March 11, 1939

Thousands to Stand in Queues for Hours Ere Ceremony Begins

Greg Clark Will Fight His Way to St. Peter’s at 5.30 a.m.


By Gregory Clark

Rome, March 11 – My ticket for the papal coronation tomorrow is green, and larger than a sheet of note paper. On its four sides are details of the routes by which I must fight my way into St. Peter’s. I approach St. Peter’s square by the Street of the Sacristy and enter St. Peter’s through the door of St. Simon. I am lucky enough to have a bench in the tribune.

Father Edward Crossland of Barrie is calling for me at 5.30 a.m. and even so, we are afraid we will have to use hockey finals tactics to wedge our way into our places, tickets or no tickets, because at noon we overheard a group of very elegant English people in the hotel lobby, agreeing to meet at 3 a.m. And if 50 English aristocrats are planning to start at 3 for the procession that begins at 8.30 a.m. and does not get really going until 10 and does not finish until 1 p.m., how about the hosts of pilgrims who are hording in from every quarter all day.

The big fashionable hotel I am at is jammed to the doors. A party of Germans, men, women and children, who wired for their accommodation three weeks ago, arrived today, 35 of them, and got their rooms, while in the lobby, Italian nobles from up-country fumed and fretted because there was no room for them. Every hotel, every private house with a room to spare, and all the villages out around Rome like Frascati and Osita are jammed with pilgrims of all nations, intent upon seeing that three-tiered golden crown go up on the head of Pius XII tomorrow on the balcony of St. Peter’s.

My seat in the tribune is one of the choicest in the church, thanks to Catholic friends in Canada who gave me letters to these genial Canadian and English priests in Rome. It is in full view of the papal altar. Father Crossland will be beside me to explain to me the liturgy of the whole ceremony, the procession of which starts at 8.30 and the liturgy of which lasts almost three hours. The minute it ends, I have to fight my way somehow through the throngs… expected to amount to somewhere short of half a million now, and well over a third of a million‚Ķ who will be packed in and about St. Peter’s, and make my way to where I can sit down and prepare my broadcast for Sunday evening.

Many of my Catholic friends in Canada have asked and written to me to bring them home, sacred mementoes of Rome. At the final stage of the pontifical mass tomorrow the pope will bless the multitude and I have arranged with Father Crossland to have cupped in his hands at the moment, a number of silver medals, rosaries and some missals. These articles will, thereby, receive in this great church at that historic moment, the blessing of the pope.

The broadcasting station of 2RO in Rome from which I will give a description of the ceremony in St. Peter’s is a magnificent building, about a quarter of a mile from St. Peter’s. It is not so enormous a building as that which houses Radio City in New York but what New York wins in height Rome wins in marble of red and rose and green. The headquarters of Rome’s broadcasting is a veritable palace. I was a little intimidated at the thought of talking from Rome to Toronto. Dr. Bell, the director of 2RO, speaks English perfectly. He showed me where to come after the coronation, introduced me to the engineers, gave me easy directions as to time and place.

To speak to you from Rome, my dear friends, is almost easier than speaking to you from CBL up, on Davenport Rd. The reason I say easier, is that the colored marble, the giant murals and the generally elegant surroundings at 2RO, deprive you of self-conceit and send you to the microphone in in all humility.

Tune in On CBL Sunday

Spanning oceans and continents in one brief moment, Gregory Clark’s voice will bring to Canadian radio listeners Sunday night a vivid word picture from Rome of the crowning of a new pope. This will be The Star staff writer’s second message to North America from Rome. He will speak from the studios of 2RO, one of the most powerful radio stations in Europe, and his words will be picked out of the air at Ottawa by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s shortwave station. Greg Clark’s talk will commence at 9.30 p.m. and will be carried in Toronto over stations CBL and CBY.

Mr. Clark will be among the lucky few to view the actual ceremonies in St. Peter’s, in the Vatican, when Pope Pius is crowned head of 400,000,000 Roman Catholics. Later he will mingle with the excited, milling thousands in St. Peter’s Square as they strive to catch glimpse of the new pontiff.

Then Mr. Clark will hurry to the studios of the Italian government to paint a grand word tapestry for his listeners “back home”. The description will be carried over the coast-to-coast network of the C.B.C. Be sure to listen. The time will be 9.30 p.m. Sunday.

Editor’s Notes: It likely cost the Star a lot to send Greg to cover the coronation of Pope Pius XII, so they sure were going to promote it out the wazoo. You have to remember that this is in early 1939, when international tension is sky high. Everyone was gearing up for war, Franco had just won the Spanish Civil War, Czechoslovakia¬†is days away from being dissolved by Nazi Germany, and amidst all of this, Greg is traveling to Fascist Italy for this story.

The use of the word “ere” twice in the headlines for this story are trying to make is sound fancy? It means “early” and very archaic.

CBL was/is the main CBC station in Toronto. I’m not sure what CBY was. It was a radio station in Newfoundland, but since it only started in 1943, it does not seem to be the same.

I tried to find a photo of the broadcasting station of 2RO in Rome since it sounds impressive, but could not find anything in English.