From Alan McElwain
POPE PAUL, in a characteristic
gesture. climbed four flights of stairs in a gloomy, dilapidated apartment house in the poor quarter of Trastevere to bless and comfort a crippled woman before he left for his summer villa at Castelgandolfo last week.
The woman, Mrs. Virginia Napoli. wife of an old age pensioner. has been infirm and forced to use a wheelchair fur some years. Hearing that the Pope was to visit the historic church of Santa Marie in Trastevere, she told the parish priest that she had prayed for just a glimpse of him. The priest told the Vatican -and Pope Paul did the rest.
His visit also brought excitement and joy to the other occupants of the old building, who lined the landings of each floor to greet him. They also did their simple best to brighten up the dinginess of their surroundings for the occasion, hanging rugs and blankets on stair railings and putting little bunches of flowers here and there.
Best of all, they put up a makeshift altar on one of the landings, covering it with a bedspread. On it they also put two candles, small vases of carnations and a copy of the picture of the Madonna of Carmine, whose statue is much venerated in the nearch Church of St. Agatha.
This Pope Paul also visited during his Trastevere trip, which, appropriately, occurred on the eve of the• Madonna of Carmine's feast day (July 16).
EYES LIT UP
When the Pope saw the little altar, his eyes lit up and he paused for a few moments to pray before it.
Then, accompanied by the parish priest, he entered Mrs. Napoli's apartment and held out his hands to her as she sat in her wheelchair. almost overcome by emotion. The Pope spoke comfortingly to her. and together they recited the Ave Maria. Before leaving. the Pope presented Mrs. Napoli with a small statue of the Madonna of Fatima and gave her his blessing.
As he left the building, he blessed the smiling. applauding people on each landing and also a big crowd which had gathered in the street where his car was waiting to take him to Castelgandolfo Santa Maria in Trastevere was one of the first churches in Rome to be dedicated to Our Lady, and some historians claim it was the first church in the city to be opened to public worship. It is also Polish Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski's titular church. Pope Paul received a tremendous welcome from crowds assembled in the colourful square in front of the church. Inside. which was also crowded, he made a short address, which was broadcast over loudspeakers to those outside.
The Pope saw old Trastevere at
its gayest. it being decorated for its annual "Noantri" festival. In the local dialect "Noantri" means "we others", an indication of the proud boast that Trasteverini people make that they are people apart from the rest of the Romans. who really don't count into this exclusive company, dwelling just up the road from • the Vatican, Pope Paul was heartily admitted. "After all, he is one of us," the people said.
Coming from Santa Maria, the Pope visited thc Palazzo San Calisto next door, which is the headquarters of the Roman Vicariate, and where several
Cardinals live. •He was greeted by five Cardinals, including Cardinal ..uigi Traglia, Pro-Vicar General Of Rome.
The Pope's visit took him by a local hospital, whcre patients able to walk came into the street to see him. At one stage a woman rushed forward holding out to him a three-week-old baby. The Pope smiled, held the baby momentarily and blessed it and the mother.
CARDINAL ASKS FORGIVENESS
Cardinal Alfrink, Archbishop of Utrecht. said at a Eucharistic Community celebration of his 44 years as a priest and 121 years as bishop. that he hoped any faithful of the Netherlands he might have offended in any way would forgive him.
He said he had tried to do what he considered to be his duty. "If something went wrong the lord may forgive me. If there is something good in what I did 1 thank God for it". ROME