HOLI H E
By IGNATIUS PHAYRE
LESS than two months have elapsed since His Holiness drove out to Castel Gandolfo in quest of better health and relief from the sun-baked
Palace of the Vatican City. And ever since he entered on his eighty-second year in these cooler airs and lovely surroundings, the Pontiff has many times referred to his change of scene and labours as " quite providential."
One remembers his grave illness late in 1935 and early in 1936. Yet his villeggiatura here in the hills above the Lago Albano can be a " vacation " only in name. This tiny townlet of 2,200 kindly folks is just seventeen miles out of Rome; and I have it from the Papal chauffeur himself—Angelo Stoppa—that His Holiness is not averse from a turn of speed on the country roads.
Choice of Cars
" When the Holy Father goes motoring" (Signor Stoppa tells me) " he has a choice among five of the 250 motors which are registered with Vatican City plates as `S.C.V.' He owns an American Dodge and a French Citroen, as well as a Fiat, a Merce'cles and an Italian isotta-Fraschini. All of these are gifts from the faithful. To motor out here to the three-storey Villa Pontificia, we usually choose the Dodge sedan-car in which the back seat is replaced by a big throne-like chair, slightly raised from the floor and covered with rich red damask,
" Just in front of this is a small folding seat for .Mgr. Caccia-Dominioni, who is the Master of Ceremonies. His Holiness orders me to &Tile on the open road at about forty-five miles an hour—and seems to enjoy it! There may be a feW halts on. the way, but I do the trip in about forty' minutes from the .Piaaaa di San Pietro.
"His Holiness rarely speaks to me on the way out here, but gives his orders through special signals on the dashboard of our American car. Of these silent orders there are only four—for the Italian equivalents of Right ' and Left,' Stop,' and Home.' "
Out here at Castel Gandolfo the Holy Father has vastly more space than in his entire parent State of Vatican City. For on this ridge of the Alban Hills lie gardens and park lands over 1,000 acres in extent. Behind the Villa Pontificia (in which are the Pope's own quarters, with his Throne Room and an ante-chamber for the Swiss Guards) is the little Palazetto Cibo; and to the south-east rises the stately Palazzo Barberini itself. These buildings are linked by stone foot-bridges among the ilex avenues and rich olive, orange and lemon groves.
Here also is the famous " model farm of Pius XI, with his bees and chickens perfectly housed, as well as the 27 brown Swiss cows; these are stabled in an electrically-ventilated barn and are milked by the latest American machinery. The Pope's military household here consists of four Noble Guards who attend him during audiences, a picket of the Swiss Guards to act as sentries, and some twenty Papal gendarmes who take tactful duties among the fervid visitors of all classes who flock hither on two days of the week.
Rises at 6.30 His Holiness rises at 6.30 a.m. to say Mass in the private chapel, which is decorated with murals by the Polish painter, Jan Rosen. These modern frescoes deal with the religious history of Poland and the saving from the Bolshevik ravage of the famous picture known as the " Virgin of Czestochowa." It will be remembered that, shortly before his election, Pius XI was appointed Nuncio in Warsaw; and he has never forgotten his Polish experiences during that Russian invasion.
After Mass his simple breakfast is served—if possible on the shady terrace which looks outupon the glorious Roman Campagna on the one side, and the pellucid waters of Lago Albano on the other. His diet is prescribed by his own physician, Professor Aminta Milani—who, 1 am bound to say, has found this tireless Pontiff a somewhat " difficult " patient. His break fast consists of a large cup of milk with a dash of coffee in it, and a fresh roll or some brown bread and butter.
Work Starts After this the Pope adjourns to what he styles his " workroom." In that gracious study you will see the same writing desk that Pius IX used long ago, also the same revolving chair on which he sat —even the identical clock which chimed the hours when in December, 1854, that same Pope signed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The present Pontiff begins his day with audiences, and these take up the entire morning. The first is reserved for the State Secretariat personnel, with Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli received four days a week, and his two aides—Monsignori Montigni and Tardini— on the other two.
The seventh day is observed as a day of rest—though it is not Sunday, as may be imagined, but Monday when His Holiness does not grant audiences at all. Other Princes of the Church and certain prelates of Europe and overseas may follow, according to the so-called tabelia, or list of Papal
appointments or " collective " fixtures. Lay personages then have their turn; and public audiences are given on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
So it is not often that the Pope is free to take luncheon until. 2.30 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon. He invariably has a rice or vegetable soup, followed by a mixed dish of vegetables, with a little cheese and fruit to wind up the repast. Very rarely does His Holiness take wine, and that on the Austere Pauline principle — for his " stomach's sake." After lunch he rests quietly for half an hour or so in an armchair looking out over the lake. Then he summons Chauffeur Angelo Stoppa for a motor ride through the glorious Barberini woods and tranquil lanes. Between five and six His Holiness returns to the " workroom," there to go through his private correspondence with " secret " secretaries of long-tried efficiency and tact.
At 8.30 or 9 the Pope retires into his private chapel to recite the Rosary with members of his household. As late as 9.30 he dines on much the same dishes he partook of at luncheon—though a small portion of meat or chicken may then be added. Immediately after this last meal, accompanied by his two secretaries and the Papal Master of the Chamber, the Pope retires into the Private Apartments—again on the advice of his physician, Dr. Aminta Milani.
Then the doors are securely bolted and no one is admitted thereafter for any reason whatsoever. The Pontiff then reads for a while, to retire for the night at about 11 o'clock.
Last summer, I may add, his anxious medical attendant formed part of a little group who spent the night in these intimate salons. It is highly significant, however, that this precaution has now been dispensed with altogether, as a silent symptom of the Pope's restored health and vigour.