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EDITORIAL
from issue no. 10 - 2007

Little personal memories


Even though as a child I learned that one must love the Pope and not a Pope, I could not help noticing at the same time that for my mother the Pope was Pius X, while for the aunt (born 1854), in whose house I had been born and lived, there existed only Pius IX, to whom several times in youth she had gone up to kiss his hand during the daily walk in Via Julia


Giulio Andreotti


In audience with John XXIII, 
22 January 1959

In audience with John XXIII, 22 January 1959

Even though as a child I learned that one must love the Pope and not a Pope, I could not help noticing at the same time that for my mother the Pope was Pius X, while for the aunt (born 1854), in whose house I had been born and lived, there existed only Pius IX, to whom several times in youth she had gone up to kiss his hand during the daily walk in Via Julia; that concluded with an affectionate blessing given towards Palazzo Farnese where the prestigious reserve headquarters of the King of Naples were lodged.
A terrace shared with the Rossignani in the house where I was born on Via dei Prefetti made me acquainted with the family of the important Monsignor Eugene Pacelli (his sister was married to Commendator Pio Rossignani and the two daughters often gave me presents of exquisite chocolate). In truth I did not then appreciate the importance of the man, being quite struck, but much less than in the case of the Roma footballers who came to eat in the nearby restaurant of Piazza Firenze.
A score of years later Monsignor Pacelli was elected pope and, as president of one of the branches of Catholic Action (the FUCI), I benefited also from thrilling private audiences. The complications of the war had much reduced the number of ad limina audiences of bishops; and the time that the Pope devoted to us was very ample. He wanted, among other things, to be informed in detail on the state of mind of the soldiers who were at the front and on the reception of the work of the chaplains.
I had a particular contact with Pope Roncalli in Venice, helping in the transfer of the junior seminary to the basement of the Isola della Salute.
The deed was settled in the Domus Mariae on the eve of the conclave and he asked me what I thought about the gossip in those days. I immediately telephoned to Milan, where my Concretezza review was printed, to get them to prepare the cover with Roncalli.
Unforgettable the audience he gave me with my family, lingering with an affability almost embarrassing for me (every so often they half opened the door, but he paid no attention and went on talking especially to my children who were in ecstasy).
I met Patriarch Luciani only once. He had come to Palazzo Chigi to make clear his concern about the low-key struggle under way against the Catholic banks.
I saw him as Pope at the Lateran on the day of his taking possession and he made me blush by telling me he had personally signed the blessing for my daughter who was getting married (in fact we never got the autograph; perhaps there were few of them and they ended up in the hands of some collector).
I was at a political rally in Mantua when John Paul II was elected.
I was not struck by his not being of Italian nationality. I had known splendid cardinals of other nationalities – Spellman, for example – and did not give importance to passports. Whereas I was surprised at his age. The fact that a pope might be two years younger than me just didn’t add up.
For the rest, I had never had occasion to meet him, but in Concretezza we had commented almost emphatically on a speech of his to the Synod.
On 6 August 1979 he invited me to attend the mass in the chapel of the Villa of Castel Gandolfo, with the relatives of Paul VI. I was astonished by his welcome because he said to me: «You will know this palace better than me». And he was of obliging fatherliness.
Over the succeeding years the international situation became entangled and there was Jaruzelski’s coup d’état in Poland, creating uneasy relations between the NATO countries and those of the Warsaw Pact.
The German Foreign Minister Genscher had been, courteously, refused a visit to Warsaw. I instead not only didn’t find any obstacles, but I was encouraged.
With John Paul I in San Giovanni in Laterano, 23 September 1978

With John Paul I in San Giovanni in Laterano, 23 September 1978

I had an audience with His Holiness before my departure and on my return. Jaruzelski had explained to me that with the state of emergency he had blocked the Russian invasion (later Gorbacev confirmed this). I found myself, before, during and after that visit, in a peculiar situation. The Holy Father was interested in gathering my impressions and in their turn the Polish leaders were more eager for me to talk about the Pope than concerned with bilateral problems and NATO.
The Pope was very respectful and almost detached about Italian politics. More than one bishop who complained about Italian politicians during a papal audience heard himself told: «If there are no better alternatives to cultivate, work with the interlocutors there are».
The Pope offered me another privileged moment on the day of his historic visit to Assisi. He invited me to his very private mass in a local monastery and confided to me his particularly sensitive frame of mind. The invitation to small delegations of all origins (including some native Americans) was not shared by many figures in the Curia, including Cardinal Oddi, whose attitude there that day was in effect not exactly congratulatory.
The Jubilee audience to the politicians of all nations was also an extraordinary moment. He reserved one mass and two meetings to us, with truly extraordinary homilies.
Another page of history was that of his visit to the Italian Parliament, with a perfect speech, that closed the breach of Porta Pia definitively (he told me some days later that he had taken his inspiration from the speech that Cardinal Vicar Angelo Dell’Acqua had made at Porta Pia on the centenary of 20 September).
At the ritual of farewell to John Paul II Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of a window of the sky through which the Pontiff watched us and blessed us. He is now about to elevate him to the altars.
This stirs quite particular feeling. The expression loquitur is extraordinarily fitting for this saintly successor of Peter.


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