Page 3, 22nd September 1972

22nd September 1972
Page 3
Page 3, 22nd September 1972 — Breaks with Papal tradition

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Locations: Rome, Milan, Hongkong


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Breaks with Papal tradition

POPEDOPE PAUL will be 75 week and in the tenth year of his pontificate. but for those of us journalists who were here for the death of Pope John XXIII and the election of Giovanni Battista Montini the years seem to have passed• in a flash.

It has been a precedent making, or breaking, epoch. Certainly it started with tradition : the white smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. But from thence on, in extraneous matters not pertinent to the Faith itself, there has been little of the traditional about this pontificate.

. Montini was born into a bourgeois Brescia family with a father who not only had great interest in the urban and rural development of Italy and was a politician, but also managed the Catholic daily newspaper of his town I! Cittatlino ("The Citizen").

Makes news

In a way the present Pope may be said, in the parlance of journalists, to have been born with ink in his veins, From his earliest boyhood he was surrounded by literary people; as a young 'priest studying in the Academy for Diplomats in Rome he went out into the streets under the aegis of the then Mgr. (now Cardinal) Amleto Cicognani as chaplain and adviser to Catholic University Federation students and frequently had to protect them, quite literally, from the beatings of the Mussolini strong-arm squads.

He was always conscious of the communications media and, as Archbishop of Milan, went out of his way to see that the press were given priority treatment. As Pope he has the task of being the foremost preacher and evangelist of the Catholic Church and hence is even more conscious of the need for involvement with the communications media.

To us, in Rome, who "cover" the Vatican and have followed Pope Paul to report his pontificate it appears that he has always "made news." There was the startling announcement at the close of the second session of Vatican Council H that the Pope would fly to the Holy Land, the first "Peter" to return to the birthplace of Christ.

I went on that Pontifical trip, as on so many other ones, and it, the first. will always to my mind mark Paul's first steps in bringing the Catholic Church out from the closed walls of the Apostolic Palace into the openness of the world.

There was no doubt about the 'popularity of this visit or, in fact, about any of his trips as an "apostle on the move" — to use his own words. The crowds were always so dense that they overwhelmed the security •police many times. (In fact, at Ephesus, where Mgr. Paul Marcinkus, the American aide who has organised most of his visits was 'helping to hold my 'microphone close to the Pope's mouth, the press was so great my pocket was picked!)


There has been more doubt expressed over 'his streamlining and diminution of the temporal pomp and magnificence of the Vatican Court. Many think that he should have retained the Noble Guards and the Pontifical Gendarmerie in their uniforms a /a Maurice Chevalier in movie musical operettas — to impress the visiting masses, they said.

But Paul did not want to impress the masses with the sheen and rattle of armour and accoutrements. Instead he gives them his vision of a past-Conciliar age through his Wednesday audiences, developing a theme over a six-month period.

He has always been conscious of the oneness of the world and the need to develop that unity. This became increasingly clear as he implemented the spirit of ecumenism advocated by the Council. It was ecumenism towards all, not just Christians — to the nations of the Western world, the Communists and Socialist nations of East Europe, to the nations of other faiths in. Africa and Asia.

Paul's memory is prodigious. His voracious reading includes daily newspapers — the taint of a newspaper family!

And, in his contact with the world, he is.never above taking last-minute advice from people he considers to have first-hand information. This was evidenced in Hongkong, on his way back from Australia, when British officials who had seen a copy of his speech advised him that certain phrases could stir up trouble. Paul, it is reported, thanked them and changed the wording without question.

Paul keeps his emotions normally well under control and sometimes appears aloof. Sometimes they get the better of him and he breaks down and weeps. He unbends best when with crowds; 'little humorous twists appear in his impromptu remarks which are stricken by Vatican blue-pencil from his prepared speeches — yes, even Pope Paul is censored.

There is a sense of the dramatic, too, in his make-up and we journalists have come' to look for this. His most sensational pronouncements often have been made when least expected, and 1 would not be surprised if he surprised us all again on his 75th birthday next Tuesday.

Guard change

ANEW Captain Commandant of the Swiss Guard is replacing Col. Robert Nunlist, who has commanded this Papal unit in the pontificates of three Popes and who is now retiring to his native Switzerland,

Lt.-Col. Franz Pfyffer von Altishofen, a former officer of the Swiss Army, takes over a corps which has suffered least in the de-4riumpha'lisation of Vatican bodies since the end of the Vatican Council. The officers have lost their silver plated armour but the men retain the Michelangelo-designed gold, blue and white uniforms and halberds.

The Swiss Guard are, in title, the personal protectors of the person of the Pope. Today, the Italian Government has taken over this security role — in fact it appointed a new chief security man only last week — and the Guards are more for tradition and show than for protection.

Swiss soldiers had been hired by Popes in 1471, but it was Pope Julius II, a soldier Tope, who issued the first free conducts for a condottiere and a regular army captain to bring 200 Swiss soldiers to Rome. Only 150 turned up and on January 21, 1506, they were solemnly blessed by Julius. So the corps is now 466 years old.

Michael Wilson

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