15 MARCH 1963, Page 7

Practical Saint

Some people have called Dolci a saint; others, including both those who oppose his work, and some of those who have worked with him, have used less flattering descriptions. He is himself somewhat reticent about the religious or political motives which have led him to undertake a social crusade of appalling magnitude. He explained to me that although he is pleased that the central Italian Government has at last appointed a com- mission to inquire into the influence of the Mafia in Sicily, it will depend on the result of the forthcoming general election whether the com- mission actually gets down to its investigations or not. If the parties of the Left and Centre win, something will be done, but if there is a swing to the Right there is likely to be more prevarication. So although Dolci belongs to no political party himself it seems likely that his sympathies lie with his supporters on the Left. He is similarly non-committal about his religious position for, although he was baptised a Roman Catholic, he now calls himself a 'non-confessional' Christian and finds that the Church in Sicily is unable to comprehend his aims and is deeply suspicious of his organisation. Dolci has been a life-long paci- fist and acquired his first taste of prison at the age of eighteen as a conscientious objector, and is still a member of an Italian pacifist organisa- tion. But apart from this he prudently steers a somewhat ambiguous course through the re- ligious and political factions of Sicilian life with a realistic, undogmatic and compassionate humanism which has impressed us all.