FROM A ROME CORRESPONDENT
RELATIONS between the Vatican and the Soviet Union might enter a "new phase" as the outcome of the five-day visit to Moscow of the Holy See's chief expert on East European Communist countries, Archbishop Agostino Casaroli. He said on his return to Rome on Monday night that he hoped life for Catholics in Russia might "one day be normalised."
He said his visit marked "the end of a monologue and the start of a dialogue" between Moscow and the Holy See. "The talks have strengthened my hopes that we will be able to continue this dialogue positively."
Archbishop Casaroli spoke of the possibility of VaticanKremlin co-operation for world peace, but without direct diplomatic relations being established.
He held talks with officials of the Soviet foreign ministry on world peace problems, including the Indo-China situation, and deposited a document under which the Holy See will adhere to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Early in January, the Vatican announced that it would sign the treaty to give moral support to the principles upon which international accord is based.
After celebrating Mass in Moscow on Sunday morning he told reporters that the atmosphere during the talks had been "correct, with certain tones of cordiality."
While in Moscow, Archbishop Casaroli said that to talk at present about the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and the Holy See was "premature and hypothetical," and to speculate about a possible visit by Pope Paul to Moscow was "political fantasy" at this stage.
He added : "I believe, however, that the Vatican and the Soviet Union can develop parallel and converging actions for the achievement of peace."
He also said that Moscow was certainly not the place to discuss a possible visit by the Pope to other Communist countries, like Poland. "It would hardly be correct to discuss a Papal voyage to a country with representatives of another country," he said.
PAST NEGOTIATIONS Archbishop Casaroli is known as the Pope's "Foreign Minister." He is Secretary of the Council for the Church's Public Affairs — a section of the Secretariat of State. He also negotiated improved diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Hungary in 1964 and the resumption of full diplomatic relations with Communist Yugoslavia last year.
Vatican sources point out that in signing the non-proliferation treaty, the Holy See was making more than a formal gesture. It has become a party to the treaty because "its aims of disarmament and international dissension correspond with its own mission of peace."
It also intends to give "moral support and encouragement to the treaty's stipulations, inasmuch as it represents an important step forward in the direction of the desired establishment of a system of general and complete disarmament."
This would be "under efficacious international control, with a view to guaranteeing security and furthering confidence in the relations between nations and in promoting peace and collaboration among peoples, on a just and stable basis."
The Holy See also hopes that, pending a total ban on atomic weapons, a limitation may be placed on existing ones.
In this context, the Vatican sees the greatest importance in the talks between the United States and the Soviet Union, and hopes that they will soon arrive at a satisfactory agreement on the lasting restraint of the "worrying courseof armaments in that costly and deadly sector."
The declaration which the Holy See has signed, considers the United Nations, despite its shortcomings and difficulties, the body best qualified to arrive at the solution all signatories desire.
Rhodesia gets new mission head
FR. Patrick McNamara, S.J., has been appointed Superior of the Salisbury mission, Rhodesia, which is dependent on the English Province of the Society of Jesus.
He succeeds Fr. Edward Ennis, S.I., who has now been appointed Vicar General of the Salisbury Archdiocese by Archbishop Markall, Fr. McNamara, who was born in Jarrow, Co. Durham, in 1923, went to Rhodesia in September 1960, and studied African languages and later served the missions at Kutama and Gatooma.