Paul VI faced up to the autonomous and traditionalist Roman Curia and told it that the successful running of the 20th century Roman Catholic Church demanded its reform.
Now he has faced up to the proud "Black Nobility" and told it that its ancient ties with the Holy See must also be revised.
The Pope praised the papal nobles and aristocrats for their past loyalty in remaining united with a papacy deprived of the temporal power under which their hereditary' titles and privileges originated. But at the same time, he made it clear that he faced them with "empty hands."
He was no longer in a position, he said, to confer upon the nobles "offices, benefices, privileges or advantages deriving from the organisation of a temporal State, nor can we make use of your services in civic administration."
In this way, Pope Paul let the nobles know that he planned — not necessarily immediately — to revise the ageold practice of giving the papal aristocracy, as a matter of course, certain ceremonial and honorary offices and duties at the Vatican, some of them still bearing archaic names having' no relations whatever to their modern functions, if any.
The "Black Nobility" is the aristocracy stemming from the former Papal States; their present ties go back to the days when the Pope was not only spiritual but temporal ruler over States in Central Italy and of all Rome. This temporal power ended in 1870, after Italy was unified and Rome was wrested 'by force from the Papacy.
In 1929, the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and the Italian State estahlishcd the Pope's temporal power over Vatican City.
This sovereignty, Pope Paul said in addressing the nobles this week, provided the Pope with a shield and the sign of his independence of all earthly authority. But he added, history did not stand still and, even with this sovereignty, the Pope "cannot and must not exercise any but a spiritual power".
Behind all this, of course, stands the Ecumenical Council, which engenders most of the "winds of change" now blowing through — and from — the Vatican.
Pope Paul emphasised that the Ecumenical Council was updating the structures of the Church and hinted that it would be absurd if the Vatican itself lagged behind in doing a little house-cleaning of its own. How could the Vatican. he was asking in effect, expect to capture the mind of modern man if it continued to clutter itself up with outmoded traditions and offices ?
Pope John had also been conscious of this and it was strongly rumoured even in his
day that he intended to precipitate a little revolution to get rid of a lot of the "dead wood" around the place.
What Pope Paul is likely to do for a start is weed out many of the outmoded titles still carried by Vatican functionaries — by no means all noble -. and also let other ancient offices die out with their present holders.
He has a huge and exotic crop to work upon.
There are still on the Vatican lists gentlemen with names like Bearers of the Golden Rose (Prince Luigi Massimo Lancellotti and Count Giuseppe della Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetta); Quartermaster of the Sacred Apostolic Palaces (Marquis Giovanni Battista Sacchetti); Master of the Horse/ to His Holiness, a title going back to 509 and held now by Marquis Giacomo Serlupi Crescenzi: the Secret Sweeper. Cavalry Major and lots more.
Top Vatican post among the "Black Nobility" is Prince Assistant to the Papal Throne, hereditary since the 16th century and held jointly. until 1958, by the great Orsini and Colonnit families. Present single holder is Prince Aspreno Colonna. his one-time colleague. Prince Filippo Orsini, having forfeited his post through his much-publicised affair with the late British film actress. Belinda Lee.
When a conclave is held at the Vatican to elect a new Pope, the man (or "Guardian") responsible for security arrangements is Prince Sigismondo Chigi Alban' della Rovere. He was once elected to Rome City Council on a neo-Fascist ticket, but resigned under unfavourable Vatican reaction.
There are 217 Secret Chamberlains of Sword and Cape. Their title goes back several centuries. Today, theirs is an honour given to distinguished Catholic laymen, many of them nobles. in all parts of the world.
They do spells of duty at the Vatican, escorting visitors to the Pope. attending Papal ceremonies and generally being "in attendance". Their tasks are routine, but involve them in dressing up in short black tunic, back hose. buckled shoes. black cape, white Elizabethan ruff at neck, and sword at side.
There are also several lay commoners with titles like Supernumerary Secret Chamberlain, Chamberlain of Honour in Purple Robes. Chamberlain of Honour Outside the City, and the rest. There are 26 mace bearers, 15 candlehearing chaplains, one cup hearer and a Doorkeeper with Red Rod.
Vatican circles are suggesting that the Pontifical Noble Guard may also be affected by the Pope's plans. Up till now, this '100-man elite corps has been composed entirely of proven bloc-blooded Roman aristocrats. Now. the story goes, it may be opened up to Catholics of all nationalities.
It is also being suggested that the practice of giving special seats to members of the "Black Nobility" at Vatican ceremonies may go.
A special block of strategically-placed seats has always been reserved for the Roman aristocrats attending ceremonies in St. Peter's Basilica. Vatican circles feel that in future the "Black Nobility" might well be given ordinary seats with other worshippers.
Perhaps the "box" reserved for them might go to accredited journalists, now forced to cover St. Peter's ceremonies under the most wretched conditions. If I'm dreaming, don't wake me too soon .
AFTER being chief of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC) Rome news bureau for the past nine years, Mgr. James Tucek has returned to his native Dallas, Texas, where he will be pastor of a downtown parish.
During the Vatican Council's first session, I remember, he not only ran the bureau but had the back-breaking -and often heart-breaking job of chief of the English-language section of the Council press office. At that time press facilities were lamentably inadequate and only a man of Mgr. Tucek's imperturbable temperament could have stood the stra in.
A tall, amiable, quietlyspoken priest and a first-rate journalist with a tremendous capacity for work, the Monsignor was a pastor in Dallas before he joined NCWC. During his term in Rome, he made the bureau a lively news centre and, in addition to the Council, covered some of the outstanding events in modern Church history -the death of Pope Pius 3C11, election and then death of Pope John, and the election of Pope Paul. With him for almost seven of his nine years in Rome has been James O'Neill who, deservedly succeeds him as bureau chief. Mr. O'Neill, who is married and has two children, comes from San Francisco, Always friendly and helpful to fellow-journalists, he is taking over at a time when the bureau has rarely been busier. He returned from covering Pope Paul's pilgrimage to the Holy Land in time to go to Naples to say farewell to Monsignor Tucek, who left for the States in the liner Saturnia.