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Papa Bonum and Santo Subito.

India, April 27 -- John XXIII: A Pope of the People

Pope John XXIII, born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, was the fourth of fourteen children; he was ordained a priest on August 10, 1904 and served in various posts including appointments as a papal nuncio in France, and a delegate to Bulgaria and Greece. When on October 20, 1958 the cardinals, assembled in conclave, elected Angelo Roncalli as Pope many regarded him, because of his age and ambiguous reputation, as a transitional, stop-gap Pope, little realizing that the pontificate of this man of 76 years would mark a turning point in history and initiate a new age for the Church. He took the name of John in honour of the precursor and the beloved disciple --but also because it was the name of a long line of Popes whose pontificates had been short.

He was the first Pope to take the pontifical name of John upon election in more than 500 years, and his choice settled the complicated question of official numbering attached to this papal name due to the anti-Pope of this name. Upon his choosing the name, there was some confusion as to whether he would be known as John XXIII or John XXIV; in response, he declared that he was John XXIII, thus affirming the antipapal status of anti-Pope John XXIII.

John XXIII known as Papa Bonum breathed fresh air into the Catholic Church. Far from being a mere "stop-gap" Pope, to great excitement, John XXIII called for an ecumenical council fewer than ninety years after the First Vatican Council (Vatican I's predecessor, the Council of Trent, had been held in the 16th century). This decision was announced on January 29, 1959 at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, who later became Pope Paul VI, remarked that "this holy old boy doesn't realise what a hornet's nest he's stirring up". From the Second Vatican Council came changes that reshaped the face of Catholicism: a comprehensively revised liturgy, a stronger emphasis on ecumenism, and a new approach to the world.

The attitude and relation with other Christian brethren and people of other religions changed a lot during his tenure. He opened the II Vatican Council with the clarion call for a renewal, "to open the windows of the Church to let in some fresh air." Pope John XXIII received a letter from the Anglo-American poet Thomas Merton, then a Trappist monk in Kentucky, urging the Pope to include an ecumenical dimension in the council. In fact, Vatican II would be the first council of the church to include Protestants as guests.

In his first public address, Pope John expressed his concern for reunion with separated Christians and for world peace. In his coronation address he asserted "vigorously and sincerely" that it was his intention to be a pastoral Pope since "all other human gifts and accomplishments -- learning, practical experience, diplomatic finesse -- can broaden and enrich pastoral work but they cannot replace it." One of his first acts was to annul the regulation of Pope Sixtus IV limiting the membership of the College of Cardinals to 70; within the next four years he enlarged it to 87 with the largest international representation in history. Less than three months after his election he announced that he would hold a diocesan synod for Rome, convoke an ecumenical council for the universal Church, and revise the Code of Canon Law. The synod, the first in the history of Rome, was held in 1960; Vatican Council II was convoked in 1962; and the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code was appointed in 1963.

His progressive encyclical, Mater et Magistra, was issued in 1961 to commemorate the anniversary of Leo XIII's Rerum novarum. Pacem in terris, advocating human freedom and dignity as the basis for world order and peace, came out in 1963. He elevated the Pontifical Commission for Cinema, Radio, and Television to curial status, approved a new code of rubrics for the Breviary and Missal, made notable advances in ecumenical relations by creating a new Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity and by appointing the first representative to the Assembly of the World Council of Churches held in New Delhi (1961). The International Balzan Foundation awarded him its Peace Prize in 1962.

John XXIII was an advocate for human rights which included the unborn and the elderly. He wrote about human rights in his Pacem in Terris: "Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services. In consequence, he has the right to be looked after in the event of ill health; disability stemming from his work; widowhood; old age; enforced unemployment; or whenever through no fault of his own he is deprived of the means of livelihood."

The Pope was a master of modern communication in a personal, popular style that broke with papal tradition just in time for the television age.

The Pope's ebullience was evident even in moments ordinarily governed by the strictest protocol. Receiving Queen Elizabeth II of England, with whom he conversed in French, the Pope asked her to say her children's names aloud, "because children's names acquire a particular sweetness on a mother's lips."

Since his death on June 3, 1963, much has been written and spoken about the warmth and holiness of the beloved Pope John. Perhaps the testimony of the world was best expressed by a newspaper drawing of the earth shrouded in mourning with the simple caption, "A Death in the Family."

Pope John XXIII was buried in the Vatican grottoes beneath Saint Peter's Basilica on June 6, 1963 and his cause for canonization was opened on November 18, 1965 by his successor, Pope Paul VI, who declared him a Servant of God. In addition to being named Venerable on December 20, 1999, he was beatified on September 3, 2000 by Pope John Paul II alongside Pope Pius IX and three others. Following his beatification, his body was moved on June 3, 2001 from its original place to the altar of Saint Jerome where it could be seen by the faithful. Bypassing the traditionally required second miracle, Pope Francis declared John XXIII a saint based on his merits of opening the Second Vatican Council on July 5, 2013. He was canonised alongside John Paul II on April 27, 2014. John XXIII today is affectionately known as the "Good Pope" and in Italian, "il Papa buono".

For all the changes that Pope John ushered into the church, and notwithstanding arguments that his reign marked a radical break with the past, Archbishop Capovilla, the personal secretary of John XXIII says that the Pope saw himself as acting in full continuity with Catholicism's millennial teachings and traditions. "Precisely because he was a great conservative," the archbishop says, "he was able to bring the world a message of love, of hope and of faith.

Canonization is only an official status of sainthood conferred upon John XXIII, the Pope of the people; for the millions of admirers all over the world, especially for the Italians, Papa Bonum has been a saint in their hearts for decades.

John Paul II: A Pope for the People

Pope John Paul II or John Paul the Great, born Karol Jozef Wojtyla (May 18, 1920 - April 2, 2005), was Pope from October 16, 1978 till his death in 2005. He was the second longest-serving Pope in history and, as a Pole, the first non-Italian since Pope Adrian VI, who died in 1523.

Karol Jozef Wojtyla was born in the Polish town of Wadowice. He was the youngest of three children. On finishing his studies at the seminary in Krakow, Wojtyla was ordained a priest on November 1, 1946. Pope Pius XII appointed him as the Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow. At the age of 38, he became the youngest bishop in Poland.

In October 1962, Wojtyla took part in the Second Vatican Council where he made contributions to two of its most historic and influential products, the Decree on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis Humanae) and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes).

According to John F. Crosby, as Pope, John Paul II used the words of Gaudium et Spes later to introduce his own views on the nature of the human person in relation to God: man is "the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake", but man "can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself". On January 13, 1964, Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Krakow. On June 26, 1967, Paul VI announced Archbishop Karol Wojtyla's promotion to the Sacred College of Cardinals. He was elected Pope on October 16, 1978. He addressed the crowd gathered at St Peter's Square, on the day of his election with the following words:

"Dear brothers and sisters, we are saddened at the death of our beloved Pope John Paul I, and so the cardinals have called for a new bishop of Rome. They called him from a faraway land - far and yet always close because of our communion in faith and Christian traditions. I was afraid to accept that responsibility, yet I do so in a spirit of obedience to the Lord and total faithfulness to Mary, our most Holy Mother. I am speaking to you in your - no, our Italian language. If I make a mistake, please correct me."

Wojtyla became the 264th Pope according to the chronological list of Popes, the first non-Italian in 455 years. At only 58 years of age, he was the youngest Pope since Pope Pius IX in 1846, who was 54.

John Paul II was a true shepherd and pastor after God's own heart. He was one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. Known as a globetrotter, he was one of the most travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. John Paul II apologized to almost every group who had suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church through the years.

His love for young people brought him to establish the World Youth Days. The 19 WYDs celebrated during his pontificate brought together millions of young people from all over the world. At the same time his care for the family was expressed in the World Meetings of Families, which he initiated in 1994. John Paul II successfully encouraged dialogue with the Jews and with the representatives of other religions, whom he several times invited to prayer meetings for peace, especially in Assisi.

He is recognized as helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe. Poland's Communist government unsuccessfully tried to embarrass John Paul II and undermine his popularity by falsely asserting he had an illegitimate son. An attempt was made to assassinate him. As he entered St. Peter's Square to address an audience on May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot at and critically wounded by Mehmet Ali Agca, an expert Turkish gunman who was a member of the militant fascist group Grey Wolves. Agca was caught and restrained by a nun and other bystanders until police arrived. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Two days after Christmas in 1983, John Paul II visited Agca in prison. He and Agca spoke privately for about twenty minutes. John Paul II said, "What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.

Upon the death of John Paul II, a number of clergy at the Vatican and laymen throughout the world began referring to the late pontiff as "John Paul the Great" -- only the fourth Pope to be so acclaimed, and the first since the first millennium. Scholars of Canon Law say that there is no official process for declaring a Pope "Great"; the title simply establishes itself through popular and continued usage. Inspired by calls of "Santo Subito!" ("Make him a Saint Immediately!") from the crowds gathered during the funeral Mass which he performed, Benedict XVI began the beatification process of his predecessor, bypassing the normal restriction that five years must pass after a person's death before beginning the beatification process. On December 19, 2009, John Paul II was proclaimed Venerable by his successor Pope Benedict XVI and was beatified on May 1, 2011 after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints attributed one miracle to him, the healing of a French nun from Parkinson's disease. A second miracle, attributed to the late Pope, was approved on July 2, 2013 and confirmed by Pope Francis two days later. John Paul II was canonised on April 27, 2014, alongside Pope John XXIII.

While John XXIII made the papacy more accessible to the people of Rome, John Paul II made it accessible to the world. It is fitting that John Paul II and John XXIII will be canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday because both men brought such mercy into the world. They were living examples of God's immense love for all and demonstrated a way of humble leadership that can transform the world.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Indian Currents.

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Publication:Indian Currents
Geographic Code:4EXPO
Date:Apr 27, 2014
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