NORMALLY, in this centre of the Catholic Church, it is the absence of Latin in these post-Conciliar days that is the most striking feature of virtually every church in the city.
Consequently, it was almost with nostalgia that we attended the Memorial Service Mass last Sunday evening in the English Church of San Silvestro-in-Capite.
Only the sermon and the readings were in English. The Scots College seminarians provided the choir and the organist, while the Venerable .English College and the Beda College took charge of the arrangements as servers and ushers.
The setting for this commemoration of the dead in both World Wars was striking. San Silvestro is one of the most beautiful churches in Rome and is the earliest church in the capital to be specifically dedicated to the English-language faithful.
This church has had a turbulent history. The saga of the Papal States begins and ends with this Church to a certain degree. It was built originally by Pope Paul I, on the site of that Pope's home in Rome, where he and his brother Stephen, the only brothers ever to succeed one another to the throne of Peter, had been brought up. The two brothers founded the Papal States for the'defence of Rome.
When Rome fell in 1870, Garibaldi, "the Italian Liberator", stabled his horses in the courtyard of San Silvestro and confiscated the adjacent convent in which to barrack his troops. The former convent today is Rome's main post office.
There were hundreds of English people living in Rome at that time and they had no church of their own in which to worship. Father Whitney. the only English General of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, cared for their spiritual needs and Cardinal Howard and Archbishop Stoner would preach on Sundays whenever they could find a church.
This proved an unsatisfactory situation and negotiations were started to secure San Silvestro, which had been closed after Garibaldi's occupancy. for the English-speaking inhabitants and pilgrims. Finally. Pope Leo XIII was persuaded to grant it in perpetuity to the Pallottine Fathers as a permanent home for the English Catholics.
This church has undergone many modifications and rebuildings since it was originally erected by Pope Paul I as a sanctuary for the relics of Christians lying in the many catacombs then being ravaged by vandals. Many of the early martyrs, including five popes, are buried under its floor.
By the 15th century San Silvestro, like St. Peter's. was crumbling. As in St, Peter's. Michelangelo was called in to help in the decoration of the reconstructed church. From Florence he sent the design for the High Altar whioh today dominates San Silvestro.
Extensive repairs were again carried out between 1961 and 1963. when the foundations began to give way and the cupola cracked. San Silvestro was reopened on November i 1963, by Cardinal Luigi
Traglia, then pro-vicar of Rome. Then, a year-and-a-half later, Pope Paul named an English cardinal — John Carmel Heenan of Westminster — as the first English titular of San Silvestra-in-Capite.
Sunday's Commemoration Mass, which followed an ecumenical service that morning at the British War Cemetery in Rome. saw representatives, clerical and lay, of many ,of Britain's former empire attending. as well as religious and civic leaders now living in Rome "The Mass was concelebrated by the college rectors and the sermon was delivered by the vice-rector of the Bede. Prominent among the religious present were Abbot Rudesind Brookes, Procurator General of the English Order of Benedictines and a veteran of both World Wars who had lived through the siege of Malta, and Father General Nicholas Gorman, Irish Superior of the Pallottines.
Desmond John Chetwode Crawley, British Minister to the Holy See; Ambassador Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee of Malaysia and Grand Chancellor Quintin Jeremy Gwyn, a Canadian, of the Knights of Malta attended the Mass.
After Holland, Italy too has a new catechism for the young which, although not yet banned, is being questioned and heavily criticised.
This new catechism, written by Don Marino Gandelli, a young priest from Bergamo, the late Pope John XXIII's conservative home town, has been published by a Bologna editor — a progressive Catholic publisher.
Mgr. Albino Luciani, Patriarch of Venice, has stated flatly that this catechism is "a worse text than the Dutch catechism", and both Venice and Bari. in the deep south, have joined with the archdiocese of Milan in banning its adoption in their religious communities.
The charges raised against the catechism claim that it is virtually heretical in that it downgrades the role of the Pope and the episcopate within the Church.
Don Gandelli, who is a graduate of the Brussels "Lumen Vitae" institute, says he wrote his catechism for children between the ages of six and eleven, "and for the guidance of their parents", after conducting officially authorised experiments in the Bergamo diocese and in the nearby Swiss canton of Ticino.
The Congregation for the Clergy. of which Cardinal John J. Wright is Prefect, has been sent copies of this catechism together with the comolaints.
It is considered unlikely that there will he any formal denunciation of this catechism. however. Drastic measures such as were applied in the case of the original Dutch catechism for Adults and, more recently, in that of the "Experimental Catechism for Children" are unnecessary in Italy.
A mere withdrawal of support from the diocesan bishops plus a warning to Catholic libraries usually suffices to cause publishers to abandon further sales.