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Page 2, 1st November 1958

1st November 1958
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Page 2, 1st November 1958 — POPE JOHN THE TWENTY-THIRD
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POPE JOHN THE TWENTY-THIRD

A NGELO CARDINAL RONCALLI, Patriarch of Venice and Cardinal Priest of the title of Santa Prisca, was elected to the See of Peter at the twelfth ballot, and the decision of the Conclave was made known to a great multitude of people in the Piazza di San Pietro late in the afternoon of Tuesday, October 28th. Cardinal Canali, as the senior of the Cardinal Deacons, announced the news in traditional form, his voice strong and resonant despite the rumours of his illness during the Conclave, and the new Pope came to the portico of St. Peter's to give the blessing urbi et orbi amid the thunderous acclamations.

The new Pope ,revived a custom that had not been followed by his predecessor, in placing his 'Cardinal's zuchetto upon the head of the Secretary of the Conclave, Monsignor di Jorio, when the white papal zuchetto was placed upon his own head. It was so that Merry del Val became a Cardinal, after he had served as Secretary of the Conclave which elected St. Pius X.

The election of Pope John XXIII will inevitably recall that election fifty-five years ago, of his predecessor as Patriarch of Venice who became St. Pius X ; and the two Popes have indeed more in common than their years at Venice. Both came of North Italian peasant stock, and both desired nothing more than to be able to follow a pastoral vocation—for that was the hope of Pope John XXIII, who, despite his years as an envoy of the Holy See in other co-antries, was glad in 1953, we venture to say, to be given an alternative to the service of the Roman Curia, when the Patriarchate of Venice unexpectedly became vacant and he was sent there instead.

There have been many conjectures that the new Pope has chosen his name as a compliment to the French, among whom he served the Holy See for eight years and for whom his affection is both profound and reciprocated. It is pointed out that Pope John XXII was a Frenchman ; but he was by no means the last or the most distinguished of the French Popes, and the simpler truth seems to be that the new Pope has taken his name from his father, who was Giovanni-Battista Roncalli.

Pope John XXIII is a heavily built man, not tall, with a reputation for being cheerful and, indeed, jovial, but not easily excited ; taking pleasure in meeting people and talking to them, but slow to commit himself if the subject of conversation should be in any way controversial. He said in Venice that he could never refuse anyone who wanted to see him, "because I must think that whoever calls on me might also be coming to confess his sins." It is recorded that during his ceremonial entry into Venice by gondola he lost no time in making cheerful conversation with the gondoliers. While he was in France he liked to travel about the country as much as possible ; and he went similarly to North Africa. He made these travels in France not only for formal occasions but also when he was unexpected and often unrecognised by those whom he met. As it was in France so it had been in the Balkans, and the new Pope brings to the Holy See not only great diplomatic experience and the reputation of a man who has exercised his diplomacy in the cause of reconciliation, but also an intimate first-hand knowledge of how everyday life is lived and how ordinary people think and behave alike in Western and in Eastern Europe. Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli was born on November 25th, 1881; he will keep his seventy-seventh birthday in a little more than three weeks' time, and is older at the time of his election to the See of Peter than any of his predecessors for more than two hundred years. The beloved disciple lived to a great age, but, of more than a score of Popes who took his name in the early and medieval centuries, only four occupied the See of Peter for as much as ten years.

Pope John XXIII is the third of the thirteen children of a small farmer in the little village of Sotto il Monte, "under the mountain," in Lombardy, not far from Bergamo, on the river Adda. His nieces and nephews are said to number thirty-five. One of his brothers and• two of his sisters live at Sotto il Monte, still on the holding which the Roncalli family have cultivated for five hundred years ; and two other brothers live close at hand, also as small farmers. The family has been well known in those parts ever since Martino Roncalli came from the nearby Imagna valley in the fifteenth century and built himself a house, the Casa Martino, of which the name survives locally to this day, as Camartino. On the walls of this house Martino Roncalli, although not of noble birth, painted a coat of arms for himself : a tower on a field of red and white stripes ; and this, surmounted by the Lion of St. Mark, to show that its holder came to the Holy See from Venice, is the coat-of-arms of the new Pope ; the motto beneath is " Obedienta et Pax."

The Early Years Angelo told his father at the age of eleven that he wanted to become a priest, and forthwith entered the minor seminary at Bergamo ; from the major seminary he proceeded in 1900 to Rome, where he gained his doctorate in theology from the Cerasola College in 1904.

He was ordained priest in Rome in that year, in the church of Santa Maria in Monte Santo on August 10th, and he offered his first Mass in St. Peter's on the following day. For another year he remained in Rome, and then he returned to the diocese of Bergamo to spend the years before the outbreak of the first world war as secretary to one of the greatest Bishops of Bergamo, and indeed of all Italy in his day, Monsignor Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi, "the polar-star of my priesthood," as he later said, and whose biographer he later became. Many were the innovations, we are told, not striking now but novel then, such as the encouragement of regular parish magazines, which the Bishop introduced and in which his secretary assisted. The Bishop was keenly interested in social questions, and used to go every year to France for the Semaines Sociales, taking with him his secretary, whose special affection for the French dates from those early years of his priesthood.

Between his twenty-third and thirty-third birthdays, the young Father Roncalli was also teaching Church history and apologetics, and, • later, patristics, in the seminary at Bergamo where he had himself studied, and was finding time as well for a great deal of scholarly research of his own. His first published work, which appeared just fifty years ago, was a study of Cardinal Baronius, the successor of St. Philip Neri as head of the Roman Oratory and, what was no less congenial to the mind of Father Roncalli, a great historian. But his magnum opus, begun in those years at Bergamo and published in five volumes between 1936 and 1952, was an account of the Apostolic Visitation of the seminary at Bergamo by St. Charles Borromeo, of which the record is preserved in forty manuscript volumes in the Ambrosian Library in Milan. Whenever he had time he used to travel the forty-odd miles to Milan to pursue his researches, and there he became the friend of the Prefect of the Ambrosian Library, Monsignor Achille Ratti, the future Pope Pius XI, under whom he was later to enter the diplomatic service of the Church. Another product of those researches before the first world war was a study of the history of charitable work in the diocese of Bergamo, published in 1912; and later, in Bulgaria and Turkey, he published a good deal on Eastern Christianity ; writing has always come more naturally to him than oratory.

1914-1925 Father Roncalli was called to the colours in the first world war, spending a year as a sergeant in the Italian medical corps and serving then as a chaplain, with the rank of lieutenant, in various military hospitals. After the war he returned for three years to Bergamo, where his activities were many-sidedt He was the founder of the city's first Catholic students' centre—the word " student " in this case referring mainly to schoolchildren —and did much work among older students, arranging lectures and conferences for them. He organised the diocese's first association of Catholic women ; he was a pioneer, in short, of what was then just coming to be known as Catholic Action, in a phrase already familiar to which Pius XI was beginning to give new meaning. It is recorded that he was instrumental in obtaining the introduction, for the first time, of religious instruction in the teachers' training college in Bergamo. In 1920 there was a Eucharistic Congress there, and he was the principal speaker, on "The Eucharist and the Madonna."

Benedict XV, in the last year of his pontificate, called Monsignor Roncalli—then over forty, and a Domestic Prelate and an honorary Canon of Bergamo—to Rome, to take over, under the Congregation of Propaganda, the direction in Italy of the Association for the Propagation of the Faith, of which the headquarters had lately been brought from Lyons to Rome. This sent him travelling, to visit the principal centres of this work not only in all parts of Italy but also in France, Belgium and Holland ; but he found time in this period nevertheless to teach patristics in the Lateran Seminary, as well as to assist whenever possible in parish work.

Ten Years in Bulgaria On March 3rd, 1925, it was announced that Pius XI had appointed Monsignor Roncalli to the titular See of Areopolis, as an Archbishop pro hac vice, in order to send him as Apostolic Visitor to Bulgaria. He received his episcopal consecration at the age of forty-three on March 19th, 1925, at the hands of Cardinal Tacci, Secretary of the Congregation for the Eastern Church.

Archbishop Roncalli remained in Bulgaria for ten years ; as Apostolic-Visitor until October 16th, 1931, and thereafter as the first Apostolic Delegate to that country. It fell to him to express the mind of the Holy See when, in 1930, King Boris of Bulgaria, having made the usual promises upon his marriage to Princess Giovanna of Italy, followed his wedding in the Catholic rite with another in the Orthodox rite : and he was required by the Holy See to make a second protest when, three years later, the first child of the marriage was baptised into the Orthodox Church. He became fluent in the Slavonic languages, including Russian, during that time ; Pius XII, with his great gift for languages, never knew the Slavonic ones, and John XXIII is perhaps the first Pope to speak Russian.

Ten Years in Turkey On November 15th, 1934, Archbishop Roncalli was appointed Apostolic Delegate to Turkey and Greece and Administrator of the Latin Rite Vicariate of Constantinople. On November 30th he was translated to the titular See of Mesembria, and on January 6th, 1935, he arrrived in Istanbul. For a further ten-year period he remained in Turkey, where he was all through the war years until, on November 22nd, 1944, his appointment as Nuncio to France was announced. He was popular with the Turks, not least for encouraging the use of the Turkish language in the devotions of the small number of Latin-rite Turkish Catholics ; and when he was raised to the Sacred College, more than eight years after leaving Turkey, the Turkish Government sent him a message of congratulation. He continued in Istanbul that interest in the Christian East which he had developed in Bulgaria, and which showed itself in much writing. He was the friend as well as the neighbour of the Oecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, with whom he exchanged many courtesies. It was a tribute to the good relationship he had built up that the Oecumenical Patriarch sent a representative to the coronation of Pope Pius XII in 1939; something that had never happened before, but which followed from the Apostolic Delegate's courteous notification to the Patriarch of the new Pope's election.

Nuncio in France Archbishop Roncalli presented his credentials to General de Gaulle, as Prime Minister in the provisional Government of the Fourth Republic, on New Year's Day, 1945. He undertook a delicate mission whefi he became Nuncio in Paris, before the war in Europe had ended and when there was much bitterness in France against those, including some of the Bishops and some of the clergy, who had identified themselves with the Vichy regime and had seemed to give it more of their support than necessity warranted. That the transition from those years to the post-war period was achieved with so little recrimination against the Church, in a time of many recriminations in every department of the life of France, was due to many factors, and especially to the prestige of some among the Bishops and clergy whose bearing under the occupation had made them national heroes ; but it was due not least to the tact and skill of the Nuncio. Especially is it due to him that only three changes in the French Hierarchy were necessary when the war was over ; for it had been expected that the Government would insist on more. He won, and he retains, the respect and friendship of the French nation and it was said with some confidence during the ConclaVe that the French Cardinals would certainly be willing to give their votes to Cardinal Roncalli. Before he left France in 1953 he entertained to luncheon all those who had been Prime Minister of France while he was there, a not inconsiderable company, together with other statesmen ; and his health was proposed in the most cordial terms by Edouard Herriot, who would hardly have expected to find himself in that position thirty years before. He has had frequent French visitors at Venice in these recent years, including on more than one occasion the former Socialist President of the Republic, M. Vincent-Auriol, who, in accordance with custom, conferred the red biretta upon the Nuncio in 1953, at the time of his elevation to the Sacred College.

In the second of the two Consistories in which Pius XII created new Cardinals, on January 12th, 1953, the name of Archbishop Roncalli was among those so elevated to the Sacred College. It seems that the intention of Pius XII was at first to call him to the Roman Curia ; but three days later he was appointed Patriarch of Venice in succession to Monsignor Agostini, who had died just before the Consistory at which he too was to have beeri made a Cardinal.

"I am more than seventy years old," he said in his first public address at St. Mark's in Venice, in March, 1953. "I am not young, but I find comfort in the thought that another citizen of Bergamo who became Patriarch of Venice when he was five years older than I am was granted enough time to establish himself as an active pastor and to write six books."

At Lourdes last March Last March Cardinal Roncalli returned to France, as the Legate of Pius XII at Lourdes on the feast of the Annunciation, when he consecrated the vast new underground basilica dedicated to St. Pius X, to mark the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady to St. Bernadette. This was not the first time he had left Venice as the Legate of Pius XII, for in the Marian Year of 1954 he went as Legate to a Marian Congress in Beirut, where he consecrated the Lebanon to Our Lady.

Politics in Venice It is not profitable to speculate on the political views of the new Pope, but one may. recall that at the time of the regional elections of 1956 there was some talk in Venice of an alliance between the Christian Democrats and, the Socialist followers of Signor Nenni, and that the Patriarch took the occasion to warn his people in a Pastoral Letter against the apertura a sinistra, the opening to the Left, the term used by those who pleaded that Catholics had no need of right-wing alliances, but could escape from them by finding common ground with Signor Nenni. He condemned those who maintained that politics, even pro-Communist politics, ought to be no concern of Bishops : "With regard to Catholics, this constitutes a serious mistake, and a flagrant violation of Catholic discipline. The mistake is that of practically sharing the Marxist ideology, which is the negation of Christianity. The violation of discipline lies in openly disobeying the living Church."

A Pastoral Letter at Easter, 1957, repeated this warning against co-operation with the parties of the Left. Last year also, in February, the Socialist followers of Signor Nenni held their party Congress in Venice ; the event attracted some attention in this country because a number of prominent members of the British Labour Party were among those present. The Cardinal Patriarch said that the visitors were to be given a friendly reception ; indeed, he received them himself ; but he also took the occasion again to remind the faithful that "a modern economic and social system cannot be solidly built on a foundation which is not that of Christ."

CONVERSATIONS IN PARIS

IN July Mr. Maudling suddenly started showing an optimism about the European Free TradeArea that made little sense to those who had been following the negotiations closely from the side lines. Knowledge of France's basic situation made it hard to believe that there had been enough change, even with the advent to power of General de Gaulle, to justify the PaymasterGeneral's abrupt change of mood.

Immediately before he had spoken of the breaking of the log jam, Mr. Maudling had apparently been talking in a far different strain, going even further than he is now reported to have done in Paris. But if he had broken off the negotiations in the summer, as he was said at one time to have threatened, he would have found it hard to justify his actions, and he no doubt recognised this. Having gone too far in one direction it thus suited him to find an excuse for turning back.

The alleged change in the French attitude provided such an opportunity. The fact that it' came so fortunately for Mr. Maudling does not prove that it was fancied rather than real. It is conceivable that General de Gaulle was initially impressed with the dangers of a political division in Europe arising out of British leadership in the fight against an unsupported common market, and that this governed his approach before he had grasped the economic position of his own country and understood the mood of the business community. This may then have been reflected in a more cautious attitude ' on the part of the French officials, who would have had enough sense to play the bull rather than take him by the horns.

In that case the British mistake was in forgetting that General de Gaulle had a soldier's training. He is well known to be a stubborn man, but he would not have got as far as he did in the Army if his stubbornness and determination had precluded the ability to reassess a situation in the light of increased or rectified intelligence reports. Mr. Maudling knew, or should have known, enough about France to predict what the normal reaction to proposals such as the British would be, and he should know also that the only way to bring about a change of mind would be by the use of main force. Thus accusations of dividing Europe were not very fair.

The row over the free trade area is not one of the subjects to which the General would have given much thought during his long rustication in Colombey-lesDeux-Eglises. Coming fresh to the problem, aware of the need for co-operation with his allies in the fields where it was possible to make it easier to disagree with them in the others, and determined not to be hampered by the immobilisme of the preceding years, he might reasonably be expected to act in such a way as to give Mr. Maudling at least temporary justification for his optimism. Whether in practice he did so, or whether Mr. Maudling's _ optimism was largely subjectively generated, is a subject on which the history books may enlighten us in years to come ; but at the moment the evidence is lacking.

The question, in any case, is somewhat academic now that the Paymaster-General has decided to imitate M. Spaak, in not very appropriate circumstances. The plain truth is that, however much a French Premier may like to see a healing of the breach with Great Britain over this issue, the basic change of French attitude to which Mr. Maudling was looking forward was out of the question and remains out of the question. From the French point of view the arguments against a free trade area as proposed by the British Government are too strong for it to be reasonable to expect them to accept it willingly. That does not mean there will be no treaty, for the accent is on " reasonable " and "willingly."

At the moment of writing the outcome of Mr. Maudling's new and more forceful tactics remains in doubt. He has in effect threatened to organise an economic reply to the Common Market countries if they do not give in, in spite of the fact that France is reported to be ready to make concessions that would safeguard Britain's position in an interim period. The Paymaster-General may succeed in dragooning the six, or five of them, into some form of agreement to which the French will have to subscribe against their will. But it will be a shot-gun wedding of doubtful validity, and in future we may have to ask ourselves whether it was all worth while. The value of an agreement such as Mr. Maudling is seeking depends very much on the spirit in which it is executed, and it would not be surprising in the end to find that the French considered themselves bound only by the narrowest interpretation of the letter, at least until their trading position is much improved, in some years to Come.

There have been one or two remarks recently about the success of the French in negotiating from a position of weakness both in the discussion that preceded the two Rome treaties and in the attempts to find a common policy towards the free trade area among the six Messina countries. This may be an effective debating point, but it is no more than that because it loses sight of essential elements in the situation.

Economically France is weak, though the weakness is likely to be temporary. But the effort to achieve European integration through the various plans was political before it was economic and politically France is essential to any such effort. She is not the weakest but the strongest member of any negotiating team, because she is indispensable and because the original seed from which the whole thing grew. was French.

The great heresy of Mr. Maudling and the rest is their. economic interpretation of current history — an error which they recognise by attempted denials such as that in Mr. Maudling's most recent interview with Le Monde. For them the economic side is really the end, whereas, for M. Monnet, M. Schuman, Dr. Adenauer and their company it is the means — enormously important, but still secondary.

THE WEEK IN PARLIAMENT By Litotes The splendours of the State Opening always make for happiness on the first day of the session and last Tuesday was no exception. But some parliamentarians are having second thoughts about the television cameras, and one hears the suggestion that their intrusion should be limited to one session in each Parliament. The peers have shown great fortitude in accepting women into their ranks and the entire nation into their Chamber ; they ought not to be tried too far.

The magnificence at the other end of the building made the Commons seem a little drab when it turned to look at the Queen's Speech. A single topper (Sir Harold Webbe's) and a few morning coats served only to emphasise the ordinariness of the elected House, but the opening speeches of the backbench mover and seconder of the Loyal Address provided a felicitous beginning to the labours of the session.

Mr. Peter Thomas, the mover, is a Conservative with a Welsh seat, a rare phenomenon. He spoke with charm of Conway, claiming it as the most beautiful constituency in the country and welcoming the English visitors "whom we profitably embrace." He was followed by another young Member, Mr. David Price whose seat (majority 545) is even less secure. The Eastleigh division of Hampshire, we were told, "lacks smart political pedigrees" but there is no doubt that it has a very smart Member. Mr. Price is an economist with a history degree who works in the chemical industry. He reminded the House that the men in industry had souls and quoted Lewis Mumford's "If you fall in love with a machine there is something wrong with your love-life ; and if you worship a machine there is something wrong with your religion." There is nothing wrong with Mr. Price's religion.

After these pleasant preliminaries Mr. Gaitskell made his first skirmishing attack on the Government's plans for the session. He remarked that any anxieties he might have had about the effect of televising the State Opening departed when he had listened to the Queen's Speech, "a statement of stale platitudes." He berated the Government's foreign and economic policies and produced some damaging figures to show that its proposed pension scheme offers worse value for money than private superannuation schemes. The leader of the Opposition was very much at his ease and he won a full-throated cheer when he sat down.

Mr. Macmillan's confident enthusiasm seemed all the more potent after a hard-working recess. "There is no tailing off" he said of the Government, "no diminution of our energies, no staleness, no weariness of office, no unseemly scuttle from power and responsibility." The sentiments apply in full measure to himself. He drew an optimistic picture of the economic future finding much cause for satisfaction in factors ranging from the high rate of saving to "the healthy and encouraging prognostications of the political future periodically and, we hope, accurately provided by Dr. Gallup." His survey did not exclude some digs at the Opposition and he was particularly brazen in defence of his intention to increase the number of cars that may be used during elections.

There is plenty of matter for acrimony in the new programme and it is likely to be sharp, but in the first da,ys good humour is generally uppermost. Mr. Hector Hughes got in the first reference to Lord Montgomery ; Mr. Iremonger asked for compensation for the victims of crime ; Mr. Freeth thought the programme workmanlike ; Mr. Gresham Cooke thought a shareholding democracy was the answer to Communism ; Mr. Allaun thought the answer was for Britain to stop nuclear tests, permanently, unconditionally and forthwith. The Government does not lack advisers.

THE QUEEN'S MESSAGE TO THE POPE Queen Elizabeth II sent this message, on learning of the election of Pope John XXIII : "I should like to express to Your Holiness my warm congratulations on your election, and to send you my best wishes for your health and welfare in the discharge of the exalted duties to which you have been called. ELIZABETH R."