By Guglielmo Rospigliosi
(Summary Translation from Italian)
Vatican City – Two important events in the Vatican this week: the fourth meeting between Gromyko and Paul VI and the clear position of the Italian bishops on the issue of divorce.
For the Church the problem of the referendum has been overcome by clear condemnation of the Baslini – Fortuna Law. The attitude of the Catholics vis-a-vis the referendum thus becomes a logical consequence.
As it can be seen, it reflects basically a neutral position or at least the best possible neutral position within the framework of the referendum and according to affirmations received the same can be said of the Pontiff’s meeting with Gromyko. Neutrality at the conference on European security, neutrality in the Middle East and some prelate – maybe one of the pessimistic type – even went so far as to say: neutralization of Europe. We must say that the mere fact of discussing it, of accepting it as a possibility among the present circumstances could be interpreted by both the Russians and their satellites and in the countries occupied by them as the beginning of a process of yielding which would be of disadvantage to the other Western countries.
To them belongs Europe in the first place and all the other countries of the free world.
The present Pope’s contact with Gromyko began on San Francesco’s Day, that is, nine years ago, on October 4, 1965 in New York. Paul went to the U.N. for an informal meeting with the Soviet Foreign Minister which he however defined as “very much desired”. He was surprised at his interlocutor’s warm-heartedness, frankness and sympathy, qualities that apparently were hard to discern in Gromyko’s usual photographs.
Then, on April 27, 1966, there was a second meeting between Paul and Gromyko, this time in the Vatican which was kept very secret. The third meeting took place on November 12, 1970 likewise in the Vatican.
Last week’s meeting, however, has obviously been the most compelling one inasmuch as it represented the culmination of a series of numerous contacts between the representatives of the Holy See and those of the Soviet Union or other Communist countries. Of course, it concerned no longer a tentative to find some common base of discussion. Its purpose was to continue a dialogue that had been started a long time ago and whose results were: messages to Ho Chi Minh during the war in Vietnam, the sacrifice of bishops (Cardinal Slipyj and Cardinal Mintszenty and not to speak at all of Tchidimbo (?) on whom the most absolute silence is still observed) in times of peace and non-interference in Italian problems dealing with issues – such as divorce – that could separate Catholics from Communists. On the latter, indeed, the Vatican is non-committal – the bishops do not talk much judging at least from what they substantially have said so far on it although there are some especially Cardinal Siri, who pointed out that it would be a big blunder on their part not to speak of it at all.
Summarized by Paul Vidal