Vatican Must Overhaul Its PR Machine

There is no better month than March to visit Rome. It is warm enough to eat outdoors, always one of Rome's great delights. The middle of March comes just before the tourist season - Rome is neither too empty nor overcrowded.

This mid-March, my wife and I spent a long weekend in Rome. We called at the English College, the oldest English institution overseas, founded in the reign of Edward III, which educated most of the martyrs of the recusant days. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor is the fourth rector of the English College to become Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.

We did not receive any secret tips on the likely choice of his successor; the attention of the Vatican was more focused on the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Africa, where there are somewhere between 150 million and 200 million Roman Catholics. The US has elected its first black President; before this century is out, the cardinals may well elect a black Pope. Indeed one cannot be sure there has been no black Pope already. St Augustine the Great was an African bishop, although, of course, he never became Pope.

On his visit, the Pope created an avoidable news story by defending the Church's ban on condoms, even as part of the campaign against Aids. The Pope argues that Aids is spread by promiscuity, and that it is essential to attack the root evil of promiscuity, in line with two millennia of Christian teaching, rather than to encourage condoms as a protection against its consequences.


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