po PE PAUL was solemnly crowned in Rome as 262nd Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church nine years ago today. More than 300,000 Romans and pilgrims, the representatives of 100 nations and international organisations, royalty and one-time royalty gathered to watch what would prove to be the last of the "triumphalistic" enthronements in the history of the Catholic Church.
For Pope Paul has disbanded the Noble Guard, with their gleaming golden horsehair-tailed helmets; moved the Pontifical Gendarmerie into mufti; sent the ostrich plumes to
mothball oblivion. and generally thrown the glittering kaleidoscope of pomp and ritual onto the scrapheap.
The new Pope had chosen June 30 for his coronation because it was the feast day of St. Paul the Apostle, whose name he had taken when elected in the Sistine Chapel on June 21.
Giovanni Battista Montini had always admired St. Paul and the way he had taken the spiritual Word to many lands. Today. nine years later, Paul the Pope has travelled many times further thar, Paul the Apostle on his missions throughout the world and is often referred to as "The Apostle on the Move."
When Pope Paul came to the throne he faced almost superhuman difficulties: .How to follow a Pope who had been one of the most colourful. even dramatic, of modern personalities : "everyone's grandfather."
A long list of imperatives for the future. Because of the brevity of his reign Pope John had little opportunity to accomplish his ambitions. These were now his legacy to his successor.
Vatican Council II, called by John, had given rise to boundless expectations in and outside the Catholic Church. It was Paul's duty and burden to lead in implementing these and they could scarcely have included more numerous, complex problems, ranging from sex to the secular complications of this possibly most confused decade in the history of world society.
In addition, he faced growing problems of the Church in a world population often described as "exploding" and a
theological crisis internal to the Church and which, although it had flared into the open at times within the first session of the Council, did not come to a head until after Paul's election.
Paul brought to this massive challenge widely acknowledg L,I, even unusual, gifts. The role he had played for religious and human society in the arduous pontificates of Pius XI and Pius XII was suddenly remembered.
It was further recognised that he brought to the Papacy personal qualities over and above those obtained from the years of official experience in Rome and in pastoral life.
These qualities would be of great advantage to the Church even though they often seemed a source of internal tensions and torment to the man himself.
Giovanni Battista Montini is
an intellectual and, therefore, a man capable of ideas and insights nourished by wide reading and lively association with university students.
He is also a man with a con
science so sensitive and keen that ideas and projects suggested by his intellect are weighed in the balance by his conscience with sincerity and
The decisions taken after such conflict between intellect and conscience have made him controversial and often the object of adverse criticism. There is no doubt but that in the future. as in the past. tension between a keen mind and a no less dear sense of responsibility will identify Paul as sometimes ambivalent, ultra cautious and slow to act.
Nonetheless, the will and the ability to act have been made abundantly clear in his efforts to implement Vatican Council II hopes and documents.
It would be impossible to establish an order of precedence among these hopes or the importance of the documents. Any representative list would include the following demands confronting the Church at the end of Vatican Council II:
1 — Sharing of responsibility within and even outside the hierarchy;
2 —recognition of the role of the so-called "local church" in communion with Rome; 2 — A positive approach to
4 -The internationalisation of the Curia; — Facing up to the pro 4-7 blems of peace, war and the under-development and inequities in the world community; 6— Streamlining Vatican procedures and improvement of Vatican communications; 7— The simplification, if not g "de-triumphalising" of Vatican court, ceremonial and usages, and 8— Modernisation of the liturgy.
Other demands can be listed, but no list could exclude any of these.
In his approach to, and
resolution of these typical mandates virtually imposed upon him, Pope Paul has had uneven success. On some points he has declared publicly the modest progress accomplished; on others he has taken tremendous initiatives.
Six years after the end of the Council, Pope Paul could point — but he does not — with very considerable pride to the progress he has made in implementing the wishes of the Roman Church's world-wide episcopate. Previous Councils were rarely implemented with such celerity.
This should have won for Pope Paul a very high degree of approval but this has rarely been forthcoming.
A survey of just what Pope Paul has accomplished in these nine years to meet these eight major issues shows: that the Vatican Council had endorsed collegiality and had implied two means of sharing responsibility : through episcopal conferences and the Synod of Bishops.
Individual prelates, such as Cardinal Leo Suenens of Belgium, and some prominent personalities had spoken and written of what they considered to be collegiality and what they called "co-responsibility."
Pope Paul was obviously aware of the theological justification for collegiality, but solicitude for his duties as well as the claims of the Hob, See and the Primacy made him instinctively cautious over illdefined sharing of responsibility.
As a result he has not merely encouraged conferences of bishops within individual nations but authorised them and also convened international Synods to supplement and advise, but not to oversee, the Roman Pontiff and his immediate collaborators in the Curia.
The first Synod inevitably discussed matters of procedure since it was a trial run (in fact the machinery still has not been broken in) but it also fac
ed questions on confusion in doctrines and doctrinal pluralism.
Pope Paul implemented every suggestion made by the Synod beginning with the creation of an International Theological Commission which functions in collaboration with the Holy Office (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith).
Collegiality was discussed because many bishops publicly wrote and spoke about ways and means of reconciling coresponsibility with the Primacy of Peter.
At the last Synod, Pope Paul placed two burning issues on the agenda: the priesthood and justice.
He had already taken a public position on celibacy, endorsed by almost the entire world episcopate, but he sought, through the Synod, for a clear definition of the nature and function of the priesthood of our times.
On justice, the Synod almost broke down several times as prelates waxed heated in discussing just how the Church should step in to help underdeveloped or oppressed peoples and nations.
There is need for a change in procedure, especially one that would permit bishops to
answer one another in direct confrontation. But these are growing-up pains.
Vatican Council II, in an effort to provide a counterpart to Vatican Council 1, had obviously stressed heavily the local church; not in opposition to the Primacy as elaborated and defined by Vatican I but as at the other end of an alternative of polar points within the Church: the Universal Church under Peter and the local churches under the rule of bishops who are the successors of the other apostles.
The Constitution on the Church was very clear on the nature of local churches: they were defined in terms of a diocesan bishop surrounded by a body of priests and by laity in communion with him. It even implied that Catholics are in communion with Rome through their individual bishop because he is in communion with Rome.
Since the Council bishops went home and began organising Conferences of Bishops, many imagine that the local church is a national church or a national conference of bishops. Phrases in and powers granted by other documents propagate this mistaken notion.
There . has been a mistaken tendency to absorb the individual bishop into the Conference which has the power. by a majority vote, to set the policy for the entire nation and which each bishop in his own diocese must implement.
This is a situation which Pope Paul has not yet clarified. One of the first history lessons lies in the words used by the Anglican Church in breaking
with Rome: "Ecclesia Anglica libera sit." (That the Anglican church may be free — from Rome). The heart of the heresy of Gallicanism is the concept of a French National Church. Pope Leo XIII had warned of the tendency toward an American National Church.
A situation has developed which could lead to the bishops of the dioceses coming to implement policies voted by national conferences in cases where more than half the conference would be composed of such auxiliaries.
Paul has approved of na
tional conferences as part of the reform of the Church. He has followed Vatican Council 11 in this, but there is need for clarification yet in that such conferences tend to become conferences of citizens within nations who happen to be bishops rather than of Catholic bishops within the individual nation.
Pope John XXIII projected a
very dramatic image of worldwide friendliness and, hence, ecumenism. He was the first Pope since the Reformation to meet an Archbishop of Canterbury and he opened the door to political meetings with the Communist world when he received a top Soviet political leader.
Pope Paul, seen by some as
more conservative than Pope John. has in fact moved fast and powerfully in promoting relations with the non-Catholic world.
Paul received the present Archbishop of Canterbury, not in his library as a distinguished guest, but in the Sistine Chapel. under the painting of the Last Judgment, as a fellow prelate and as though to say : "The two of us will have to face our God some time."
Similarly, most dramatically too, Paul has travelled beyond the traditional frontiers of Christianity and Judaism to implement many sections of the Vatican Council which stated that the Church should take cognisance of the entire world: believing and unbelieving in Christ.
His greatest reception was
probably in Bombay where, despite gloomy prophecies that he faced dangers over his opposition to birth control and abortion, he was welcomed by Hindu. Mahommedan and Parsee as a very holy man.
And in Geneva he faced the Assembly of the World Council of Churches and calmly announced: "My name is Peter."
For this he received the acclaim of the WCC president, Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, who said: "Here is one Catholic priest who has no crisis of identity. He knows exactly who he is."
It is significant too that Pope Paul in recent months has received Jewish rabbis, Buddhist monks from India
and Japan, clergy of various confessions from all over the Christian and non-Christian, even pagan, world. In so far as his approach to
the internationalisation of the Curia is concerned. Pope Paul has made it perfectly clear throughout that his aim is not to de-Romanise but to de ltalianise the Curia. One by one he has appointed heads of Congregations. traditionally Italian, from other nations.
The highest post in the Holy See, the Secretariat of State, is held by a Frenchman, Cardinal Jean Villot. Another Frenchman, Cardinal GabrielMarie Garrone. heads the Congregation for Catholic Education.
The key position in the Congregations. that of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (ex-Holy Office) is held by Cardinal Franjo Seper, a Yugoslav v'
prelate from what might be called the Orthodox-Roman Catholic frontier, who is equally sensitive to the overtones of both confessions.
Cardinal John Wright, an American, heads the Congregation for the Clergy; Cardinal
Angelo Rossi, a Brazilian.
heads the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples (former Propagation of the
Faith), and his three archbishop secretaries are an Italian. an Indian and a Black African.
Cardinal Jan Willebrands. a Dutchman, heads t h e Secretariat for Christian Unity: a Belgian, Cardinal Maxirnillien de Furstenberg, heads the Congregation for the Oriental Church; a Spaniard, Cardinal Arturo Tabera Araoz, heads the Congregation for Divine Worship and a Pole, Mgr. Boleslwe Filipiak, heads the Holy Roman Rota.
What about the lower levels, the men who act as secretaries, researchers and, as some imply, those who actually do the work? Well, the very important Pontifical Commission for Social Communications has, for example, been placed in the hands of an American. Archbishop Edward Heston.
This bears on a question that is often asked. And the fact that, so far, relatively few nonItalians hold such secondary and third level positions is neither the fault of Pope Paul nor of the Vatican. It never has been.
What is notorious in Rome is how American, French, Latin American, German and other bishops find ways and means of avoiding the release of their talented priests for service in Rome. In addition, priests outside Italy usually prefer to live in their own countries and do not find living conditions and salaries in Rome attractive.
Paul has certainly streamlined Vatican procedures. The heads of Congregations meet regularly with the Secretary of State in a sort of Cabinet meeting. Issues that once moved slowly from in-tray to out-tray now are settled in face-to-face talk. And the very recent review of reforms is highly significant.
Pope Paul is also solidly on the side of liturgical reform to the great dismay of the Old Guard, including those who deserve well of him and whom he gre4tly respects, such as Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, who actually crowned him, and the late Cardinal Bacci, the Latinist of the Church.
Paul's record of implementing the wishes expressed by Vatican Council II is clear and he has been uncompromising in putting these Council "orders" into effect. But, as in everything, he shows caution and plans carefully each move ahead, stepping forward only when he feels that the ground behind has been consolidated.
Such caution and care inevitably meet opposition both from those who would like him to move faster, without forethought, and from those who think he is moving too fast. Criticism. it would seem now after nine years. is not likely to cause him to change his method.