An age of opportunity for apostles
By the Most Rev.
JOHN CARMEL HEENAN Archbishop of Liverpool
THE way the British public received the news of the death of Pope Pius XII and the manner in which the press, radio, and television handled his funeral and the subsequent election and coronation of Pope John XXIII give rise to
What has happened to.make the Papacy top-line news ? Why did the news services in a predominantly Protestant country devote so many hours including what are called " peak viewing hours", to all these Catholic topics ? Let us see if we can find an answer.
The remote explanation is that public opinion underwent a significant change during the last pontificate. Undoubtedly newspapers and the broadcasting authorities will have received some criticism from anti-Catholics. But such critics were given little attention.
It may therefore be assumed that there was nothing in the nature of a storm of protest that ihe death of al Pope and the election of his successor were allowed to drive almost every other event from the headlines. For this we have every reason to be grateful.
ALTHOUGH it is true that healthy opposition can be a stimulant to faith no less than to business, the plain fact is that organised and powerful opposition does not help the cause of religion any more than active persecution. To carry out the work of the apostolate and bring a knowledge of the truth to our fellow countrymen we need to be accorded a sympathetic hearing.
Recent events have shown that Catholic news is news also for the non-Catholic public. That k important — and it is a sign of progress. So we must seek the reasons for this progress.
Still keeping to remote causes we recall that the second world war brought Catholics into closer contact with their non-Catholic friends. They fought side by side in the three services and Catholics won awards for valour out of all proportion to their numbers.
Common danger brought all conditions and creeds together and on the home front no less than in the fighting forces Catholics were seen to be hearing their full share in the struggle to defend this country. Bigotry was given an almost mortal blow by the willing co-operation of Catholics with their fellow citizens in every department of national life during the critical years which followed 1939.
BUT 1939 was not only the year of the outbreak of the second world war. It was also the year of the election of Cardinal Pacelli to the See of Peter.
It is almost commonplace to note how wonderfully God has provided during this century the Sovereign Pontiff perfectly suited to meet the challenge of his times. It is obvious that a saint was needed when modernism threatened to stifle the authentic voice of Christian truth.
God raised up the saintly Pius X to resist the poison of heresy and to enable Catholics to live a fuller sacramental life. St. Pius X is known as the Pope of the Eucharist, and no man can judge to what extent the present flourishing spiritual life of the Church is due to his pastoral activity.
Benedict XV, a quiet diplomat, was the head of the Church on earth when the first world war changed for ever the old civilised order. -That he was celled proGerman by the allies and proBritish by the Germans is a measure of his impartial rule. It is too soon to forget that it was Pope Benedict XV who introduced the first humanitarian move in the course of that bitter struggle by arranging the interchange of wounded prisoners-of-war.
WillT of Pius XI? he impact of the last Pope upon the whole world was so massive and the emotions • aroused by his death are so fresh that the memory of his predecessor is momentarily eclipsed. But he, too, was a Pope of no small stature.
The perspective of history may not leave him dwarfed by comparison with the later Pius. For in the unheroic atmosphere of uneasy peace he also had to withstand tyranny.
As documents in defence of freedom his Encyclical Letters Mit Brennender Sorge against Hitler ism, No A bbiarno Bisogno against Fascism, and Divini Redemptoris against atheistic Communism may well outlive any utterance of the recent glorious reign.
Who can forget his gesture, so much more than symbolic. in leaving the Eternal City when it 'was unhallowed by the visit of the German Ftihrer? The Vatican galgenies were closed. the church bells silenced and religious Rome was poi in mourning. From Castelgandolf o he publicly rebuked those who had bedecked Rome with the Nazi emblem.
"A crooked cross," he complained, "which is not the cross of Christ, is fluttering in the breeze above the holy City of Rome.' Well may Catholics cherish the memory of Pius XL Pope of the Missions and enemy of the foes of freedom.
THEN came Pius X11. He seemed almost capable of averting the tragedy of a new war. His ap
peal on the eve of its outbreak for statesmen to sit down in sober conference before committing their nations to the holocaust of war came near to success.
Countries like Great Britain, although by no means Catholicminded, were willing to answer the call of the Pope. His efforts to preserve peace failed only because the dictators were bent on having their war.
Once the war had begun the Holy Father was tireless in his efforts to prevent the voice of reason from being deadened by the clash of arms. Like Benedict XV in the first war. Pope Pius XII worked energetically to alleviate the distress of prisoners-of-war.
He set up offices in many countries, including our own, to trace the missing and bring news of them to their distressed relatives. He organised material relief for prisoners in both camps and his mercy was not measured by the religious beliefs of those in need.
He instructed Vatican workers in all lands to ask not if prisoners were Catholics but only if they were in need of help. In this way thousands of soldiers and their families learned that the Pope's mission of mercy was allembracing.
TREpersonality of the late Pope was perhaps the greatest of all his assets in bringing the Catholic Church to the favourable notice of the non-Catholic world. During the war soldiers of many nations were made welcome in the Vatican. Diplomats were given shelter when the city of Rome was under enemy occupation.
There were no accusations during the second war that the Pope was pro-German or pro-British. Never was neutrality more clearly maintained This did not mean that the Pope refrained from condemning excesses. It did mean that Catholic citizens wherever they lived were not fearful lest the Holy Father should be declared an enemy of their nation.
It may be well to reflect here that the statements of the Pope must always be guarded lest they bring suffering upon helpless Catholics. It is often said that papal pronouncements are too vague. Some Catholics would prefer to hear much more trenchant language from the Holy See.
But often fulminations from the Vatican would bring yet more suffering on the victims of oppression. The patience of the Holy See in treating with anti-religious powers is the result not of cowardice or love of compromise but of tong experience.
Nothing could be easier for the Pope, from the security of the Vatican, than to make offensive remarks to rulers. But citizens in their hands would be the victims. When condemnation of error and clear statement of truth are required the voice of the Vatican does not falter. But responsibility teaches good men the virtue of prudence.
MILLIONS of nonCatholics from all parts of the world were granted the privilege of an audience with Pope Pius XII, For this reason we can say that the Pope was the best known of all in his long line. Apart from those who actually met him there were countless millions who had seen him on television or heard his voice on the radio.
There was never a Pope since the Middle Ages more living to the men and women of his day. The well-known talent for languages of Pope Pius XII and his striking gift of friendliness did more even than his public utterances to win rempet and affection for him and his Church. When the late Pope died all civilised men. Protestant as well as Catholic, Jew no less than Christian, felt bereaved.
When the new Pope was elected the benevolence of the nonCatholic public was shown once more. The result of the election was awaited with astonishing interest even by those who normally have little interest in Catholic affairs. The weqld seemed to have come to realise that the person of the Sovereign Pontiff meant something to the world at large as well as to the Catholic flock.
When Cardinal Roncalli was elected the press immediately searched their records to find what could be said in his favour. Few commented on the fact that he is a man of nearly 80. There was a certain delicacy about non-Catholic reaction to his election which forebore to criticise the choice of an ageing man.
The world preferred to comment on the fact that he is a man who has proved himself wise and peace-loving. He has already shown himself to be a bridgebuilder—as a pontifex or Pope should be—in his dealings with Christians and non-Christians of the east and west.
ABOVE all, the televised ceremony showed Pope John XXIII to be a man of kindly disposition. Those not usually heard to praise a Pope could not fail to be attracted by his whole bearing during the long coronation ceremony.
Few who saw it will forget the