A LETTER FROM ROME.
[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]
Sia,—Seldom during recent times has the pageant of events moved against the ageless background of the Eternal City with greater animation, colour, and variety, and never perhaps has it been possible to say with greater truth that roads, especially those of the peninsula itself, lead to Rome. During the last six or eight months the Fascist Government has organized impressive demonstrations, recruited from all parts of Italy, composed in turn of land workers, ex-Service men, journalists, industrialists, members and former members of- the Alpine Corps, boys of the Fascist Juvenile Brigades (Avanguardisti) and University students. In one or two cases the men and women came in their picturesque local costumes, and on each occasion the contingents, which varied in number from ten to over a hundred thousand, were addressed or reviewed by Signor Mussolini. The object of such- gatherings is, of course, to speed up the " moral unification " of Italy by assembling in the capital under the shadow of monuments of a unique imperial tradition people drawn from all parts of the peninsula and the islands. Meanwhile the city has followed its own traditional round of religious and civil feste. The new Par- liament was opened by the King with all the pomp and dignity by which Fascism loves to surround authority. The King and Queen with their respective retinues drove from the Quirinal to Montecitorio in separate and stately pro- cession, and the day closed with a brilliant reception offered to the Senators and Deputies by the Governor of Rome in the Campidoglio. It is not impossible that in thus reviving the ancient splendour, somewhat dimmed during Socialist days, of the kingly state, the authorities had in mind the magnificence of ceremony to which the population will be treated when the monarch of the adjacent Kingdom of the Vatican makes his first royal progress through the city. For it is confidently anticipated that the Pope, now that the Roman question has been settled, will visit, on June 24th, the Church of St. John Lateran, thereby dramatically ending his self-imposed confinement as " Prisoner of the Vatican."
The settlement came, of course, as a stupendous surprise. The first rumours of the agreement between Church and State were, like their myriad predecessors, discounted even in the highest official circles, and there were comparatively few people near the Lateran Palace on that chilly February morning to watch Cardinal Gasparri and Signor Mussolini drive up to sign the three instruments which marked the end of the half-century-old feud between the Holy Sec and the Kingdom of Italy. The moment had, of course, been admirably chosen, being the eve of the Pope's solemn anniversary mass celebrated by the Holy Father in St. Peter's. It also happened to precede by an adequate interval the political elections. Signor Mussolini seldom mistimes his moves.
Whether the results of the election do in fact, as the Grand Council claimed, represent " a great, solemn, and unreserved adhesion of the Italian people to the Fascist regime " will, of course, be as vehemently disputed by the Government's opponents as it has been asserted by its Supporters. Certainly the method adopted in normal eke- tions, of a mutual checking of votes and procedure by Competing parties, would be unthinkable under the present regime. At the same time, there does not seem to have been any attempt at overt pressure, while the present writer .811, at least, testify to the falsity of the charge that the recording officer could distinguish between the "Si" and the " No " ballot papers as they were dropped into the um. The election,, in fact, resolved itself into a national plebiscite on the merits of Fascism. Signor Mussolini still believes in the system of " selection from above " as opposed to I' election from below," and the preparation of a single Government list drawn up from names submitted from the employers' and workers' associations and by bodies of national importance represents a sincere if imperfect attempt to bring into being a Chamber of experts. Whether in practice this Chamber will prove wiser than its predecessors, time alone will show. The workers seem to be more enthnsi-
astic than the employers at the creation of this " Corporative Parliament," and at the " political functions " which Signor Mussolini has recognized as belonging to it. The first task of the new Parliament has been to discuss the Bills giving effect to the Lateran treaty and the Con- cordat. The only discordant note in the chorus of welcome to the texts of these Bills has come from the extreme Catholics. The liberal treatment accorded to non-Catholic forms of worship, and the consequent enthusiasm of Pro- testants and Jews, have somewhat damped the newly found Fascist sympathies of the clerical parties, whose invitation to Fascism to show its " solidarity in the fight against the Protestant invasion " has drawn some plain speaking from the Fascist newspapers. The State cannot, it has been pointed out, make any distinctions between its subjects on the ground of their religious beliefs. When calling upon all Italians to defend the patria during the War, the State did not, as one newspaper pertinently pointed out, ask what religion each man professed. This tolerant attitude has been emphasized with still greater firmness by the Duce. In his speech in the Chamber on May 18th—a brilliant feat of intellectual construction and literary style—Signor Musso- lini inexorably and unequivocally defined the position ascribed to the Church in the Italian State. In phrases which must have caused something like dismay in the Vatican, Signor Mussolini stated that within the Kingdom of Italy the Church is neither free nor Sovereign ; by the recent agreement with the Holy See the Risorgimento has not been disclaimed but completed. The temporal power of the Church is not revived but interred. " We have given the Church enough territory in which to bury it for ever." The Duce reasserted a favourite Fascist thesis, which was only the other day warmly repudiated by the Vatican, that the Roman Catholic Church owes its universal character to its coming to Rome. " Had it stayed in Palestine it would have, like any other sect, disappeared without leaving any traces." Lastly, Signor Mussolini reassured the public— and the dubious foreign tourist—that the sacred character of Rome now formally recognized is not to imply the sup- pression of all forms of amusement.
The result of the Concordat which most interests the general public, however, is that in future marriage before a priest is valid without need of a further ceremony at the municipal offices. This provision awaits, of course, the ratification of Parliament before it comes into effect, and there is therefore no truth in the report that certain ushers of the Campidoglio, alarmed by slackening business and diminishing gratuities, have been known to waylay passers-by with the pathetic request : " Please wouldn't you like to come and get married ? "
Indeed, the majority of the Romans—and in this futto it mondo A paese—have been far more interested in the Thousand Mile Motor Race and the International Horse- riding Competitions than in parliamentary and newspaper debates. A large crowd gathered in the Piazza Colonna on Ascension morning to see the successful motor racers drive up in their machines to receive their prizes from Signor Turati. The Alpha Romeo," which came in first, attained a speed of 89 kilometres per hour, thus beating the previous record of 84 kilometres odd. This year the Concorso Ippico was held in the Piazza di Siena—a spacious amphitheatre in the Villa Borghese surrounded by green lawns and stately cypress trees. There were no entries from England, but France, Spain, Austria, Poland, and other European countries were conspicuously present. The much-prized Copps Musso- lini was hotly contested, particularly by France and Italy. It was awarded to an Italian, Captain Borsarelli di Rifreddo. The French team, who had won it two years in succession, were thus disappointed in their hope of carrying it away finally and definitely back with them to France. The Coppa Reale was won by a Spaniard, Captain Navarro, and the Premio Lido by a French officer, Captain Sedelaborde.
We are promised some more open-air plays. The com- petition for a play suitable for performance in the recently renovated theatre at Ostia Antica did not elicit any work deserving of production, but the veteran actor Guglielmo Tumiati, has obtained permission to produce a series of plays in the Baths of Caracalla. One of the plays advertised is Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. The Planetarium continues to interest an appreciative, if small, public. The marvellous apparatus which lantern- wise casts a moving map of the heavens on the cupola ceiling of a room constructed for it near the Baths of Diocletian represents part of the Reparations payment due to Italy froth Germany. Every week throughout the winter scientists, astronomers, poets, and students of classical mythology have in turn woven their enchanted webs around the eternal romance of the stars and the planets.
The International Institute of Agriculture has appointed as new Secretary-General Professor Alessandro Brizi, who was for twenty years Chief of the Agricultural Department, at the Italian Ministry of National Economy.—I am, Sir, &cm
YOUR ROME CORRESPONDENT.