By RAFAEL DORANTES.
Now, in wartime, the Sovereign Pontiff has found more than one way to alleviate not only the poor and sick. of Rome. but also those who steffer throughout the entire world, And one of his most important contributions is She creation, by his own initiative. of the Vatican Bureau of Information, which Informs relatives of the whereabouts of their kin who are at the front. prisoners of war. in concentration camps or refugees in other parts of the world.
A SIMPLE ROOM
To reach this bureau one enters the Vatican through the famous Bronze Doors, where the Swiss Guards are on duty day and night. After crossing the magnificent courtyard of Saint Damns°, one goes two flights up to the "logge" of Raphael and finally enters a room with a low ceiling, whitewashed walls and scantily furnished with chairs and tables of a modest appearance.
This is the Vatican Bureau of Information. where I was received with affable courtesy by Mgr. Alexander Avreinoff, titular Bishop of Pionia and first Russian Bishop of the Catholic Church, whose task is to supervise the activities of this beneficent service.
The services of this office are entirely gratis to everyone, without distinction of religion or political creed, of nationality or race.
• To obtain the news desired, one fills a blank form with the name and as many detaill. as possible to help locate the person desired. There is also a small space in which to write a few words of affection and cheer. After some weeks. sometimes months, the same blank is returned, and on its back is written 'a message from the person dear to us.
About four hundred requests of this kind arc received daily at the Vatican, most of them from the United States inquiring about relatives in Poland.
This bureau has the co-operation of the Papal Nuncios. Apostolic Delegates, Archbishops and Bishops all over the world.
, VATICAN R ADIO'S PART When the lack of communications make it impossible to obtain the necessary information, the Vatican Radio Station, which is one of the most powerful in the world, is brought into use for this purpose, In one of my visits to the Vatican Radio Station, I was told a few anecdotes which demonstrate the efficient co-operation between this means of communication and the Bureau of Information.
For example, a family in Colombia, South America, wanted to know the whereabouts of relatives in occupied France After the necessary investigation, the Vatican Radio broadcast the news obtained to South America. begging listeners to write to the family in question to Barranquilla, Colombia.
On another occasion. the Vatican asked by radio news about several civilians and missionaries in India. Within four hours a cable was received at the Vatican from Mgr. Mathias, Archbishop of Madras, giving reassuring news about everyone.
When the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colieone was sunk in battle in the Mediterranean, the families of about two hundred officers and sailors were informed by the Vatican that their kin had been saved, but were taken prisoners by the British.
A German newspaper/correspondent In Rome was able to communicate with hit wife and child who were near London, thanks to the Vatican.
PRISONERS AND REFUGEES
Another way. a very practical one indeed, in which the Pope helps war victims is by supplying them with clothing and money.
The Pope has declared that it has been a great comfort to him, having the possibility of consoling " a very great number of refugees, expatriates, emigrants, and even ' non-Aryans ' as well," with the moral and spiritual assistance from his representants and with money from contributions he receives from abroad. Remarking that the Poles " received help on a large scale " (Polish refugees received large help in Rumania and Hungary), the Holy Father also mentioned that the charitable contributions from the United States had rendered his task easier.
War prisoners have notbeen forgotten by the Pope. Although His I foliness complains that his " aims have been frustrated in some countries," he also admits that a great deal of material and spiritual assistance has been given to the British and French prisoners in Italy; the Italian prisoners and those who are interned in Egypt, Palestine, Australia, India and various other parts of the British Empire; Germans in England : Greeks in Albania and " at least pail of the Polish prisoners."
Notice well that with the exception of a " part of the Polish prisoners," the Pope never mentions British or French prisoners in Germany nor in the German occupied territories. Therefore, it is obvious that when he
publicly denounces that his " alms have been frustrated in some countries " the Pope means Germany and the countries occupied by the Germans.
China, Poland, Rumania, Hungary; Finland, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Esthonia, France, Greece, Portugal, the United States, in all these countries, at one time or another since the war began, refugees have had tangible proofs of the Holy Father's generosity.