• Rome Diary
Italian Protestant churches may be decided upon by 300 delegates representing more than 120,000 Italian Protestants who will hold an Evangelical Congress in Rome next week. This will be only the second congress held in 45 years, the first having been in November, 1920.
The delegates will represent the Valdese, Methodist, Baptist, Adventist and Apostolic Churches, the Evangelical Missionary Association, the Assembly of God and the Salvation Army. There will also be observers from European and American Protestant Churches and the World Council of Churches.
The largest delegation to the congress will he from the Valdese (or Waldensian) religion, which has 40,000 followers in Italy. It was founded in the 12th century by a merchant named Waldo in Lyons. He preached poverty. The Baptists, who have 13,000 members in Italy, and the Methodists. with 10,000, will each have 60 delegates.
The congress theme will be "Italian Protestantism and its message at the present time". A protestant minority's position in a predominantly Catholic country like Italy will he discussed, as well as the Christian "renewal" and the new spirit between the Catholic and other faiths engendered by the Ecumenical Council.
Italian Protestants today get a very different deal from that which they faced w hen the 1920 congress was held. It is only in recent years that the Constitutional Court, Italy's highest legal tribunal, has declared void Fascist laws aimed against Protestants and restored to them freedom of worship that was previously denied them. The late Pope Johns "open arms" policy has also done much to break down old. ignorant hostilities.
WHICH REMINDS ME: A friend of mine, out for a stroll in one of Rome's poorer suburbs, satv the noose of a religious sect on a hall and dropped in to inquire. An Italian explained what the sect's
objects were, but on friend, still vague, asked innocently, "Are you something like the Presbyterians?" "Oh, no." replied the Italian. "We're much more Left titan that".
I ONCE SAW Dr. Donald Soper, the Noblest Spouter of Them All, come as near to starting a riot in Hyde Park as it would be possible to do, the licence permitted there on Sunday afternoons being what it is.
There was Dr. Soper on his super-soapbox, recklessly telling the English not to make idiots of themselves over animals. Love them. he said, but don't let love turn into adulation. because once you got to that extreme you weren't raising the animals to your own level hut lowering yourselves to theirs.
Sinister muttering grew into outraged yelps as he proceeded and I began to wonder whether Dr. Soper wouldn't be wise to run, not walk, to the nearest exit. Unrepentant, however, even when a morose heckler managed to get something perfectly irrelevant about budgerigars into the debate, the good doctor said he would give the audience an example of the fatuity he was getting at.
He was once travelling by rail from Cornwall to London. Just before the train was due to leave, a woman hurried onto the station carrying a dog. She was about to step into a carriage when the guard told her it wasn't that kind of train; dogs were not permitted in carriages, only in the guard's van.
The woman almost swooned at the thought of this indignity, but when the guard was adamknt and the train was practically under way, she surrendered the dog and, in tears. boarded the train alone.
"Then," said Dr. Soper, "she stood on the rear platform of the carriage nearest the guard's van all the way to London, crying out in anguish every few minutes: 'Don't worry, darling, Mummy's here!'"
A SWARM OF BEES settled in a corner of a Rome viburban earden. An astute gardener ,grabbed a plant spray-. filled it with wine. and doused the angrily-buzzing mass. Then he hastily knocked
together a makeshift hive and by the time the boozed bees had recovered, somewhat . hung-over, P10 doubt, they were safely boxed. They're still there, -The Deputylawsuit
A WELL-KNOWN Perugian lawyer, Dr. Luigi Clcmenti, has tiled a private suit against Gian Maria Volante, producer of the controversial play. "The Deputy", alleging that he is vilifying the late Pope Pius XII by presenting it in Italy.
"The Deputy", in case anyone does not know it by this time, is by German playwright Rolf Hochhuth and criticises Pope Pius for not speaking out openly against Hitler and the Nazi persecution of the Jews.
In his suit. Dr. Clementi also alleges that the play is offensive to the Catholic religion and to Catholics. His charges will he investigated by the Public Prosecutor. who will then decide whether there is a case for Volante to
T lae p y" was lea nned
from production in Rome after a riot greeted Volante's attempt to stage it in a basement of a disused church. The authorities acted under a clause in the 1929 Lateran Treaty signed between the State and the Holy See, which guarantees the preservation of the "sacred character" of Rome.
After the banning. a bomb exploded against a Vatican wall. making a great deal of noise and doing little damage. Volante's brother was charged with putting it there,
Volante has since staged the play in several Italian centres without any commotion. One performance was given in Umbria province, of which Perugia is a part.
The Vatican newspaper Osser
vntore Romano has attacked "The Deputy" as a weapon of the Catholic Church's enemies. Since the play was banned in Rome, Communists and Socialists have been clamouring for a revision of the Lateran Treaty. Christian Democrat Premier Aldo Moro has told them they haven't a hope,
Easier adoption urged
ONE OF ITALY'S most noted feminists and women Members of Parliament, Christian Democrat Deputy Maria Pia Dal Canton, is backing a move to modernise the country's outdated adoption laws and bring them into line with 20th century demands.
Every year in Italy, about 14.000 children are abandoned, but the laws make it extremely difficult for families to adopt one of them and provide it with a decent home. Couples who would make excellent foster-parents are also frustrated.
At present, only persons over 50 years of age can adopt a child. Couples who have children of their own are banned from adopting others.
Deputy Dal Canton and her supporters point out that 50 or more is not exactly the ideal age for childless couples to take upon themselves the responsibility of raising a child not their own. On the other hand, couples who have already had the experience of bringing up children of their own are often ideally suited for taking an adopted child into their family circle and giving it the attention, love, understanding and companionship it so desperately needs, Under 52-year-old. Deputy Dal Canton's proposed reform s. couples who are already parents will be permitted to adopt other children. The new law would insist only that the parents must have been married for at least five years. It would also provide that an adopting couple must be at least 18 years older than the child they want to adopt, but less than 45 years older.
The result of the present iron law is that only one-third of Italy's parentless children are adopted. The rest are put into State institutions.