AS THE date for the Papal visit draws daily nearer the dilemmas involved grow more complicated. It is no longer so much a question of whether or not the Pope will come as what will be the effect, internationally as well as nationally, when he does.
For it is being presumed at the time of writing that the visit is "on," and will not be postponed except in the event of a possibly multi-national military conflict prone at any moment to yet further escalation. This, apart from anything else, would greatly increase the already considerable security risks involved.
It was Cardinal Hume, moreover, who issued the original invitations to the Pope to visit our shores. It was he who, quite rightly, gave advance warning of the possibility or cancellation in the event of war. More recently still he restated the Church's views on the moral aspects of modern warfare. It is therefore Cardinal Hume, together with Cardinal Gray speaking on behalf of Scotland, to whom British Catholics will look for final and official reassurance — or its opposite — about the Pope's intentions, rather to other sources however authoritative.
In his statement on the use of force, with the relation to the Falklands, Cardinal Hume chose his words with very considerable care. In particular he said that "as far as humanly possible, account must be taken of the ever present danger of escalation which in modern warfare can be truly terrifying. It is precisely this incalculable factor which has driven many Christians in modern times to urge the total abolition of war."
These words, when read again this weekend, may well have a far more telling, even sinister, connotation than when they were first uttered. The situation in the South Atlantic is changing with such rapidity that what may at one moment look like a mild warning may suddenly become an immediate danger signal. So there is no room for platitudes.
Let us then be more starkly realistic and ask ourselves what sort of things the Pope may wish to tell us in three weeks time in view of the sombre and almost inevitably sobering experiences of the intervening period. He will certainly want to talk about nuclear brinkmanship since, if he does not do so then, he may not find any opportunity in the near future to speak with similar impact on the same subject.
Its impossible-to foretell the-Pope's-words-but notimpossible to envisage their being uttered without fear or favour. His visit to Britain, far from shoWing that he is on anyone's "side" in territorial disputes, may well prove to be a milestone of a very different kind. It could well have two particular and not necessarily very cosy effects on the future.
One would be to bring under renewed scrutiny the relevance of Papal Nunciatures to the actual move-theilts and -words of the Pope: BSIeXisting "-diplobiatic" criteria for example Ahe Pope should call his visit to Britain off. But it, as seems likely, he wishes to demonstrate that he is "above politics", this could have profound repercussions on current arrangements for "representing" the Pope in the world and relaying and interpreting_ his ideas.
The second bombshell could turn out to be the issuing of the gravest warning yet on the perils of escalation in modern warfare. This Pope, again, is not the man to take refuge in abstract theories. The situation, since the Falklands crisis, has become too serious for these. Catholic opinion is moving quickly in some areas towards an uncompromisingly anti-nuclear position that intellectual arguments as to where the Church stands or "ought to stand" could, overnight, become obsolete. We could be overtaken by events.