TWO centuries and more ago. according to a probably apocryphal story related by old-timers in the Vatican's Curia, an archbishop from South America, visiting Rome, found he was making gaffe after gaffe over personalities then holding papal office in Rome.
Angrily, or so the story has it, he asked the Papal Chamberlain why the devil the Holy See couldn't produce a book which would keep its farflung espiscopate up to date on changes and developments in Rome and wherever else the Catholic Church had penetrated.
And this, said my ancient informant, was the birth of the
Prrnlifical Annuary, that monumental yearbook which today lists the major personalities of the Church's hierarchy and the ramifications of the Church's activities.
The ad limina visits every five years or so obviously were no substitute since, while they kept the Pope informed of what his bishops were doing, they did not keep the episcopate informed of what the Curia might be doing —who held what jobs, etc.
It was in 1716 that this South American archbishop reportedly exploded, and Pope Clement XI immediately ordered such a record printed. It bore no resemblance to the Annuary of today, although its forerunner.
Entitled the first year the "Diary of Hungary" — for some obscure reason — and then the Mario Ordinario or Notizie, this record began. on a modern note, in Italian and not in Latin.
It was a refreshing document, or series of documents, to read because it was kept from day to day, with a few gaps, and was written in robust, colourful, diary style.
In between pen-sketches of the Pontiff riding to the chase attended by so many cardinals and pages, the behaviour of his pet falcons, etc., were sandwiched notices of the appointments of new bishops and even the creation of a new metropolitan diocese in Baltimore — the first in the United States.
The slim pages of this Notizie, in fact, gave more ex• amples of papal festivities, including banquet menus, than they did of Holy See business. This led to Pope Pius IX authorising Abbot Batelli in 1948 to publish a digest of papal activities and Holy See pronouncements which would leave the Notizie free to begin publication of a more factual yearbook.
This first Os,servatore Romano was suppressed by the House of Savoy in Turin two years later. It was reissued on July 1, 1861 (the first official issue of this semi-official newspaper) as a private venture but was bought over by the Vatican in 1873 when a French group, considered suspect by the Holy See, tried to acquire it.
Throughout the entire pontificate of Leo XIII this paper published a daily protest against the French occupation of Rome. Today it is considered the Voice of the Vatican despite its semi-official nature.
An ill wind..
IHAVE just returned from a few days' holiday in Dublin and further south which turned into a series of candlelight evenings due to power cuts. As a visitor from Rome, and a little out of touch, I was surprised to find more people obsessed with the economics rather than the politics of the explosive Northern Irish situation.
There was extreme preoccupation over the failure of tourists to come to Ireland this year. Everyone tried to impress on me that there was no trouble in the South and no need for tourists to be anxious.
I could see that for myself, but it is a fact of life that tourists do not plan — and even cancel — holidays in trouble areas. and to the would-be tourist from overseas it is difficult to draw a distinction between Ulster and the Republic. Some 100,000 tourists have already cancelled, and the agencies in Rome tell me that they are benefiting from the tours diverted to Italy. Irish hotels are certainly doing their hit to make a visit attractive. and Italy cannot match the Class A hotel bed, private bath and breakfast for £2.50.
'THERE is an English theatre A in Rome, but it was surprising to see such a large turn-out of Italian monsignori and priests at the Goldoni Theatre after Easter to see a visiting English amateur company stage Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Gondoliers."
Normally the theatre in Rome is off-limits to the priests in‘ the city, but the Goldoni Theatre is owned by the Vatican, which took it over from the Spanish College.
The amateur group, the Central London Players, have presented "The Mikado" and "Patience" in previous years, but this is the first time they have played to so many Italians.
The cast are teachers, accountants, salesmen and a company director. Produceractor Derek Collins runs a coal company. The theatre itself is a 16th century gem — in need, unluckily, of some repair by Vatican Fine Arts officials.
THE Vatican and the Italian
radio and television network are in search of a replacement for Fr. Mariano, who died two weeks ago, in a religious broadcast spot on a weekly basis.
Fr. Mariano was loved, revered and/or respected by nearly all the nation's television viewers whether believing Catholics or antagonistic to the Church, and his smiling, bearded face is missed.
Perhaps it is especially missed by the thousands who would write weekly letters of criticism and in defence of dogmatic materialism, as against "the opiate of the masses."
There are reports that Fr. Carlo Cremona. an Augustinian, is being tried out for the job.