by Alan McElwain
I WAS in a bus heading south through the Alban Hills, outside Rome, the other sunny Sunday morning. Suddenly, there was a shrill blowing of whistles, policemen hustled about everywhere, and all traffic was halted. We passengers guessed what was happening even before people clustered on the roadside called to us, and we jockeyed for positions at the windows. " 11 Papa " was on the way. In a few minutes, Pope Paul appeared. Standing in the back of his open car, he waved, smiled, bowed and blessed the cheering, clapping crowds right and left. Then he disappeared up a hill that led towards his summer villa at Castelgandolfo.
The Holy Father had been to the old church at nearby Genzano, following his custom. while staying in the hill country, of celebrating Mass at a different church each Sunday. This, of course. endeared him to the citizens; and not only the Catholics. but even the Communists. In Genzano, for instance, the mayor and most of his council, all Communists. had attended Mass and greeted the Holy Father.
THIS reflects an interesting anachronism found in several parts of Italy, especially the impoverished South. Born Catholics, arguing (rightly or wrongly) that the Christian Democrat (Catholic) Party, which has ruled Italy since the end of the war, has given scant attention to the underdog, have succumbed to the generous promises of the Reds which, even if they don't eventuate. at least sound more comforting than those of the Christians. But while professing and calling themselves Communists, they also profess and call themselves Catholics, to the extent, at any rate. of continuing their lifelong habit of attending Mass on Sundays.
No amount of fulminating by the Holy Office. or the priests, about the impossibility of reconciling. in any way, Catholicism with Marxism, moves them and. in any case, lots of them being illiterate, they wouldn't know what the Holy
Office was. It is well known, too. that many parish priests in these areas accept the situation and go gently with their Catholic-Communists, on the principle that while they continue to come to Church, the Communists haven't captured them body and soul ...
Anyhow, after the Pope had gone. we pushed on to Red-ruled Genzano. It was gay with Vatican and State flags. the populace was in its Sunday hest, and the festival atmosphere was so gay that I felt like abandoning the bus and joining in. The church facade was decorated and slapped up all over the place were "Viva II Papa" posters.• It was a great day for the Catholics and a great day for the Communists.
Viva Ecumenism !
iNCIDENTALLY, that lively -1prelate, Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro, Archbishop of Bologna. is reported to have just completed an intensive investigation into the finances and organisation of the powerful Communist Party within his archdiocese, which is in the centre of Italy's famous " Red
Belt". He has handed his findings to the local branch of the Christian Democrat Party. which apparently knew much less about its political rival than did his Eminence.
For years. Cardinal Lercaro. has been noted for his hard-hitting, and often novel. anti-Communist tactics. From the start, he worked on the principle that to successfully counter the Reds you must know as much about them as they do about themselves, then harry them on their own ground. To this. he allied a "there's nothing that they can do that we can't do better" philosophy.
Once. on a hie religious holiday, the Reds cynically announced that they would be holding a monster children's party, with gallons of luscious icecream, stupendous games and competitions and fun for one and all. Giving his famous earto-ear grin. Cardinal Lercaro announced a super-colossal children's party the same day, with lashings of bigger and better icecreams. unprecedented games and competitions, and fabulous fun for one and all. The cardinal's party was a riot, the Red's a washout.
A subsequent newspaper picture of his Eminence avidly tucking into a gooey chocolate and icecream concoction, poised in his ringed right hand, was regarded by his followers as more than a whit symbolic. However, the cardinal knows where to draw the line in the "Don Camillo" tactics for which Bologna has long been known. In the light of what he has discovered in his latest investigation, priests have been warned not to accept help from Communist mayors and to be cautious about "fraternising" with Communists, even in sporting events or on other "neutral" occasions.
FASCIST penal and civil laws ratified by Dictator Benito Mussolini still operate in Italy, often in direct conflict with the Constitution, inaugurated in 1948. Now the old laws arc to be revised by a special committee set up by the Italian Cabinet.
The police, for example. can still banish accused persons to places of compulsory residence, whereas the Constitution gives all Italian citizens the right to live where they choose. The Constitution also declares that an accused person is innocent until proved to be guilty. yet under a never-repealed Fascist law, accused persons can be detained in gaol for up to 24 months without trial. Sometimes they are held for longer. Police can also detain in prison persons not accused of any crimes at all. Recently, when a German girl was murdered in Rome, a "reticent" girl friend of hers was kept in prison for two months because, police claimed. she had not told them all she knew about the crime. She was not permitted to see a lawyer and was released only after mounting protests by newspapers and public.
A bill has also been introduced in the Italian parliament proposing drastic government controls on press coverage of crime news. Under the proposal, publication of photographs and information in such cases as killings and robberies would he forbidden unless they were released by the authorities. Nor could anything be published about the first stages of court proceedings, and newspapers and magazines would be barred from publishing results of their own investigations into cases.