop Martin said.

"I have to refuse private audiences with the 'Pope to at least a dozen people daily, some of them leading Churchmen, too. But I try to content as many as I possibly can."

Bishop Martin is typically Gallic, but with some overtones of Italy acquired from more than 40 years in Rome, in the movements of his 'rands and his facial expressions as he talks.

As administrator of the Papal Household, responsible for discipline and order in the Apostolic Palace public apartments, he has under him: • The Swiss Guard. They stand guard at the doors of the papal private apartments. They guard the Pope ;wherever he goes. They act as the ceremonial honour-guard for visiting dignitaries. They filter people at public audiences.

• The former Pontifical Gendarmerie, now known as 'the Corps of Vigilance. These men, chsd in dark blue business suits today, are the Security Officers of the Vatican City State and control the gates, the gardens, the Palace corridors and rooms.

• The Gentlemen in Waiting to the Pope, formerly known as the Gentlemen of the Secret Order of the Sword and Cape (and a few other "secret" categories). Their black knee-breeches and white collar ruffs have gone and they, too, wear black business suits.

• The papal seat-bearers, a corps of some 25 men who not only carry the Pontiff on his portable throne into audiences and official St. Peter's ceremonies but also act as attendants in the Palace anterooms.

Bishop Martin is also in charge af the band of the former Palatine Guard. The Guard itself has been disbanded but its famous band has 'kept together although it plays perhaps only two or three times a year when a Chief of State arrives for an audience.

For the 'past few weeks the 'band has been busily rehearsing the Indonesian National Anthem to play When Indonesian Chief of State, General Suharto, arrives on November 25 for a private audience with the Pope.

Bishop Martin makes a point of obtaining these anthems well in advance so that the band can rehearse them to perfection. When the President of the Niger Republic visited the Vatican he was amazed, said the Bishop.

"I have never 'heard the anthem played so well," he told Bishop Martin. And he asked the band to provide him with a tape so that he could rehearse his own bands at home.

• Two ante-camera prelates now do the work of lour. Mgr. Oddone Tacoli and Mgr. Luigi Delgallo di Roccagiovini, a descendant of a Napoleonic family, stand at the Pope's door, to introduce people or to keep them waiting if the Pope is otherwise engaged.

"When Chief's of State arrive Don Giulio dei Mardhesi Sachetti, the Special Delegate of the Pontifical Commission, and I wait for them at the San Damaso courtyard entrance to the Palace," said Bishop Martin.

"We escort them up in the elevator and past the Swiss Guards placed at intervals along the Clementine Audience Half and other anterooms to the Throne Room and the entrance to the papal library. where the Pope awaits them. "Then we escort them back but this time down the marble Noble Staircase. In the old days they would walk up the stairs too but they are very long and a strain for most people. "If they are ambassadors presenting credentials then I meet them at the entrance to the Clementine Hall," said Bishop Martin. After presenting their credentials, the Pope takes them into his private library for a brief. more intimate, talk.

"I also tell the Pope something each time that is not generally known. Just before a private audience I tell Pope Paul whether the visitor. is a Roman Catholic or not. If he is a Catholic then the Pope dons his stole. If he is not Catholic, no stole."

Bishop Martin said that there were always more requests for audiences than could possibly be accommodated. "It is like squeezing twenty litres into a tenslitre 'bottle," he said.

"Audiences pile up and today there are many more non-Roman Catholics than ever before owing to ecumenical progress."

In former days those granted Special Audiences, as distinct from Private Audiences, would stand in small groups in various anterooms and the Pope would pass from one room to another, first giving his Apostolic Blessing to the whole room and then talking with each group in turn. Each group would then leave without further blessing.

Today, the Pope sits on a throne and the individuals or groups are introduced to 'him. This way he does not have to stand or walk interminably and can also devote a little longer to each person. Pope Paul found the other way too "anonymous," he said, and wanted to have a little longer for individual talks.

Bishop Martin said that a list of private audiences (from six to more than a dozen) is typed up every morning for the Pope's approval. This gives him usually from ten minutes to an hour or more with each.

These audiences are quite apart from his business audiences with Prefects of Curia departments, who may see him on an average of once a week, his administrative staff 'and the perusal of innumerable documents. This latter work he usually does in the afternoons or before the day's audiences 'begin.

Bishop Martin has only one serious reproach to make against Pope Paul, with whom 'he has worked for almost 30 years, since the days when Mgr. Giovanni Battista Montini was in the Secretariat of State.

It is that the Pope is over-kind in seeking to squeeze additional audiences into an already "impossible" schedule so as not to hurt feelings.

In normal times the bishops of the Roman Catholic church are expected to report to Rome every five years on the status of the Church in their areas. These "ad limina" visits were suspended for five years after the end of Vatican Council II 'in 1965 but were resumed last year.

The five-yearly cycles are organised so that entire areas will inform the Pope and the Congregations during the same year to enable an overall picture to be drawn. For example: 1971 and 1976: the Bishops of Italy.

1972 and 1977: the Bishops of West Europe, including those of France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, the United Kingdom and Belgium.

1973 and 1978: the Bishops of the remainder of Europe (including East Europe).

1974 and 1979: the Americas, North and South, and 1975 and 1980: Africa, Asia and Australia (Oceania). "This year has been particularly difficult," said Bishop Marlin. The bishops suddenly realised that the 'ad limina' visits had been resumed. All are piling up in these last three months of the year instead of being staggered over the whole year.

"As a result we may have a score or more of bishops a day in Rome, all seeking private audiences. This is just physically impossible.

"Recently, I suggested to the Pope that he take a group of seven bishops, all from the same country, in one audience and speak to them collectively. His day was already packed and I 'had two visiting cardinals seeking private audiences into the bargain.

"But no, Pope Paul insisted on seeing each bishop individually for about five or ten minutes and then addressed them collectively afterwards.

"I had to tell one cardinal that he could not have a private audience this time. He went away in a little dudgeon. I pointed out to him that he had already had two private audiences with the Pope earlier that year."

Despite carefully prepared schedules Pope Paul always exceeds the time limits allowed.

"It is because he is too pastoral," says Bishop Martin. "He cannot bring himself to cut short an audience."

This holds equally true of the Pope's public audiences, even though he often personal:y .realises that he is 'running over the allotted span and sometimes cuts short his discourses.

Pope Paul invariably writes (on his own portable typewriter) outlines of the themes which 'he intends to develop at a public audience many days in advance. He gets back specific answers to 'his queries on sources of quotes and to questions 'he raises. Then he works over and rewrites by pen this draft the evening 'before the audience.

"The Pope is his own best librarian," said Bishop 'Martin. "When he wants a quote, most times he just gets up, walks over to his library shelves, and picks it out without loss of time. He is an indefatigable reader.

"In fact, the Pope is always working on these speeches until after midnight and almost always until after one and close to two in the morning," he added.

"He wants to be satisfied that the final version is correct in every particular."

Theoretically, Bishop Martin's job, or a part of his job, is to arrange papal trips outside of Rome. This was a duty which devolved on the Prefect from ancient times but has proved impractical now Pope Paul has travelled more than any other Pope.

Mgr. Martin did go to Jerusalem two months ahead of the public announcement that Pope Paul would visit the Holy Land in a first-ever Pontifical pilgrimage.

Since then his travel arrangements have been 'handled by members of the Papal secretariat and by Bishop Paul Marcinkus, a former :aide who is now the Chicago-born head of the Vatican Bank.

On the day before public audiences, Mgr. Martin sends out a fleet of ten to twelve cars carrying all the invitation cards to the various centres and individuals.

Nowadays, the only people who get their audience tickets directly from the Vatican's Prefecture are newly married couples. These must come in person. They are usually met by Australian Brother Stephen McGuire, a Christian Brother, Who hands each a Pontifical booklet on the Church and the Family together with a medal and a chaplet. A special note is made of their names and the Pope refers to newly-weds in his public audience — the average is about 200 a week.

One of .Mgr. Martin's most difficult tasks is to make seating arrangements for the major ceremonies in St. Peter's. There are few good seats. The tribunes around the Bernini High Altar 'hold only 1,000 persons.

For the recent beatification of Father Michele Rua, Mgr. Martin reserved a limited number of seats for diplomats and dignitaries and printed 22,000 tickets for the Salesians to distribute.

More than 30,000 applications poured in. He found he was obliged to refuse special seating even for dignitaries who had not accepted initial invitations and to place them in lesser positions.

Mgr. Martin accomplishes all this with a staff of only six or seven persons who speak all the major languages of the world. Telephones and telegrams have replaced the letter requests of 'former years to a great extent.

His office is an austere room, with faded frescoes dating 'from Cardinal Ricci's occupancy in the mid-sixteenth century. It looks out on the somewhat gloomy vista of the rear side of Bernini's columns — a far cry from the splendour of the papal apartments.

Mgr. Martin's office, that of Prefect, stems from the days of Pope Pius II, in the mid15th century. The present tenant of the office is a product of the internationalisation of the Roman Curia which began under Pius XII and has been accelerated by the present Pope.

The origins of such 'an office go back to the early days of the Roman Empire, the minister of the household of the Emperors.

Mgr. Martin was born in Amiens because his father, an army officer, was garrisoned there. He learned German when his father was stationed later in Mayence and Strasbourg. Then he came to Rome to complete his studies at the Pontifical Academy, where 'he learned Spanish, and in the Secretariat of State.

• In 1938 he accompanied Cardinal, later Pope Pius XII, Pacelli to Budapest when he went as Papal Legate to the Eucharistic Congress. In 1944 he was the first to greet General Charles de Gaulle and in 1957 he carried Pope Pius XII's greetings to Emperor Haile Selassie in Addis Ababa on the occasion of his jubilee.

Bishop Martin talks fluent Italian and German in addition to his native French. Also extremely good English and Spanish.

One additional note on the importance of his position : The Prefect "may be made a cardinal at the desire of the Pope" — that is to say of the "next Pope" because the Prefect retains 'his office on the death of a 'Pope to help organise the conclave while other Curia officials resign theirs.

Michael Wilson

blog comments powered by Disqus