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Pope Saint John XXIII - Papa Roncalli

Born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli on 25 November 1881 in Sotto il Monte, Bergamo, Italy.
Ordained priest on 10 August 1904; consecrated bishop by Giovanni Tacci Porcelli on 19 March 1925.
Papal nuncio in France, delegate to Bulgaria, Greece & Turkey. Created Cardinal-Priest of Santa Prisca on 12 January 1953 by Pope Pius XII & named Patriarch of Venice.
Elected pope on 28 October 1958. Called the Second Vatican Council, which opened on 11 October 1962. He died of stomach cancer on 3 June 1963.
Cause for canonization opened on 18 November 1965 by St Paul VI. Beatified on 3 September in the Jubilee 2000 by St John Paul II. Canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday (27 April) 2014 with JPII by Pope Francis, who declared John XXIII a saint based on his merits of opening Vatican II.
Feast day - 11 October
Motto - Oboedientia et Pax (Obedience & Peace)
Tomb - in St Peter's Basilica, the Vatican

Catechesis by St John Paul II      
General Audience, Wednesday 25 November 1981 - also in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dearest brothers and sisters in Christ!
1. Exactly 100 years ago – Friday 25 November 1881 – in Sotto il Monte, the little Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli opened his eyes to life. During his long life singularly rich in grace, the baby boy who would become a priest, bishop and finally successor to Peter, was baptised towards evening on that same day.

In this audience, which through happy coincidence, albeit by chance, finds us gathered here on this very significant date, I cannot but remember in a particular way my great predecessor, whose memory blesses our hearts and is in the conscience of all the peoples of the world. One hundred years ago a man was born who, following the golden thread of "good Providence" - as he often liked to call it -, would leave an indelible mark on the history of the Church in our time. Together with you I would like to focus attention on the meaning, the importance, the greatness, that this man's presence in our midst had for the Church and for the world. In doing this, I recollect the visit I made on 26th April this year to his hometown, now well known throughout the world. This was my personal tribute of affection and veneration, in this centenary year, to the man who, on going up to the seat of Peter, took the prophetic name of John - the name that my immediate predecessor and I myself have conserved beside the name of Paul, as a sign of love and gratitude to this great Pope. "There came a man sent by God, and his name was John" (Jn 1, 6): these words, which were universally applied to him and certainly showed as a sign of divine predilection, are still emblematic of his pontifical mission.

2. Pope John was a great gift of God to the Church. Not only because – and this would have been enough to make his memory imperishable - he linked his name to the greatest and most transforming event of our century: the convening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, intuited by him, as he had to confess, as through a mysterious and irresistible inspiration of the Holy Spirit; not only because it celebrated the Roman Synod, and wanted to start the revision of the Code of Canon Law. He was a great gift of God because he made the Church feel alive to the man of today. He was, like the Baptist, a Precursor. He indicated the ways of renewal in the great wake of Tradition, as I fully developed in my speeches in Sotto il Monte and Bergamo. He wanted "to be the voice" (Jn 1, 23) so as to prepare for Christ a new advent in the Church and in the world. In his Easter message of 1962 he had wished to say: "It is still Peter, in his most recent, humble successor who, surrounded by an immense crown of bishops, with trepidation but confidence, addresses the multitude. His word comes up from the end of twenty centuries, and it is not his: it is that of Jesus Christ, Verb of the Father and redeemer of all the peoples, and it is still he who shows to humanity the best ways that lead to coexistence in truth and justice" ((21 April 1962: Speeches, Messages, of Pope John XXIII, IV [1962] 221s)

This voice shook the world. By his simplicity and directness, by his humility and discretion, by his courage and his strength. By means of this voice the Word of Christ was clearly heard: in his call to truth, to justice, to love and to freedom, by which relations between men and between peoples were inspired, according to the lines of the great encyclical Pacem in Terris: it was heard in his underlining of both the values of the person, a unique and unrepeatable nucleus in whom the glory of the Face of God creator and redeemer is directly reflected, and also those of the family, the fundamental social nucleus for the life of society and of the Church, to whom her own children are offered as a sign of hope and of promise, especially in priestly and religious vocations; it was heard in his reproposal to men of the ways of prayer and of holiness. "There came a man, sent from God, and his name was John".

3. The dominant note of his action in the Church was his optimism. For this, the Pontiff was and still is dear to our hearts. Called to the responsibilities of the supreme government of the Church when he was only three years, or a little less, short of his eightieth birthday, he was a young man, in mind and in heart, as by a marvel of nature. He knew how to look to the future with unwavering hope; for the Church and for the world he awaited the flourishing of a new season, entrusted to the good will and the right intentions of a new humanity, more just, more upright, better. The Council was to mark a new springtime, as he often repeated; it was to be a "new Pentecost"; it was to be a "new Easter", that is "a great awakening, a resumption of the more spirited pathway" (JXXIII, 21 April 1962).

Hence the freshness and boldness of his initiatives. Hence his confidence in young people, whom he called to assume the great responsibilities of life, individual and public, without procrastination, without hesitation, without fear. Hence above all his missionary zeal, which made him embrace the world with passionate love, which was transformed into prayer: and it is known that he kept a large globe in his study, so as to follow more closely the life of the peoples of the whole earth; and that every day, in his recitation of the third joyful mystery, he entrusted "to Jesus who was born the countless number of all the children ... of all the human races who, in the last twenty-four hours, during the night and the day, had come to the light wherever on the face of the earth" (JXXIII, to the Italian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 5 May 1962). This missionary zeal he had absorbed and lived since his years at "Propaganda Fide", and then in the contacts of the ever growing radius of his ecclesial service, all the way to the See of St Peter. He had confidence in the indigenous peoples; he wanted to give an always more incisive imprint to the presence of the sons of the land in the clergy and bishops, underlining the ecclesiological value with the various orders, both priestly and episcopal, which he himself wanted to fulfill here in Rome, so as to to put in clear evidence the primarily missionary task of the mandate of the Church and its visible head. As he said at one of the ordinations of these missionary bishops, "the humble Vicar of Christ gathers every morning around his chalice the children arranged in an immense crown from all points of the earth: with particular tenderness he turns to his co-workers in the apostolate, still countless, thank God, but always insufficient to the needs and aspirations of the masses, the workers of the Gospel, spread across all the continents "(May 8, 1960: Discourses, Messages and Talks of Pope John XXIII, II [1960] 337).

From this optimistic expectation, almost a "spes contra spem" (cf Rom 4:18), which knew how to await patiently from God the moment of grace, and to stimulate consent and collaboration among men, arose the immense sympathy with which our contemporaries accompanied the work of this Pope and mourned his death like that of an ancient Patriarch, even that of a father. Such a hope was responded to by the trust of young people - now mature men, certainly committed, as I hope, to live and implement his teachings - who saw in him one who invited them to take their place in society and in the Church. And therein lies the explanation of the extraordinary irradiation that his teaching, his word and his work had, in all social and professional categories,  even in the short arc of his most intense pontificate.

4. Finally Pope John had, in a most sensitive and extraordinary way, a longing for unity. It was a tenacious effort, interwoven with trust in God and with sympathy in human relations, of healthy realism and generous openness; it was a program continually followed in all the stages of his life, all the way to the words spoken on his deathbed: "It is particularly the ''unum sint" that Christ has entrusted as testament to his Church. The sanctification of the clergy and the people, the union of Christians, the conversion of the world are therefore the principal task of the Pope and the bishops" (Speeches, Messages and Talks of Pope John XXIII, V [1963] 618).

"Ut unum sint"! The testament of Christ in the hour of the Eucharist and of the Passion had constant resonance in the heart of Pope John: that phrase was repeated countless times by him, and tells us how he lived the drama of the division among Christians and the expectation of union in the commitment to continue - as he said on the evening of the historic day of the inauguration of the Council, taking up an expression dear to him - "to grasp that which unites, leaving aside anything that might put us in some difficulty" (11 October 1962: Discourses, Messages and Talks of Pope John XXIII, IV [1962] 592).

"Ut unum sint"! All the way to today this consignment has driven the Church on the pathway, tiring but progredient and constructive, which has been journeyed along with singularly important and promising steps and that, by the grace of God, continue tirelessly at all levels. May Pope John assist this work from heaven, as its luminous model, as an inspired propeller, as a valid intercessor!

5. Dearest brothers and sisters! I would still like to allude to the links that this great Pontiff, the precise centenary of whose birth we remember today, had with my homeland, visiting the city of Krakow in 1912, celebrating Holy Mass in the cathedral, and going various times as a pilgrim to the Shrine of Jasna Góra. And also the personal memories, united to the celebration of the Council, must be mentioned here, albeit briefly. Suffice it to have, today, before our eyes and in our hearts - so as to to continue with a clear and ardent impulse in the service of society and of the Church, to which each of us is called in our own vocation - the figure of John XXIII, who recalls to us our duties to love Christ and to serve man. As I said in Bergamo, "from the threshold of the home in Sotto il Monte, from the hills of the Bergamo region ... we see the Church as a cenacle of all peoples and continents, open to the future" (John Paul II, IV / 1 [1981] 1046). In this perspective full of promise, from that humble homeland to the neighbouring Basilica, where his mortal remains repose awaiting the resurrection, we look today to the figure of Pope John, the good Pope, the Pope of the Council, the Pope of ecumenism, of the missions, of the Church that wants to embrace the world, to ask him to still bless us all from heaven, and to encourage all of us to follow in his footsteps."

Vatican biography of Pope St John XXIII
- also in Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

ANGELO GIUSEPPE RONCALLI was born in Sotto il Monte, in the diocese and province of Bergamo, on 25 November 1881. The fourth of thirteen children, he was baptized that same day. Under the guidance of an outstanding parish priest, Father Francesco Rebuzzini, he received a profound ecclesiastical formation which would sustain him in difficulty and inspire him in the works of the apostolate.

He received Confirmation and First Communion in 1889 and entered the Seminary of Bergamo in 1892, where he remained for studies in classics and theology until his second year of theology. At 14, he began drawing up the spiritual notes which he would keep in various ways until his death, and would later be collected in the book, Journal of a Soul. It was there that he began the practice of regular spiritual direction. On 1 March 1896, the spiritual director of the Seminary of Bergamo, Father Luigi lsacchi, enrolled him in the Secular Franciscan Order, whose Rule he professed on 23 May 1897.

From 1901 to 1905 he studied at the Pontifical Roman Seminary, where he benefited from a scholarship of from Bergamo diocese for qualified seminarians. In the meantime he completed a year of military service. He was ordained a priest in Rome on 10 August 1904 in the Church of Santa Maria in Monte Santo in Piazza del Popolo. In 1905, he was named secretary to the new bishop of Bergamo, Giacomo Maria Radini Tedeschi. He served as secretary until 1914, accompanying the bishop on his pastoral visits and taking part in his numerous pastoral initiatives, including a Synod, the editorship of the monthly journal La Vita Diocesana. pilgrimages and various social works. He also taught history, patrology and apologetics in the Seminary. In 1910, when the statutes of Catholic Action were revised, the bishop entrusted him with the pastoral care of Catholic women (section V). He wrote for Bergamo's daily Catholic newspaper, and he was a diligent, profound and effective preacher.

These were the years of his profound contact with sainted Bishops: St Charles Borromeo (whose Atti della Visita Apostolica, completed in Bergamo in 1575 he would later publish), St Francis de Sales and Bl Gregorio Barbarigo. They were also years of great pastoral activity at the side of Bishop Radini Tedeschi. When the latter died in 1914, Father Roncalli continued his priestly ministry as a seminary professor and a spiritual assistant to various ecclesiastical associations.

When Italy entered the war in 1915, he was called to military service as a sergeant medic. A year later, he became a military chaplain serving military hospitals behind the lines, and coordinated the spiritual and moral care of soldiers. At the end of the war he opened a "Home for Students" and served as a chaplain for students.

In 1919, he was appointed spiritual director of the seminary. 1921 marked the beginning of the second phase of his life: his service to the Holy See. Called to Rome by Pope Benedict XV to be the President for Italy of the central council of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, he visited many Italian dioceses and organized missionary circles. In 1925 Pope Pius XI named him Apostolic Visitor to Bulgaria, elevating him to the episcopal dignity with the titular see of Areopolis. He chose as his episcopal motto Oboedientia et Pax, which served as the programme of his Iife.

Ordained bishop in Rome on 19 March 1925, he arrived in Sophia on 25 April. Subsequently named the first Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria, Archbishop Roncalli remained there until 1934, visiting the Catholic communities and fostering respectful relations with other Christian communities. He was present and offered ready charitable assistance during the earthquake of 1928. He quietly endured misunderstandings and the difficulties of a ministry marked by halting progress. He grew in self-knowledge and confidence, and in abandonment to Christ crucified.

On 27 November 1934, he was named Apostolic Delegate in Turkey and Greece. His new assignment covered a vast area. The Catholic Church was present in many ways throughout the young Turkish Republic which was in the process of renewing and organizing itself. His ministry to Catholics was demanding and he became known for his respectful manner and dialogue with the Orthodox and Muslims. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was in Greece, which was devastated by fighting. He sought to gain information about prisoners of war and he helped to save many Jews by giving them transit visas issued by the Apostolic Delegation. On 6 December 1944, he was appointed Apostolic Nuncio in Paris by Pope Pius XII.

During the final months of the war and the first months of peace, Archbishop Roncalli assisted prisoners of war and worked to restore stability to the life of the Church in France. He visited the French shrines and participated in popular feasts and more significant religious events. He was attentive, prudent and trusting in his approach to the new pastoral initiatives undertaken by bishops and priests in France. He constantly sought to embody evangelical simplicity, even in dealing with the most complex diplomatic issues. His pastoral desire to be a priest in every situation sustained him. His deep piety found daily expression in prolonged moments of prayer and meditation.

On 12 January 1953 he was created Cardinal and on 25 January he was named Patriarch of Venice. He was delighted to devote himself in the last years of his life to a directly pastoral ministry, an aspiration he had always cherished as a priest. He was a wise and resourceful pastor, following in the footsteps of the holy bishops whom he had always venerated: St Lawrence Giustiniani, the first Patriarch of Venice, and St Pius X. As he grew older, his trust in the Lord increased, within the context of an active, enterprising and joyful ministry.

Following the death of Pius XII, he was elected Pope on 28 October 1958, taking the name John XXIII. In the five years of his pontificate he appeared to the world as an authentic image of the Good Shepherd. Meek and gentle, resourceful and courageous, simple and ever active, he undertook various corporal and spiritual works of mercy, visiting prisoners and the sick, welcoming people of all nations and religions, demonstrating an exquisite sense of fatherhood to everyone. His social magisterium was contained in the encyclicals Mater et Magistra (1961) and Pacem in terris (1963).

He convoked the Synod of Rome, instituted the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law, and convened the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. As Bishop of Rome, he visited parishes and churches in the historical centre and in the outskirts. People saw in him a reflection of benignitas evangelica and called him the "good Pope". A profound spirit of prayer sustained him. He embodied, as the driving force behind a movement of renewal of the Church, the peace of one who trusts completely in the Lord. He advanced resolutely along the paths of evangelization, ecumenism and dialogue, and showed a paternal concern to reach out to those of his children most in need.

He died the evening of 3 June 1963, the day after Pentecost, in a profound spirit of abandonment to Jesus, of longing for his embrace, and surrounded by the prayers of the entire world, which seemed to gathered at his bedside to breathe with him the love of the Father.

Pope St John XXIII wrote eight encyclicals:

8) Pacem in Terris - on establishing universal peace in truth, justice, charity & liberty
Feast of St Stanislaus, Thursday 11 April 1963
7) Paenitentiam Agere - on the need for the practice of interior & exterior penance
Sunday 1 July 1962
6) Aeterna Dei Sapientia - commemorating the 15th centenary of the death of Pope St Leo I
Saturday 11 November 1961
5) Mater et Magistra - on Christianity and social progress
Monday 15 May 1961
4) Princeps Pastorum - on the missions, native clergy & lay participation
Saturday, 28 November 1959
3) Grata Recordatio - on the rosary: prayer for the Church, the missions, international & social problems
Saturday, 26 September 1959
2) Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia - on St John Vianney
Feast of St Alphonsus Liguori, Saturday 1 August 1959
1) Ad Petri Cathedram - on truth, unity and peace in a spirit of charity
Solemnity of Ss Peter & Paul, 29 June 1959

Meditation on Christmas Eve 1902
Written by Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, studying for the priesthood in Rome.

Night has fallen; the clear bright stars are sparkling in the cold air; noisy voices rise to my ear from the city. Voices of revellers of this world who celebrate with merrymaking the poverty of their Saviour. Around me in their rooms my companions are asleep and I am still wakeful, thinking of the mystery of Bethlehem.


Mary and Joseph, knowing the hour is near, are turned away by the townsfolk and go out into the fields to look for a shelter. I am a poor shepherd, I have only a wretched stable, a small manger, some wisps of straw. I offer all these to you, be pleased to come into my poor hovel. I offer you my heart; my soul is poor and bare of virtues, the straws of so many imperfections will prick you and make you weep - but O my Lord, what can you expect? This little is all I have. I am touched by your poverty, I am moved to tears, but I have nothing better to offer you. Jesus, honour my soul with your presence, adorn it with your graces. Burn this straw and change it into a soft couch for your most holy body.

Jesus, I am here waiting for your coming. Wicked men have driven you out, and the wind is like ice. I am a poor man, but I will warm you as well as I can. At least be pleased that I wish to welcome you warmly, to love you and sacrifice myself to you.

Pope St John Paul II's homily at John XXIII's beatification
St Peter's Square, Sunday 3rd September 2000 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. In the context of the Jubilee Year, it is with deep joy that I have declared blessed two Popes, Pius IX and John XXIII, and three other servants of the Gospel in the ministry and the consecrated life: Archbishop Tommaso Reggio of Genoa, the diocesan priest William Joseph Chaminade and the Benedictine monk Columba Marmion.

Five different personalities, each with his own features and his own mission, all linked by a longing for holiness. It is precisely their holiness that we recognize today: holiness that is a profound and transforming relationship with God, built up and lived in the daily effort to fulfil his will. Holiness lives in history and no saint has escaped the limits and conditioning which are part of our human nature. In beatifying one of her sons, the Church does not celebrate the specific historical decisions he may have made, but rather points to him as someone to be imitated and venerated because of his virtues, in praise of the divine grace which shines resplendently in him.

I extend my respectful greetings to the official delegations of Italy, France, Ireland, Belgium, Turkey and Bulgaria which have come here for this solemn occasion. I also greet the relatives of the new blesseds, together with the Cardinals, Bishops, civil and religious dignitaries who have wished to take part in our celebration. Lastly, I greet you all, dear brothers and sisters who have come in large numbers to pay homage to the servants of God whom the Church today is enrolling among the blessed.   ...

3. "You are good and forgiving" (Entrance Antiphon). Today we contemplate in the glory of the Lord another Pontiff, John XXIII, the Pope who impressed the world with the friendliness of his manner which radiated the remarkable goodness of his soul. By divine design their beatification links these two Popes who lived in very different historical contexts but, beyond appearances, share many human and spiritual similarities. Pope John's deep veneration for Pius IX, to whose beatification he looked forward, is well known. During a spiritual retreat in 1959, he wrote in his diary: "I always think of Pius IX of holy and glorious memory, and by imitating him in his sacrifices, I would like to be worthy to celebrate his canonization" (Journal of a Soul).

Everyone remembers the image of Pope John's smiling face and two outstretched arms embracing the whole world. How many people were won over by his simplicity of heart, combined with a broad experience of people and things! The breath of newness he brought certainly did not concern doctrine, but rather the way to explain it; his style of speaking and acting was new, as was his friendly approach to ordinary people and to the powerful of the world. It was in this spirit that he called the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, thereby turning a new page in the Church's history: Christians heard themselves called to proclaim the Gospel with renewed courage and greater attentiveness to the "signs" of the times. The Council was a truly prophetic insight of this elderly Pontiff who, even amid many difficulties, opened a season of hope for Christians and for humanity.

In the last moments of his earthly life, he entrusted his testament to the Church: "What counts the most in life is blessed Jesus Christ, his holy Church, his Gospel, truth and goodness". We too wish to receive this testament, as we glorify God for having given him to us as a Pastor. ...

7. Let us confidently ask the new blesseds, Pius IX, John XXIII, Tommaso Reggio, William Joseph Chaminade and Columba Marmion, to help us live in ever greater conformity to the Spirit of Christ. May their love of God and neighbour illumine our steps at this dawn of the third millennium!"

Pope Francis's homily at John XXIII's & JPII's canonization
St Peter's Square, Divine Mercy Sunday, 27 April 2014 - also in French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"At the heart of this Sunday, which concludes the Octave of Easter and which St John Paul II wished to dedicate to Divine Mercy, are the glorious wounds of the risen Jesus.

He had already shown those wounds when he first appeared to the Apostles on the very evening of that day following the Sabbath, the day of the resurrection. But, as we have heard, Thomas was not there that evening, and when the others told him that they had seen the Lord, he replied that unless he himself saw and touched those wounds, he would not believe. A week later, Jesus appeared once more to the disciples gathered in the Upper Room. Thomas was also present; Jesus turned to him and told him to touch his wounds. Whereupon that man, so straightforward and accustomed to testing everything personally, knelt before Jesus with the words: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20, 28).

The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith. That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us. They are essential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness. Saint Peter, quoting Isaiah, writes to Christians: “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2, 24; cf Is 53, 5).

St John XXIII and St John Paul II were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side. They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother (cf Is 58, 7), because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles. These were two men of courage, filled with the parrhesia of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.

They were priests and bishops and popes of the twentieth century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful – faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history; the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds, was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother.

In these two men, who looked upon the wounds of Christ and bore witness to his mercy, there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy (1 Pet 1, 3,8). The hope and the joy which the risen Christ bestows on his disciples, the hope and the joy which nothing and no one can take from them. The hope and joy of Easter, forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying, utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the bitterness of that chalice. Such were the hope and the joy which these two holy popes had received as a gift from the risen Lord and which they in turn bestowed in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude.

This hope and this joy were palpable in the earliest community of believers, in Jerusalem, as we have heard in the Acts of the Apostles (cf Acts 2, 42-47). It was a community which lived the heart of the Gospel, love and mercy, in simplicity and fraternity.

This is also the image of the Church which the Second Vatican Council set before us. John XXIII and John Paul II cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the Church in keeping with her pristine features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries. Let us not forget that it is the saints who give direction and growth to the Church. In convening the Council, St John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit. He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader, guided by the Holy Spirit. This was his great service to the Church; for this reason I like to think of him as the the pope of openness to the Holy Spirit.

In his own service to the People of God, St John Paul II was the pope of the family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family. I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains.

May these two new saints and shepherds of God’s people intercede for the Church, so that during this two-year journey toward the Synod she may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family. May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves."

Omelia di Papa Paolo VI - X Anniversario del Transito del Sommo Pontefice Giovanni XXIII
Sabato, 2 giugno 1973 - in italiano

"Sono passati dieci anni dalla pia morte di Giovanni XXIII. Noi commemoriamo questa ricorrenza con intensa pietà. Noi personalmente ne abbiamo non solo il doloroso dovere, ma un titolo di speciale devozione, per l’affezione, che Egli sempre ci dimostrò e che nei rari e discreti contatti, avuti con Lui, durante i brevi anni del suo Pontificato, parve a noi essere da parte di Lui intenzionalmente effusiva e piena di particolare confidenza e forse di profetica predilezione.

Preghiera e ricordo caratterizzano questa nostra celebrazione.

Preghiera a Dio, per quel Cristo nostro Salvatore, di cui egli fu tanto degno e singolare Vicario, affinché la pace eterna ed il gaudio della misteriosa dimora dell’al di là siano assicurati a quel fedelissimo ministro della santa Chiesa. La nostra preghiera di suffragio sperimenta un duplice sentimento, caratteristico del suffragio cristiano, quando è speso per un’anima che tutto ci fa supporre essere già nell’amplesso beatifico del Dio dei viventi; il sentimento sempre ostile e tenebroso della morte, del distacco, diciamo, incolmabile della nostra odierna, limitata esperienza, che separa la forma della nostra presente esistenza da quella ignota della esistenza ultraterrena; un sentimento che conosce dinanzi alla morte il timore, l’incubo, la terribilità della nostra naturale cecità; e poi subito il sentimento simultaneo della certezza nella sopravvivenza dei nostri Defunti, il sentimento parallelo cioè della fede nell’oceano di misericordia e di bontà, quale Iddio il Padre, in virtù di Cristo, il Salvatore, nel dono finalmente godibile dello Spirito Santo, l’Amore, il sentimento, a cui non è sufficiente misura la nostra più ardita fantasia, della comunione dei Santi nella comunione felicissima con quel Dio, Vita, Verità, Amore, il Quale per Sé ci ha creati e chiamati al mistero e alla pienezza dell’Essere suo.

Questa cerimonia ci fa respirare quest’atmosfera esistenziale ed inebriante, che ci aiuta a valutare la vita presente in funzione della vita futura; e che nel caso nostro ci apre quasi ad una confidente conversazione con Papa Giovanni; ce lo rende vicino nel devoto gesto reciproco, col quale non tanto noi a Lui, quanto piuttosto Lui a noi offre i fiori che nascono sulla sua tomba; vogliamo dire la ricchezza spirituale, che ritroviamo in quel voluminoso «Giornale dell’anima», nel quale sono raccolte, lungo il corso della sua lunga vita, le espressioni immediate, candide e pie, della sua intima cronaca spirituale. Anche questa è parte, e non minima, della sua eredità, ed ha il privilegio, proprio delle esperienze spirituali, di conservarsi, appunto come fiori freschi, attuali e comunicabili, quasi un suadente invito ad entrare nella sua confidenza, ad ascoltarne la voce semplice e schietta, e a subirne il fascino familiare come quello d’un maestro di vita interiore.

Faremo bene, dopo dieci anni dalla sua morte, a metterci umilmente a questa sua scuola spirituale; primo, per conoscere Papa Giovanni nella sua autentica figura di uomo del popolo, pieno di sensibilità verso il suo ambiente domestico; per ammirarlo nel suo aspetto di sacerdote imbevuto della tradizione preconciliare, se volete, ma densa della sapienza ecclesiastica più religiosamente sincera e osservante; e poi per vederlo partire con cuore di missionario, quale rappresentante della Sede Apostolica con l’astuzia onesta e sagace della semplicità e dell’amore a Sofia, a Istanbul e, infine, a Parigi; per riconoscerlo quindi nel suo profilo sontuoso e bonario di vescovo, anzi di Patriarca di Venezia, il quale pratica la vita ordinaria e generosa del pastore di anime, per rivederlo finalmente nel manto pontificale del Papa, che tempera le vertigini della coscienza del suo supremo ministero con l’interiore ascoltazione, docile alle ispirazioni dello Spirito e con la umile e costante volontà di mostrarsi e di essere soprattutto servo dei servi di Dio.

Preghiamo così accanto a lui, per lui se nell’insondabile calcolo del giudizio di Dio l’anima di Papa Giovanni avesse tuttora bisogno di questo nostro suffragio; ma forse piuttosto per noi, per essere educati a raccogliere della sua personalità l’immagine vera, e di rispecchiarla nel nostro spirito, in conformità alla sua autentica testimonianza autobiografica, quella di un prete, d’un buono, d’un ottimo prete bergamasco e romano.

La preghiera diventa così ricordo. Le proporzioni di grandezza, che la memoria di questo nostro grande e singolare Predecessore ha assunte nella storia contemporanea, non saranno così mortificate, ma corrette, all’occorrenza, dalle deformazioni che certe interpretazioni incaute o interessate gli hanno attribuite, quasi fosse il patrono dei contestatori, il Papa della liberazione dalla catena della tradizione, il promotore d’un «aggiornamento» arbitrario e senza prestabiliti confini, così che nell’autorità del suo nome si potesse frantumare l’autorità stessa donde la Chiesa è al tempo stesso una e cattolica. Dobbiamo conservare di Papa Giovanni una memoria fedele, non abusiva. Le straordinarie espressioni del suo Pontificato, quella incalcolabile e inesauribile del Concilio fra tutte, non fanno di questo Papa un tipo incoerente con l’impegno dogmatico della dottrina originaria e secolare della Chiesa di Pietro, ma un fermo e convinto continuatore, integrale se non integrista; un Papa innovatore, se volete, il quale sa scoprire la vitale fecondità del messaggio umano-divino, proprio della Chiesa cattolica, e la fa scaturire nell’interno più intimo della sua propria autenticità, ripetendo il prodigio perenne di questa secolare sede di Pietro, che sa estrarre dal tesoro evangelico, come lo scriba della parabola, nova et vetera, inesauribilmente (Matth. 13, 52).

Benediciamo perciò la memoria di questo carissimo e veneratissimo Papa, che ha saputo riaprire a torrenti le fonti della Verità salvatrice; ha saputo ringiovanire la Chiesa con lo Spirito vivificante del Vangelo; ha saputo stendere la mano ai Fratelli cristiani separati sopra l’abisso di secolari rotture e rivalità; ha saputo riaprire con un nuovo accento di familiarità e di stima il dialogo con il mondo odierno secolarizzato, ed offrirgli, come pane di casa, il dono della «speranza che non inganna» (Rom. 5, 5).

Benediciamo, sì, la memoria di Papa Giovanni, quasi Egli venisse fra noi ad aprire il prossimo Anno Santo, che dal suo genio di Maestro e di Pastore prende in questi giorni l’ispirazione e le mosse; ed ascoltiamo la non spenta voce della sua preghiera, che Egli, Angelo Roncalli, dopo dieci anni dalla sua ordinazione sacerdotale, scioglieva proprio su questa tomba di San Pietro per la santa Chiesa: «Sàlvala, sàlvala, o Signore; dona alla tua Chiesa, fra questo turbinare di procelle, fra questo cozzo di genti (era l’ora iniziale della prima guerra mondiale): libertà, unità e pace!» (Giornale, p. 193).

Così oggi per noi, ancora Papa Giovanni: libertà, unità e pace, con la Benedizione Apostolica del suo umilissimo Successore."