By HANS BAUER MANY people have asked about the lean,'greyhaired old man they see beside the Pope on their television screens when watching some great ceremony in St. Peter's. He stands always close to the Pope, an active-looking figure with an impassive expression.
They have noticed how, with a whispered word or a short but energetic motion of his hand, he organises the ceremonies around him. He even appears to give orders to the Pope.
He is Mgr. Enrico Dante, Titular Archbishop of Carpasia, a ruined city on the island of Cyprus. He is also Secretary of the Congregation of Rites, Prefect of the Papal Ceremonials, and holder of a dozen more titles and offices.
His 80th birthday was on July 5, and Mgr: Dante received not only congratulations on completing his 80th year but farewell greetings on his retirement.
To look at him, it is difficult to believe he has reached this great age. His shoulders are slightly bent, but Mgr. Dante says this comes from the responsibilities of office and has nothing to do with the years.
He was an enthusiastic sportsman as a young man, playing football and climbing mountains, and swimming. He was one of the co-founders of the Roma football club. events on the television, and perhaps this taught him how important it is to keep one's face and gestures under control before the camera's sharp eye.
But this suits his temperament. It is said in the Vatican that Mgr. Dante has never been seen to smile. In the Secretariat of State, where they are more malicious, it is said he has never been heard to speak.
He directs the grand ceremonies. lasting for hours, with hundreds of participants, like the conductor of an orchestra, with a glance, a movement of his head or his hand. There is no time for more. One cannot explain with words—not even to the Pope.
Mgr. Dante was born in Rome, but his father. Achille, was a lawyer in Trentino, then in Austria, who fought under Garibaldi and in the Irredentist uprising in Trieste. To escape from the Austrian police he moved to Rome, but died when Enrico was eight. He became a sentinarian at the Collegio Capranica, where Eugenio Pacelli also studied. Pope Pius X made him a master of ceremonies at the age of 30.
This was in 1914, so that now Dante has completed half a MGR. DANTE'S right hand beckons the Pope forward during a ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica.
He holds another record. He is the Curial prelate who has waited the longest for promotion — not because his merits were not recognised but because his predecessor in office, Mgr. Alfonso Carinci, who died a few months ago at 102, held office until he was 97.
When Mgr. Dante celebrated his golden jubilee of the priesthood on July 3. 1960, Pope Roncalli wrote him a charming letter in which he praised his knowledge and "learned calm". Knowledge he most certainly has: he has taken part in five Conclaves. He has set five different tiaras on the heads of five Popes. he has organised 50 canonisations and 100 beatifications, among them the canonisation of Joan of Arc and little Maria Goretti. There is absolutely no question on ceremonial which could embarrass him.
The papal ceremonies are said to he the only ones in the world where the question of precedence gives no trouble at all. Dante knows more about the history of ceremonials than anybody. What happened at the coronation of Urban VIII? He knows exactly, and is prepared to draw useful conclusions from it.
It is presumed that Dante's successor will be the Minorite Father. Ferdinando Antonelli, consultor to the Ceremonial Congregation, better known in Church circles as the "Devil's Advocate" of the Congregatiot of Rites.
[Article reproduced from Die Presse, Vienna]
century in the office. He holds the highest record in the Curia. and has served six Popes—Pius X. Benedict XV, Pius XI and XII, John XXIII and now Pope Paul VI,