“How could he? Don’t you see that the one thing, humanly speaking, absolutely necessary if the world was to have confidence in the Church, was that the Pope should be really supra-national? Of course, for many years he had to be an Italian—that’s obvious, since he was at the mercy of Italy, and the Romans would never have stood a foreigner; and that made it all the more essential that he should be cut clean off, in everything else, from Italian sympathies. He had to be two things simultaneously, so to speak—emphatically an Italian for the sake of Italy and indeed his own existence in Rome; and emphatically not an Italian for the sake of the rest of Christendom. And can you suggest any other way of accomplishing this paradox? I can’t.”
Monsignor sighed again and began to meditate.
For somewhere at the back of his mind there ran an undercurrent of thought, or as of some one talking, to the effect that the Pope’s old method of remaining as a prisoner in the Vatican was a foolish and unhumble pose. (He supposed he must have read it all somewhere in history.) Surely even Catholics used to talk like that! They used to say how much more spiritual and Christian it would have been, had the Vicar of Christ acquiesced and been content to live as a simple Italian subject, neither claiming nor desiring a position such as Peter had never enjoyed. Why all this fuss, it used to be asked, about a Temporal Power on behalf of a “Kingdom that was not of this world”?
Yet, somehow, now as he looked back on it all, with his friend’s comment in his mind, he began to see, not how clever or diplomatic had been the old attitude, but how absolutely and obviously essential. It was possible indeed for Peter to be a subject of Nero in things pertaining to Caesar; but how could that be possible to Peter’s successor when the Kingdom of Christ which he ruled on earth had become a Supra-national Society to which the nations of the earth looked for guidance?
The phrase he had just heard ran in his mind.
“An Italian for the sake of Italy and his own existence in Rome. Not an Italian for the sake of the rest of Christendom.”
It seemed simple, somehow, just like that.
He was roused by a touch on his knee, and simultaneously was aware of a new sound from the piazza.
“Look,” said the old priest sharply. “They’re beginning to move.”
A curious seething movement had broken out in the piazza, resembling the stir of a troubled ant-hill, on either side of the broad green way down which the Pope would come; and already into the head of the street up which the priests looked figures were emerging. Simultaneously a crash of brazen music had filled the air. A movement of attention, exactly like the lift of a swell along the foot of a cliff, passed down the crowded street to the left and lost itself round the corner towards S. Angelo.