ROME is buzzing with rumours about the identity of two new cardinals named in pectore ("in secret") by Pope Paul.
Many are saying that the two are Archbishops Giovanni Benelli and Agostino Casaroli.
Archbishop Benelli holds the pivotal Vatican position of Under Secretary of State — a post held by Pope Paul himself from 1933 until 1954.
Archbishop Casaroli, Secretary of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, is often described as the Church's "Foreign Minister." He is in charge of Pope Paul's efforts to reach an accord with Communist countries on the rights of Catholics to live their Faith unhindered.
These two important posts were the focus of rumour once before — during the second (and last) Consistory called by Pope Pius XII.
The story goes that in 1953, when the future Pope Paul, then Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini, held the post now occupied by Archbishop Benefit, and Archbishop Domenico Tardini sat in what is now Archbishop Casaroli's office, Pius XII offered both men the red hat.
But, according to Vatican protocol, cardinals could not occupy such seemingly unimportant jobs as "pro-secretaries," as the offices were then called. To stay in their posts, as the story goes, Archbishops Montini and Tardini declined the red hats.
Pope Paul, in order to keep Archbishops Benelli and Casaroli on duty, might have named them In pectore cardi nals, with the idea of "proclaiming" them — making their names public — when he is near death.
They would then be in a position to vote in a Conclave electing Pope Paul's successor.
The other strong possibility is that the two secretly named cardinals are from Communist lands or other countries where the precarious position of the Church would not permit open bestowal of the honour of cardinal.
The possibility that the two in pectore cardinals come from a persecuted Church is strengthened in view of the Pope's State of the Church address given before the College of Cardinals last December.
"Only people who do not know with what spirit we exert ourselves to go to their aid
can attribute our careful and prudent silence ... to forgetting, or worse, to a lack of care or to indifference," the Pope said of the persecuted Churches.
He mentioned especially in that talk the plight of Catholics in Czechoslovakia, Rumania, the Soviet Union and Vietnam.
Some have speculated that Bishop Frantisek Tomasek, Apostolic Administrator of Prague, was chosen by the Pope. In addition, in view of the Pope's concern which he has continually and emotionally expressed for the Church in Vietnam, the very capable Archbishop Paul Nguyen van Binh of Saigon comes to mind.
Archbishop Nguyen van Binh was placed virtually under house arrest by the Communists as soon as they took Saigon.
Scottish 'Tell the People' drive
A "Tell the People" exercise is being planned by the Catholic Church in Scotland this month to mark World Communications Day, May .30. On the Sunday before, 200,000 four-page pamphlets are to he handed out to every Scottish Catholic family at Mass.