The gloom-pedlars have been confounded not only by the Stock Exchange resurgence but also by the marvellous address by Canterbury's new Archbishop at his enthronement last Friday and the article in The Times on Monday by the Chief Rabbi, Dr Immanuel Jakobivits.
The prophets of doom are admittedly still hopeful that some kindof disaster will yet intervene to justify their forebodings; but most people have watched with sober optimism the directions taken by the nation's spiritual and material barometers.
Dr Coggan struck a note that attracted immediate response in discussing confidence and reality in spiritual terms. He found little outward difficulty in fact, in rising to the occasion, which was more magnificent than most of the media have indicated in the last week.
Not that it was surprising that the Primate should have been so impressive. The most recent occasion on which I witnessed his power to do so was at a lunch early last year which I was privileged to chair and at which the Archbishop (of York as he then was) was the guest of honour. It was still not certain that he would he the next incumbent of Canterbury.
1 thus introduced the guest of honour with slightly more particularity than might normally be called for. I detailed some of Dr Coggan's past achievements (and there have been many, as is well known) with such commendation as was meant to imply what I could not actually say: "Here is preparation indeed for even greater things to C ome!"
When Dr Coggan rose to speak, however. he thanked me politely for my well documented —obituary." Perhaps he was wise to do so. It was certainly in character; for his dryness is sometimes mistaken for lack of humour. And his speech on this occasion did riot get off to any jet-propelled start.
But the intellectual engines were working with intensity, if in silence; and I won't say the effect was shattering as it might sound as spurious as an advertisement for vodka. It was more of a delayed action, producing its maximum impact right inside each of the listeners, rather than being lost in the publicaddress system as often seems to be the case with some of such speeches.
* I * On the other side of me from the Archbishop. on this same occasion. sat my friend Moshe Davies, the secretary to the Chief Rabbi whom he was representing. And once or twice he and the Archbishop talked to each other in snatches of Hebrew. For Dr Coggan is a Semitic scholar of distinction, and one of the ecumenical fields he is sure to tread, in company with his Catholic brethren, is that of Christians relations with Jews.
I gather, in fact, that the Archbishop's enthronement cut some time from religious broadcasting which might otherwise, over the weekend, have been devoted to further discussion of the Vatican's guidelines on this very subject of Jewish relations.
And one point that has not yet been brought out in this connection follows on the plea made in the guidelines for the setting up of commissions to implement the original ideals and directives of Nostra Aetate (the Vatican II declaration on relations with non-Christians which had such important things to say about the Jews.)
What may not be generally known is that a commission already exists in England for the implementation of this Vatican declaration with regard to the Jews. And the reason that it is not so well known as the 12 other commissions that exist to advise the Bishops' Conference is that it is not a "national" commission in quite the same sense as are the others.
It is, however, no less important, and was set up (in 1966) by Cardinal Heenan himself, who said in describing the commission: "It has the widest possible terms of reference. It will not only discuss social and historical problems but also initiate theological dialogue. Christians rarely realise the extent to which the Faith is rooted in Jewish biblical tradition."
This commission will now obviously become more and more important, especially since the landmark presented by the publication of the Vatican's recent guidelines. (Anyone wishing to know more of its work may contact its secretariat at 17 Chepstow Villas, London, WI I, Telephone 01-727 3597.)
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On the morning after the Canterbury enthronement I met one of the most spectacular of the distinguished guests who had been present there. This was Cardinal Suenens, Archbishop of MalinesBrussels. He was staying with the Belgian Ambassador in London. who kindly asked one or two people round to his Embassy for coffee to meet his very eminent Eminerice.
Rightly or wrongly, I brought with me to the Embassy a proof copy of a book shortly to he published about the Cardinal by Hodder & Stoughton; and this caused a mild sensation, for no one else there had seen a proof copy, including the Cardinal and the author herself.
The latter is the very charming Elizabeth Hamilton, and she has essayed a most moving and perceptive portrait of the gentle giant who is Primate of Belgium. Some of the Cardinal's many admirers even consider him as a possible candidate for the Papacy if a nonItalian is elected to succeed Pope Paul.
Few of the really eminent Council Fathers campaigned more vigorously than did the charismatic Cardinal Suenens for the Church to examine its conscience in more than a merely superficial sense.
He has, since the Council, been outspoken and critical of bureaucratic obstacles to Conciliar ideals without forfeiting any of his international popularity or prestige. When you are right you usually have little to fear (except backstairs opposition) provided you are a diplomat.
This the Cardinal undoubtedly is, in the best and most Christian sense of the word. His visit to England has been a minor triumph for international and inter-Church understanding. (Dr Coggan has been his guest in Belgium before now.)
And while Suenens, along with his two fellow-Cardinals, stole much of the photographic limelight at Canterbury, he seems to have been a big personal hit withthe television crews. They greeted him outside the Cathedral, he told me, with the words: "Thanks for the colour."
The small, and barely noticeable, anti-Catholic picket maintained. by contrast, a sullen silence. They had obviously not been touched by any of those charismatic gifts of the Spirit which occupy so much of the Cardinal's thoughts, and are the subject of his own latest book "A New Pentecost?" the English version of which is to be published later in the year by Darton, Longman and Todd.