sacred music McELWAIN IT HAS long been my •••• notion that one of the main reasons for setting up an authoritative, alive-tothe-moment information office in the Vatican would be to replace with fact the spate of rumours with which the place—and, in particular, the Pope—is constantly surrounded. Well, to and behold, the Vatican's answer to this has been to set up its own rumour-factory.
Ever since a "spokesman for the Holy See" was appointed a few months ago, vague answers to most questions put forward at the weekly Press conferences have done little more than intensify the speculation that inspired the questions in the first place.
There was a good ex ample recently. The spokesman. Mgr. Fausto Vallainc, announced that the following week Pope Paul would "issue an important document". He then "declined to disclose the subject" of the document.
This "teasing" naturally sparked off the usual run of rumours. The statement, we learned, guessed or predicted, would be on church liturgy, laws of fasting and penance, establishment of a permanent order of deacons, the reform of the Curia, or even — you've guessed it — the Pill.
The "important document", when it came, turned out to be one on sacred music, which Pope Paul had approved and ordered to be published and which was released by the Sacred Congregation of Rites. What was the secret about this? Why couldn't we have been told in the first place that, on Tuesday, March 7, a document on sacred music in the liturgy, approved by Pope Paul, would be released?
The Church may be in, but when it comes to even the simplest communications, it's anything but of the Modern World.
Fr. Smith departs "IFyou seek his menu
rnent, look about you", says an inscription on Christopher Wren's monument in St. Paul's Cathedral, London. It could well be said also of Fr. Vincent Smith as you look about in Rome's San Silvestro Church, for extensive repairs to which he was largely responsible.
Mgr. William Carew, head of the English section of the Vatican Secretariat of State, neatly made this point at a farewell dinner to Fr. Smith who, after 14 years as Rector of San Silvestro, Rome's Church for English Catholics, has been transferred to his Pallottine Order's provincial house in London. Mgr. Carew spoke as a very old friend : he had been Fr. Smith's first curate.
There were more than 100 people present at the dinner. This rocked the usually unrockable Fr. Smith as he was led into the dining room of one of Rome's most modern hotels, Having been told simply that he was "being taken to dinner", he'd got the impression it was to be a quiet family affair in some parishioner's home. Mrs. Michael (Paddy) Wilson was the principal conspirator in this ecumenical deception — and got away with it nicely".
Cardinal Heenan, titular of San Silvestro, and the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Cardinale, sent cables regretting their absence. Michael Wilson, Radio Free Europe's Rome chief, read a letter from Cardinal Traglia, VicarGeneral of Rome, who also sent Fr. Smith a signed photograph of himself.
Miss Ethel Hailwood, speaking as "doyen" of San Silvestro parishioners, said what was in the hearts of all —Fr. Smith, in his long time there, had become a "habit" and no one could imagine the place without him. Mgr. Brewer, Vice-Rector of the English College, spoke on behalf of his own and the Scots, Irish and Beda Colleges, whose Rectors, Monsignors Alston, Conway and Curtin, were present.
The Australian Ambassador, Mr. Alfred Stirling, the First Secretary of the New Zealand Embassy. Mr. Philip Costello, and Donna Orietta and Commander Frank Doria Parophili. were there, too. Mr. Reginald Hall, chairman of the Church committee. presided, and Mr. Paul Weaver, of the British Council, kept things going as master of ceremonies.
Fr. Smith, very moved, said he had not dreamed, when he took over San Silvestro, that it was going to play such a large part in his life. Sometimes he had felt inadequate, sometimes very frightened. He recalled that, at a Candlemas ceremony, he had told Pope John that the Church was closed for repairs. "Jt will be restored and be more beautiful than you have ever seen it before", the old man said, smiling. His words had come true During the evening. Fr, Smith was presented with a return airways ticket to the Holy Land. As a farewell gift, his parishioners are giving him eight days there. in both Israel and Jordan. "This is a dream come true", Fr. Smith said. "I go there as a pilgrim in gratitude; I want you to come with me in spirit."
No one can preach a better 10-minute, "conversational" sermon than Manchester-born Fr. Smith. After his Holy Land trip, he will be back in Rome to say his last Easter Mass before he goes to London. I hope he gives us one of his 10minute gems then. Mean while, a warm welcome indeed to his successor, Father Hulhoven.
Strike after strike THE MOST perplexing national pastime today in always-bedevilled Italy is trying to keep track of which public services are working. which are striking, and which are about to strike.
Recently, municipal bus and tram workers struck two days running, each day at hours that made certain the maximum number of ordinary people would have to trudge to and from work. Then city garbage collectors turned on a series of nowarning "hiccup" strikes. It will be weeks before the streets are cleaned up. Gas workers have been at it, too, sending housewives mad by cutting off supplies when they were most needed and creating chaos in restaurants.
Pasta workers and flour millers were out for two days. When spaghetti is affected by labour strife, the nation is really in trouble. Chemists struck for 24 hours to reinforce their demand for cash payments for prescriptions instead of the present system of sendine in forms. under the national health scheme, and waiting apes for government bureaucrats to make payment.
There was one nice exception to this. In Florence, the chemists aereed to stick to the old system so as not to make thines harrier for sufferers from last November's floods.
Odd place names THE inhabitants of Camposanto, North Italy, are extremely browned off by the name of their village and the tiresome jokes it has been inspiring for years. Campo Santo, literally Saintly Field, means in Italian cemetery. You can imagine the scone that gives the humorists. Some citizens want to change it to Campovivo (Live Field), others want Valverde (Green Valley). There will be a poll to decide.
There are plenty of other odd place names which. one hopes, won't be changed. Near Messina, Sicily. there is Divieto (Forbidden). Near Naples, there is Panza (Stomach), near Cosenza Cipollina (Little Onion). And near the famous seat of learnine. Perugia, there is Budino (Pudding).