From Alan McElwain ROME
For more than 40 years, this Communist son of staunch Catholic parents was prominent not only in Italian hut also in International Communism.
For decades too his iron grip and nimble mind kept the Italian Party united, despite the schemings of the inevitable rival factions within it. What will happen now that the man who, in the eyes of millions of supporters, was the Party has gone?
For the time being, at any rate, he has been replaced by a tough old Stalinist, Signor Luigi Longo. He is 64 and for years. RS Vicesecretary, was Togliatti's right hand man. but in no sense of the word his heir. Togliatti neither named nor hinted at a successor. Longo is expected to run the Party until its next national congress in 1965. Then the leaders of the rival factions may make outright their bids for power.
In Italy today there is considerable speculation in Catholic circles on just what effect the change in command now or in the futurecould have • on the Vatican's behind-the-scenes moves for some kind of rapprochement with the Communist world.
Togliatti was flexible. Togliatti was always prepared to at least examine, and not dismiss offhand, new approaches from whatever quarter.
Longo has none of Togliatti's natural flexibility in his make-up, hut, while much is being made of his reputation for "toughness", there seems to be little reason to expect him, certainly during his "caretaker" term in top office, to depart from the line of his late master, which he has followed assiduously for so many years.
Undoubtedly, Pope Paul. in his recent encyclical. profoundly impressed the Italian Communists not only by being the first Pope since Pius XII to condemn Communism outright. but also by adding that he did not so much condemn ideological systems and regimes which deny God and oppress the Church, as that they "express their radical opposition to us in thought and deed".
This line emphasised the Pope's repeated declaration that the Church is willing to "enterinto dialogue" with the world including the Communist world -and that he is ready to act as a mediator between nations in the cause of world peace.
11 is important to differentiate between mediation and intervention. There can be no question of the Pope "intervening" directly in national or international affairs. But if the present ecumenical trend grows and multiplies. if, as one observer has put it. ''the ecumenical movement transforms the Papacy from a sectarian into a truly universal institution", the authority of the Pope as a spokesman for humanity will be increased and strengthened and the role of Vatican diplomacy made more and more important.
When Signor Togliatti's illness in Continued in next column