14 JUNE 1963, Page 9

A Kind of Aristocracy And the description of the Roncalli

family as peasants was misleading in a country where there are no peasants. The Roncallis have been farming their own land near Bergamo for at least 500 years, and for that reason are, I should have thought, quite as aristocratic as the Pacelli family. It is true that Pius XII got Mussolini to make his nephews princes, but this hardly makes the Pacelli family the equal of the Colonna, the Orsini, or even of the Borghese or Chigi families. Pius XII's father was financial agent to the Holy See : that is not quite the same thing as holding a great hereditary office near the Pope as the great Black noble families of Rome do. One will gather that I greatly preferred John XXIII to his predecessor. This has nothing to do with the charges brought against Pius XII in The Vicar, the play which has caused such scandal in Germany. But the love and trust which John XXIII evoked so easily were not within the compass of his predecessor, a point which I hope the Sacred College will bear in mind.