Thursday, 26 August 2010

Nunciatures and Noise

I gather that the Knights of St Columba (overseas readers please note that this is not a misprint for Columbus or Columbanus) are organizing a nocturnal candlelight vigil opposite the Nunciature in Wimbledon during the Papal Visit.
I have a memory that when Pope John Paul visited in 1982, the group Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (does it still exist?) decided to show its attachment to the Holy See by serenading the Holy Father the whole night outside the then Apostolic Delegation with traditional Catholic hymns. Eventually, at some ungodly hour, the Pope had to appear at a window and beg the people to go to bed and let the poor Pope get some sleep.
The Knights' vigil is prudently set to end at 8.30pm, by which time the Holy Father should have caught up on the latest episode of Eastenders, and be settling down for a mug of Horlicks and a game of Scrabble with Mgr Georg.

Some twenty years ago, I heard a story in Rome, from an official then high up in the Secretariat of State, which is presumably true. General Noriega, the dictator of Panama, having recently fallen from power, famously holed up in the Apostolic Nunciature, claiming sanctuary, or something of the sort. The Nunciature was promptly surrounded by hordes of gum-chewing GIs with guns trained on every window. Their war of attrition was prosecuted by loud American rock music (BAWN in the USA and the like) being directed at the Nunciature round the clock from powerful loudhailer systems.
In insomniacal desperation, the Nuncio contacted the Vatican Secretariat of State, and some high-up there telephoned the US embassy to the Vatican, threatening to send the Sistine Choir to sing under his windows unless the rock music was silenced.
There was tranquillity in Panama within the hour.

The Pope may not have many divisions; but he has got the Sistine Choir!


bedwere said...

I heard they played "These boots are made for walking" over and over again.

Jane said...


I haven't laughed so much for weeks...and weeks and weeks.

btw do you know whether the Nuncio is recovered and back in residence in Wimbledon? I searched last night and couldn't find any news of him. If the Holy Father discovers there's nobody there and the house is empty, he may just slip the net and go to Walsingham....

Recusant said...

The Sistine Choir is a very deadly weapon and should probably be banned under the Geneva Protocols. They must undergo years of training to perfect that chalk-on-a-blackboard screech. Couldn't we find a Tiber swimming Anglican choirmaster to teach them the rudiments?

GOR said...

Enjoyed the story, Father. And to some ears the Sistine Choir would do the trick. "Make them stop!"

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall said...

The Special Operations strategy against Noriega has always intrigued me because of problems I had (owing to my efforts to create an African American Museum in Seattle) in 1987 with an unidentified branch of US intelligence. In my case "car gangs" invaded my neighborhood at two every morning and used their car stereos to barrage me and my neighbors with heavy metal and Martin Luther King speeches. I write about this, and other covert harassment I experienced in my recent memoir THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE ( I currently live in exile in New Zealand.

Flambeaux said...

The story about Noriega is true. I work for a man who was there. And the preference, according to him, was for Australian rock group AC/DC more than Bruce Springsteen.


gemoftheocean said...

True. Psyops was brilliant. I remember it at the time too. Though I think your "gum chewing" business is like as not some eurofantasy.

They knew he didn't like rock, ergo, drive him nuts, or the nucio over the wall enough to throw MN out himself.

Story here.