ALAN McELWA1N REPORTING AGREAT RED tide flowed through Rome the day they buried 71-yearold Palmiro Togliatti, leader of the Italian Communist Party. The hammer and sickle thrust skywards on thousands of staves, vastly outnumbered the crosses on the city's more than 400 churches, and column upon column of red flags, waving and billowing in bright sunshine proclaimed a one-day Communist "takeover" of the Holy City.
had urged all 24.000 Party branches throughout Italy to send delegates and standardbearers to Rome for a last salute to Togliatti. Hundreds of thousands of comrades poured in by special trains and buses: others walked the hot and dusty miles from places nearer the city.
By early morning on the day of the funeral. Rome was packed with coadess. collarless workers. Shops were closed. traffic was diverted. Every inch of parkland along and about the funeral route was massed with people and messed with the wrappings and remnants of "picnic" melds.
Communist Party headquarters, in a street picturesquely called "The Way of the Darkened Shops". where Togliatti had lain in State, is not far from Piazza Venezia, dominated by the great white monument to King Victor Emmanuel III. irreverently known as "the Wedding Cake". It made a tremendous backdrop to the Communist thousands. banners unfurled. who waited there for the twomile funeral procession to And also looking down upon them, ironically enough, was the little balcony of the nearby Palazzo Venezia., from which Benito Mussolini once bellowed at his Fascist mobs. The Communists hated him and them: it was Communists who finally assassinated him and some who marched for Togliatti had taken a personal hand in those last grim days of Fascism.
Salutes and Crosses ONL OF THE most astonishing sights was on the wide Via dei Fori Imperiali, leading from Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum. There, hundreds of huge wreaths, of red. white, yellow, crimson and golden flowers. sent in by various Party branches, were lined up ready to be carried in the procession. They looked like sonic fantastic mobile garden and were outshone in brilliance only by line upon line of heraldic banners bearing the coat of arms and motto of
cities and towns throughout Italy.' Many bore saints' names—St. Joseph, St. John, St. Stephen . .
More than half a million people lined the funeral route. As Togliatti's coffin went by, banners were lifted high; women moaned, men wept. Many comrades thrust out clenched right fists in the Red salute, Many also crossed themselves. as they would at Catholic funeral rites. The same thing had happened over and over again at Togliatti's Lying in State; the Sign of the Cross amid the emblems of anti-Christ. It is a strange Italian political enigma that many Mass-going Catholics vote Communist.
The final great gesture to Togliatti came in the vast Piazza San Giovanni. Here again was a colossal spectacle, with the nsighty forces of Godlessness arrayed before the great and sacred Basilica of St. John Lateran — the Pope's "cathedral" as Bishop of Rome.
Togliatti was buried privately in the non-Catholic portion of the predominantly Catholic Vera no cemetery, where the Church of San Lorenzo outside the wall also is—the church which was bombarded during the war and to which Pope Pius XII hurried to comfort his people.
Italian Communist Party
headquarters say they hope later to transfer Togliatti's remains to the Protestant Cemetery, near the St. Paul Gate in Rome. It is famous for having the graves of the poets Keats and Shelley. and there a great Communist hero of wartime days. Antonio Ciramsci. is also buried. The comrades would like Togliatti to rest near him, The Protestant Cemetery is traditionally for non-Italians and the party executive were unable to complete the necessary formalities for Togliatti's burial there in time for his funeral last week, Better view in sight SUPPOSE it is. a pity in a way that the Sisters of Charily of St. Vincent de Paul are to lose those huge white cornet/es that have identified their fine Order for centuries,
On the other hand. for purely practical reasons, • I will not be sorry to see them go. Whenever it has been my lot to attend important church ceremonies, eight times out of 10 I have found myself seated right behind rows of these "aeroplane" nuns, whose massed camases formed a Linen Curtain as impregnable as the Iron or any other kind.
I recall once in Westminster Cathedral that corneues in serried ranks entirely blocked out (for me) the view of all that was occurring in the spacious and raised Sanctuary. This takes some doing, but done it was.
It should be better fr011t 11014' on with the nuns in their simplified habit. But pause. Have the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul an exceptionally large percentage of tall nuns? We could be back where we started . . .
Pope John film YOUNG ITALIAN FILM director Errnanno Olmi says he is going to make a film about the late Pope John, to be. e called "A Man Came
Olmi is quoted as saying that he had hoped to get Sir Alec Guinness for the leading part. "but the great English actor. who was converted to Catholicism a few years ago, is under a long-term contract to appear on Broadway, New York" (where he is playing Dylan Thomas).
Olmi says he now hopes to get Spencer Tracy, although that noted actor's health has not been good lately.
The script of the film is by Vincenzo La Bella, a young student of Vatican affairs, who is also consultant to the Italian Radio and Television Corporation (RAI) when it is covering Ecumenical Council sessions.
Olmi has already taken some shots for the film at Sotto il Monte, Pope John's birthplace in Bergamo province. More will be made in Bergamo, and also at Rome: Venice, where Pope John was Patriarch before he succeeded Pope Pius XII; Paris, where he was Papal Nuncio; and Istanbul and Sofia. where he was Apostolic Delegate.
A tailor's trick
()NE OF THE last jobs 615-y ear-old Luigi Aldrighetti did before refiring front tailoring was make a well-fitting priest's soutane. It was for himself.
Thereafter, he en llllll uted
daily by train from his native Ferrara to Milan, two hours assay, vvearinig an old ordinary tisilian suit anti carrying the clerical outfit in a small hag, Its the Milan railway station washrooms, he would change into the soutane, then do a round of Milan shops, soliciting alms "for the needy missions". At the end of a hard day's trickery, be would return to the statiou, change into his old suit and go home to count his takings.
Police finally caught him. He explained that he had taken up begging because he wanted to "redeem himself".
He is in gaol now, pending Irial on charges of fraud, impersonation and begging.