THE HEALTH OF THE COUNCIL FATHERS
rIIHE deaths of three bishops1 two in little more than a week —has drawn attention to the problems and preparations which those who planned the Vatican Council had to face. A congress of three thousand, so many of its participants elderly, makes special demands on medical aid. My Rome correspondent tells me that a firstaid post has been established in St. Peter's and ambulances are always on call.
It would be vain. he adds, for an ambulance to set out with a sick prelate without previous arrangements with the hospitals. For this reason, two rooms have been booked in several hospitals for the use of the Council and care has been taken of the language problem, the sick man being taken where possible to a hospital where his language is spoken or understood.
So the Bishop of Buffalo was moved by ambulance to the Salvator Mundi hospital, run by the Salvetorian sisters, many of whom are Irish or American. The Vatican covers the expenses of the medical service for the first twenty-four hours.
The strain of the Council is proving considerable for many prelates of venerable age. Some make the iourney to St. Peter's by car but Bishop Facchini, who was 76, died on his way to the Council in a crowded Roman bus. Climate and food are proving problems for many who arrived in indifferent health.
IN theory no Council father is
supposed to be absent from Rome without the permission of the Council President. In practice, however, Bishops have been told that if they have a good pastoral reason they will be permitted to leave after notifying the General Secretary.
Several of them have obviously
done so as attendance at the Council seems to be dropping slightly but steadily and more Bishops have let it be known that they will be leaving shortly.
The press again
MEANWHILE many bishops have become anxious about the lack of information being given to journalists through the Council press office. a matter on which I said something here last week.
Several different national groups of bishops have taken to holding daily press conferences. The German and the American Hierarchies seem to be particularly interested in this form of ensuring that the journalists representing their respective countries at the Council get the fullest and most accurate information on what is going on.
But every bishop is finding himself a target of press inquiries. My correspondent describes the scene in St. Peter's Square after a session of the Council as "a sea of bishops surrounded by pressmen trying to get the latest news".
oNE aspect of the news operation worrying non-Italian journalists in Rome is that the Italians seem to be getting the scoops. "II Tempo" and "II Messagero", two Rome dailies, are credited with having the news first, often a full day ahead.
I have it, on the best authority, that many foreign journalists are convinced that there is a leak of information to the Italian press. This is not to say that the Italian journalists are getting information they should not be getting. The seal of secrecy is being observed. But they are getting well in advance the news which will be issued later by the press office and thus making their non-Italian colleagues look and feel foolish.
St. Ninian's tomb
FOR the past two and a half years archaeologists have been working on the shrine of St. Ninian at Whithorn, Wigtownshire. Now, they believe, they are on the threshold of their greatest discovery yet.
The experts have told Mgr. McHardy, V.G., Ayr, who is a keen archaeologist himself, that they hope to find the tomb of St. Ninian.
Already they have found the remains of five bishops buried there before the 12th century with their episcopal rings, a perfect line formation of where their croziers lay, marked with traces of gold dust at least two mitres, silk cloths, chalices and patens. The chalices are almost all perfect and only slightly stained.
The earth at the spot has sunk considerably and the experts believe they are not yet to the subsoil. "In fact," Mgr. Hardy says. "they think they arc now working on top of St. Ninian's vaulted tomb and a cemetery of the 10th12th centuries."
I HAVE been bombarded on a small scale with stipends for the English priest in North Africa about whose difficulties I wrote here a few weeks ago. Kind readers have sent in stipends to the value of £26 and several of them have said that they would be able to send them regularly if they knew his name and address.
As I mentioned earlier, there are political considerations involved. The situation in parts of North Africa is delicate and we must walk warily in this matter. However, I hope the priest will give me permission to circulate his name privately among those people who want to help. (He has since done so.) May I take this opportunity of thanking those readers who sent in offerings anonymously? In all cases, I am forwarding the letters accompanying the stipends or offers of stipends to the priest himself in case he wishes—and considers it wise—to write to his well-wishers individually.
ACOLLEAGUE who has just returned from a holiday in France tells me that he was very impressed by the quality, as well as the quantity, of French Catholic newspapers and magazines. French Catholic journalism, he thinks, excels in two spheres. The first of these is the weekly or monthly "glossy" magazine, with circulations ranging from 100,000 to 600,000. Among the betterknown of these arc La Vie, Telerama, Le Pelerin. Missi, which is, as its name implies, missionorientated, and Panorama Chrelien, the Paris-Match of Catholic journalism.
Generally speaking, the layout and reader-interest of almost any of these magazines is superior to that of the weekly paper, Catholic or lay. Colour printing has been brought to a very high standard and time after time you find pages that would put the "Sunday Times" colour section in its place. The only Catholic daily, La Croix, which has a circulation of
about 125,000, compares well with other French dailies. (Some of these, like Le Monde, have a fantastically crowded layout, and others are content to put nothing but headlines on the front pag.e, leaving the reader to ferret out the story' from the inside pages as best he can.)
Varying political views are adequately represented. La Croix and Temoignage Chretien, with a combined circulation of about 170,000, carry the standards of the liberals, while L'Hornme Nouveau and Franee-Calholique, with a combined circulation of about 100,000, tend more towards orthodoxy. The first group is subsidised largely by lay Catholic Action groups, while the second draws more support from the clergy generally. In one Paris church last Sunday, members of the congregation were informed that La Croix would he available at a reduced price during the Council and reminded, practically in the same breath, that they were not bound by the political views expressed in the paper.
The other field where the French excel is in the production of illustrated Catholic magazines for children. There is a full range of about a dozen magazines. catering for all children between the ages of five and 17. in which the emphasis is placed unobtrusively on Christian values. At one time, this was not the case, "You see," said the girl behind the newspaper kiosk near the church at St. Gerrnain des Pres, "once they used to have a whole page with kind. fatherly counsels from a Reverend Pere, but it got smaller, and smaller, and finally . . . . it just disappeared!"
ASTRANGE coincidence has arisen over "Portrait of Guy Fawkes", a new biography published by Hale this week.
The author's name is Henry Garnett, the same as that of a Jesuit priest, who was implicated in the Gunpowder Plot and subsequently banished. The author's agent is John Johnson, which was the pseudonym adopted by Guy Fawkes in the early part of the plot and at the time of his arrest, 357 years ago The book. an experiment in biography, is an authentic portrait of this mysterious figure.