But now, out of sensitivity for the feelings of the patient, these things cannot be said. Yet they will not go away. The temptation to make silence and sympathy a loyalty test will be great.
The other temptation will be to use a rhetoric of indignation that slides to the edge of orthodoxy. Cardinal Ugo Poletti, who looks after the Rome diocese on the pope's behalf, said at a meeting in St. Peter's Square: "We make a prayer of reparation for this insane act which, directed against the sacred person of the pope, is directed against the God whom he represents, and the humanity which he loves as a father."
The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, has been writing in the same exalted vein. Its deputy editor, Fr. Virgilio Levi, assured its readers John Paul was saved from death because he was "protected by Our Lady of Fatima. This is not the product of pious imagination," he gravely added. In that case, he must have access to sources not made available in the Vatican press office.
The office has been totally transformed by the shooting. It has lost control of the papal news operations. Its monopoly has been broken. With the operating team at the Gemelli hospital talking to all and sundry and Digos, the security police, always willing to spin a conspiracy theory, the action has moved elsewhere. That is not necessarily better, but it is different.
I will end where I began with that extraordinary Sunday, May 17, when the bells rang out across St. Peter's Square. Despite everyone's awareness of the pope's sufferings, it was a joyful occasion. There came to mind what John Paul had said in Harlem: "We are the Easter people, and alleluia is our song. If we do not proclaim that, the very stones will cry out." That is the heart of the Petrine ministry. All the rest is Vaticanology.
( September 25, 1981) Pope John Paul, eager to forestall interpretations of his third encyclical that would reduce it to a commentary on