Michael Wilson, our correspondent in Rome, takes a look at how he sees the Papacy and the Vatican moving this year.
The fresh breezes of the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years have begun to blow through the Vatican these past two months but it will be during this new year that the world will really get to know Pope John Paul II.
The Polish-born Pope has already given indications of his attitudes towards the present world; religious and secular. These, it is expected, will be translated into fact this coming year — beginning as early as January 27 when the conference of Latin American bishops (CELAM) meets in Puebla, Mexico.
Pope John Paul is known to be a tough and decisive man and there has been no such Pope since Achille Ratti, Pope Pius XI (1 9 2 2 -3 9). He was also a mountaineering man, from Milan, reputedly as "tough as nails"; a "real sovereign/pontiff", To date, John Paul has done nothing as rough as Pius XI did when, displeased with the Jesuit Cardinal Billot, he stood up, snatched off the cardinal's red skull-cap and snapped: "You are no longer a cardinal."
Present speculation here on just how "Papa Wojtyla" will move the Papacy is based on the indications he has given during his first two months as Pontiff.
It is certain that he will make widespread changes at the top of the administration of the Holy See — the Curia. Although he reappointed all the prefects and presidents of congregations, commissions and cornmittees he did so only after considerable delay and making it clear that the reappointments were only temporary.
The major change will be the naming of a new Secretary of State to replace the French Cardinal Jean Villot, who has tendered his resignation and advised the Pope: "You are a non-Italian pope; you need an Italian Secretary of State.' Many believe that he may elevate Archbishop Agostino Casaroli. at present the Secretary of the Vatican's Council for Public Affairs, a kind of "Foreign Office", to Cardinal at the next consistory and name his Secretary of State.
Pope John Paul has made it clear that he is a working pope, a man who literally rolls up his shirt sleeves at his desk and sings to himself when he is pleased at work-results. His predecessors paid a courtesy visit to the Secretariat of State offices after election; John Paul II spent more than two hours visiting one-third of the staff in their own offices and finding out just what they
did. He will return to visit the other twothirds and has told worried officials that he intends to find out for himself what every man in the Vatican is doing. There will be redundancies and the Curia will be streamlined.
"Papa Wojtyla" will not be an easy or compliant Pope. He has already warned priests and religious that he expected them to be identifiable, to preach the word of God rather than foment or support revolutionary movements. After hearing John Paul in his talk to women religious, many of whom had shed their habits, of the need to be identifiable, an American nun said: "That's like trying to get the toothpaste back into the tube."
In terms of direction and policy, the new Pope has yet to show with the same clarity — or perhaps needs to decide for himself
— just where he wants to lead the Church. However, there already is a main compass point: the needle is pointing towards a return to religious foundations and certainties, so that the Church can offer a solid faith in a sea of spiritual confusion.
He has already demonstrated that he wants to yield no ground on matters of doctrine and discipline, on Church teachings and traditions. He has stated his support for Vatican Council II decisions and his staunch support for the encyclicals, constitutions and documents produced by Pope Paul VI, even though he may couch his endorsements in terms more understandable to today's world.
Those seeking modification of Pauline doctrines may find no easy way out. He will make no changes in the present teaching on Humanae Vitae, on confession, on absolution, on the indissolubility of marriage, on abortion.
John Paul has told the College of Cardinals that the time has come to call a halt to the experimentation encouraged by Paul VI after Vatican Council II. There will be no further laissez aller.
There will be no married priesthood or women priests. John Paul has not spoken in so many words but he has referred to the
need "for men" to join the priesthood; he has praised the dignity of the celibate priest and, in lauding St Catherine of Siena, he spoke of the role that women had in the Church — which did not include priesthood.
Many had expected that John Paul would be a "political" Pope. This has not been borne out. His own politicis have been true to the moral norm of the Church. He has spoken out vigorously on worldwide human rights and pointedly about religious persecution in Eastern Europe. But he has not gone on the warpath against communism. He says that he wants to remain above temporal conflictual politics.
In Italy he has shown a fine non-Italian hand for conciliatory non intervention. His own record in Poland permitted him, for example, to make the diplomatic gesture of embracing the communist mayor of Rome. Yet the Italian communist and socialist parties fear his influencial appeal to youth which they see as a political gesture weaning this youth away from voting for the left. So far they have not dared to attack him openly.
John Paul will certainly follow in Paul VI's footsteps as "an apostle on the move". The announcement that he would attend the Puebla conference arid speak at the opening instead of the closing session shows that he intends to lay down the guidelines for this conference.
Mexico did not want the Pope at all; everyone said that it would not invite him. But even Mexico could not withstand the pressures from the other Latin American countries and the anti-clerical government was forced to give way.
It is known that the Pope wants to go to Krakow, his former disocese, to attend the 900th anniversary of St Stanislaus. The communist regime in Poland refused permission for Pope Paul to visit Poland. Will they be able to get out of giving Pope John Paul an invitation?
Invitations have poured in: from Egypt to celebrate an eventual peace between Israel and Egypt; from President Carter's representative Ambassador Robert
Wagner (as Mayor, Wagner had welcomed Paul VI to New York in 1965); from most countries of Europe including an invitiation to Knock; from India, Australia and New Zealand. He has, as yet, accepted no invitations other than Puebla and has made it clear that, like Paul, his visits would be purely on religious grounds and not to capital cities.
John Paul intends to pursue the ecumenical goals envisaged by Paul VI. But he will never agree to intercommunion between Catholics and other denominations until spiritual unity has been achieved despite all Dr Coggan's pleading. There will be profound sympathy for and understanding of other Christian religions but no intercommunion.
John Paul has shown his wish for the Italian Episcopal Conference to become a strong autonomous body instead of being entirely dependent on the Pope as it has been in the past. There is strong speculation that he may make Archbishop Balestrero of Turin a Cardinal so that he could be elected president of this Conference.
A new Church State concordat is being hammered out. The Italian government has presented a draft document which has been agreed to in all but one aspect, by the present Pope. He agrees that clergy should not be a privileged class but are subject to Italian law. But he does not agree to the financial clauses which would tax Church property. As an aide said: "About 90 percent of visitors to Rome come to see the Vatican, the churches, the Pope. There are long queues outside St Peter's and the museums. Does anyone queue to get into the Forum? The State and the City get the taxes of these visitors; we get nothing except, at present, tax exemption."
The Pope will certainly call a consistory (to elect new Cardinals) in the next few weeks or months for the voting members of the College of Cardinals have dropped to 109, eleven below the 120 maximum set by Paul VI. But John Paul is still reviewing and consulting and will not make hasty choices.
John Paul will launch no anti-communist or anti-fascist drives. Ideologically there can be no compromise between the faith and communism or fascism. He will base the Church's drive on justice and peace while insisting that the Church maintain practical working relations with the authorities of every country.