newspaper announced, was about to embrace Catholicism. The story that followed reflected the gay time that some sheets in these parts were having repeating—and embellishing—London and Paris rumours.
°mine so soon after Dutch Princess Irene's conversion, these provided the gossipers with a ton-good-to-miss "Royalty and Religion" theme.
"Meg d'Inghilterra" has always appealed strongly to Italians, through her beauty, informality and, of course, her "unconventional" marriage to photographer Tony Armstrong Jones. Romans in particular recall warmly her trip to Italy with the Queen Mother in 1959, when her uninhibited determination to enjoy herself in her own way delighted the Latins.
With the Queen Mother she also had an hour-long private audience with Pope John, whose friendliness and cheerfulness made the meeting what the Queen Mother afterwards described as "very homely". Pope John himself told members of the staff how happy he had been to meet the royal visitors so early ill his reign. He sent the Queen a message by the Queen Mother saying he hoped to meet her and Prince Philip before long. He did— in 1961.
Her first Abbot
WHEN THE QUEEN MOTHER came out from her audience with Pope John, she gave a gasp of delighted surprise. Gathered to cheer her and Princess Margaret were hundreds of students from the English. Scots and other Commonwealth colleges. Then she made a charming gesture. She moved straight for two black African students and had a gay conversation with them.
Princess Margaret was intrigued to meet her first abbot in Dom Aidan Williams, Dublin-born Procurator General of the English Benedictines in Rome. Asked what he did here, he said that among other things he taught nuns theology. "Even cloistered nuns?" shot back Princess Margaret. She laughed loudly when Abbot Williams said he had to admit that. so far, they had been a little chary about turning . . These things are remembered at the Vatican today. The rumours of Princess Margaret's "conversion", on the other hand, are heard without comment. There have, of course, been similar ones in recent years. Some emphasised the Princess's reported deep interest in the Catholic religion: others simply credited her with a growing interest in religion generally. 4as a whimsical example of the Italian gossip writers' determination to squeeze the most from the present rumours, one newspaper solemnly reveals that if a member of the British royal family turned C.atholic, the shattering repercussions provoked would he similar to those marking the conversion to Buddhism or Islamism of "a brother of the Pope".
I WAS TN MILAN LAST WEEKEND, Ir ing to ferret out an elusive and newsworthy Franciscan friar named Father Enrico Zucca. Usually, a Franciscan friar can be cornered, in the lust resort, in his monastery. Father Zucca. of Batten Peace Prize renown, has so many interests, however, that it is difficult to
catch him in any one of them at any one time —especially if, as in my case, he knows a reporter is on his trail.
While I have cause to whimper about plodding fruitlessly about a Milan bedevilled by fog, sleet and cold, 1 must congratulate Father Zucca on the loyalty of his aides. One zealot even told mc on Saturday that he had not yet returned from a Baleen conference in Zurich, although m i Ian and ot her newspapers widely featured a statement he had made on his return the day before.
Father Zucca, as you may know, has been accused by some members of the Balzan Foundation of high-handedness in taking upon himself, as president of the Peace Prize Committee. to award the 1963 prize to the thaited Nations without consulting his fellow members, I am not going into the alleged merits or demerits of the rumpus here, but it must be admitted that when ii comes to things cultural, the 56-year-old Father Zucca is certainly a personality in his own right.
HE. FOUNDED IN MILAN an institution known as the Angelicum, which is now one of Italy's best-known cultural centres. In it. the dynamic Father Zucca has restored for medieval concept of a spiritual centre musicians, artists and other professional people,
The Angelicum has its own orchestra, concert hall, cinema, library and art gallery. It also has a hand in the production of classical gramophone records and magazines. It is managed by a group of laymen, responsible to Father Zucca. The Angelicum is listed as being run by the Friars Minor, but it is essentially a Zucca set-up and a magnificent monument to his erudition and drive.
What the Vatican—or his own superiors— think about a Franciscan Friar being deeply involved in what has become an international row remains to he seen.
It is, of course, unfortunate that a priest of his standing should he caught up in a conflict raging round a Peace Prize, the first award of which went, amid international applause, to the late Pope John.
I WAS ONE of a small group of foreign correspondents invited last year to hear Mr, Giovanni Gronehi, former President of the Italian Republic, and Italy's chief Balzan Foundation representative, officially inform Pope John of the award.
The ceremony took place in the small Throne Room of the Apostolic Palace, and there was a second reason for extraordinary journalistic interest in it. Seated just a few paces from the Pope himself were Mr. Alexei Adjubei and his wife, Rada, respectively son-in-law and daughter of Mr. Khreshchey who, incidentally. had sent his warm congratulations to Pope John.
later, the Adjubeis were received in private audience, a goodwill gesture which set off in some "interested" quarters the idiotic impliusition that good Pope John was "leaning Left". (There was an Italian General Election coming up, so Communists in the Vatican made lovely propaganda.)
Personally, I shall always remember the day chiefly because it was the last time I spoke to Pope John before he died. It was then, as I have reported before, that he followed up a passing reference to Australia with a sly look at his staff and the rueful remark, "I'm afraid that's too far for me to travel."
1HE 1960 OLYMPIC GAMES sailing events were held on the Bay of Naples. In the Greek sailing team, captained by Prince Constantine, was 22-year-old Aeneas Suliotis. He met pretty young Maddalena Lojodice and they fell in lose. After the Olympics, Aeneas went back to Greece. but has returned each year to Naples to discuss wedding plans with Maddalena.
On this year's trip, Aeneas and Maddalena went to the island of Ischia. On the ferry Aeneas chatted with another passenger, 40year-old Ciro Radice, who told him he had fought with the Italian troops in Greece during the war.
Aeneas said casually that his father had also been an Italian soldier, who met his mother when she was working in a military hospital near the Greek-Albanian border. By the time he was born, Aeneas added, his father, who had not married his mother, had disappeared. Radice turned out to be Aeneas's father.
In a double wedding ceremony at Sorrento, near Naples, the other day, Aeneas married his Maddalena. and his mother. Mafalda fought with the Italian troops in Greece became the bride of Radice, her wartime friend.
ONE OF THESE DAYS I must complete my long-threatened monograph (as Sherlock Holmes would say) on the strange jobs many priests do.
Here, for instance, in front of me is a Vatican bulletin item headed "Special audience for chaplains concerned with gypsies." I never knew there were any (chaplains concerned with, etc., that is), but, true enough, there are so many of them that they have been holding their first international congress in Rome, and, what is mare, getting themselves a flee pat on the back from Pope Paul.
Of course. come to think of it, there are thousands of gypsies in various parts of the world, and there is no reason why they should not be given what my bulletin describes as "spiritual assistance"; in fact, knowing the tricks a lot of them get up to, I'd say the more spiritual assistance the better.
Pope Paul painted a really colourful picture of "those who wander the road". Being in contact with them, he said, the chaplains would understand better than most certain evangelical values to which the gypsies attached more importance than other people. "Long before their day, the Patriarch Abraham received the order to take the road, and it was during this migration that God gave him the exemplary gift of faith", the Holy Father said. "The Chosen People (the Jews) were also wanderers for more than four centuries before they settled down in the promised land. The Holy Family, too, with a remarkable act of obedience, had to take the road to exile to protect the life of the baby Jesus."
Pope Paul. blessing both chaplains and gypsy flocks, added that detachment from the world and confident and absolute obedience Its God were qualities the chaplains must meet to a high degree within their flocks and upon which they could usually base their ministries.