By Our Diplomatic Correspondent POPE PAUL has promised Mr. Khrushchev that he will give his maximum attention to the Russian "peace by talks" note to world leaders sent on December 31, Vatican circles confirmed this week.
The Pope's reply, delivered in a verbal communication to the Soviet Ambassador in Italy, was the third in a series of exchanges between the Vatican and the Kremlin.
Vatican officials are seeking to play down the exchange because the Russians have been making propaganda out of it. But it is still regarded as significant and mildly encouraging.
This is because it is seen as continuing Pope John's policy of seeking a modus vivendi with the Communists. Additional importance is attached to it because of the continuing negotiations to settle Church-Slate disputes in the Iron Curtain countries.
The Vatican-Kremlin exchange was initiated by Mr. Khrushchev's inclusion of the Pope in his December 31 message to heads of state.
The next step was the Pope's message to the world leaders from Bethlehem during his Holy Land visit. Vatican circles say that the lateness of his direct reply to Mr. Khrushchev's note was because he had sent this message from the Holy Land,
Since there are no formal diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the Kremlin, notes are exchanged between the Russian Ambassador to Italy, M. Kozyrev, and the Apostolic Nuncio to Italy, Mgr. Carlo Grando. The Pope's last message, promising to give "maximum attention" to Mr. Khrushchev's note, was delivered orally by Mgr. Grando, and not in a written communication as a Tess communique stated.
The Pope is also believed to have said that he was grateful to have been included among the recipients, Answering Mr. Khrushchev's call to heads of state to settle dispute by peaceful negotiations, the Pope made it clear that the Vatican does not involve itself in territorial dispute S and negotiations to end them, though it favours sincere and constructive means used to defend and reinforce peace. This is the first formal exchange between Pope Paul and Mr. Khrushchev. It may mark a change in Kremlin policy to Pope Paul, whom Russian propaganda had earlier described as "pessimistic and intransigent". Meanwhile. a significant move is reported from behind the Iron Cu rta in.
In Czechoslovakia, the Government has permitted, after two months, the reading in churches of a message of greeting from Pope Paul to the Czech clergy and faithful. Addressed to the four Bishops who took part in the Vatican Council, the message encourages the people to draw from their faith "invincible strength of perseverance". Constructive means