Venice, Italy, Apr 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A book published this month in Italian reveals the collaborative relationship between John XXIII, when he was Patriarch of Venice, and his chancellor at the time, Fr. Sergio Sambin.
“Roncalli did not consider Fr. Sambin only a priest whom he met every week because of his capacity in the diocesan curia. He above all deemed him a skilled collaborator, whom he often entrusted with making a bridge between the curia and the patriarch,” wrote Marco Roncalli, a Church historian and great-nephew to John XXIII, in the forward of “Roncalli, padre e pastore: Il Patriarca Roncalli e il suo cancelliere don Sergio Sambin.”
The book, rendered in English “Roncalli, father and pastor: Patriarch Roncalli and his chacellor Fr. Sergio Sambin,” was authored by Sandro G. Franchini and published by Marcianum Press, and utilizes documents from Fr. Sambin’s archives – including letters from Roncalli.
Franchini is himself chancellor of the Venetian Institute of Science, Letters, and the Arts, and worked on the book with Fr. Sambin, who is now 93. The book also includes letters and documents from John XXIII’s archive.
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was Patriarch of Venice from 1953, until his 1958 election as Bishop of Rome.
In the book, Fr. Sambin recounts meeting Patriarch Roncalli for the first time in March 1953.
“I was 33, and I was just back from Rome, where I graduated in canon law at the Gregorian University. I received a phone call from then-Fr. Capovilla, who was already Roncalli’s secretary. He told me: ‘Tomorrow do not go to work in the curia. Come directly to the patriarchal palace.’”
There he found Roncalli, who told him his chancellor had been moved to Rome, and asked him to take the post.
From then until 1958, Fr. Sambin met with Roncalli nearly daily for a half-hour at noon.
Their last meeting was at the Vatican, within weeks of Roncalli’s election as Pope.
Fr. Sambin is among of the living memories of the soon-to-be Saint John XXIII. The documents he has published in Franchini’s book help to better understand the late Pope’s “complex, fascinating and surprising personality,” the author says.
Franchini believes the documents help us “to better understand how the surprising decisions taken by John XXIII in his life were in fact the outcome of a long and deep cultural and spiritual preparation.”
Washington D.C., Apr 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The life of St. John Paul II was characterized by an intense love for both God and the human person, reflected a former member of the Swiss Guard who helped to protect the pontiff.
“The best way to say it is that he was the most fully human person I've ever met,” Andreas Widmer told CNA, adding that despite being the Pope, John Paul II was “a normal guy.”
“You would have a blast with him,” said Widmer of the former Pope, and this normalcy reflects John Paul II’s emphasis that all people are called to holiness.
“He would always say that we all know saints,” Widmer recounted during the April 16 interview. “God made us to be saints and wants us to be saints, so we should really give that a try.”
“In my book, John Paul has already been a saint for a long time,” he said, adding that he was “joyous” at the news of the pope's official canonization, which he believes “really cements and solidifies his ministry.”
St. John Paul II, who served as Pope from 1978 to his death in 2005, was canonized alongside Pope John XXIII on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014.
Widmer was a member of the Pontifical Swiss Guard from 1986-1988. He now serves as director of Entrepreneurship Programs at The Catholic University of America's School of Business and Economics.
When he started out as a “foot soldier,” in the Swiss Guard, Widmer said that he didn't have any particular interest in his boss besides the fact that he was the “guy we're protecting.”
“I wasn't in any religious awe of him,” he explained. “I approached him as I approached anybody else. I didn't have any pre-judgments for him or against him.”
Over time, however, Widmer grew in his faith and came to better understanding of the Pope’s ministry, seeing firsthand the mark that John Paul II was leaving on the world.
Though he never traveled with the Pope himself, Widmer saw the effects of Pope John Paul II's extensive travels to 129 countries during this long pontificate – a trademark of his papacy that harkened back to the early popes' travels “in the then-known world.”
Those travels were an example of “evangelizing in the true sense of the word: we're bringing Christ to the world,” Widmer said. They were also a pragmatic decision: “it's easier to bring him there” than to bring millions of pilgrims to the Vatican, he suggested.
Through his travels, the Pope “made himself accessible” and “redefined the papacy” in terms of accessibility, Widmer continued. A century ago, he explained, most people around the world would not have been able to recognize the Pope in photographs. “Now you can,” he stated. “That's in no small part due to his travels.”
Pope John Paul II's travels also helped him teach important lessons, Widmer said. “He knew how to infuse moral power into his travels.”
“Often, governments wanted to use him as a stamp of approval, but he would go and it would backfire on them,” the former guard explained. “He made sure that he would choose places he wanted to highlight,” and made a point of “saying really tough stuff,” making moral statements based on Church teaching rather than cooperating with a country's political wishes.
Most notably, Pope John Paul II visited numerous countries in what was then the Soviet Bloc, including his native Poland. In choosing locations to visit and interacting with Soviet leaders, the Pope “was shrewd” but was also “sincerely pleasant,” Widmer said.
It is “very hard to fight” someone who is truly kind, he reflected, saying that the Pope's love and support “for the human person” – including for the communist leaders themselves – made it difficult for officials in the Soviet states not to work alongside the pontiff.
“He didn't fight them because he hated them, he didn't fight them because he didn't like them. He didn't fight communism – he fought for something not against something. He fought for truth and for the dignity of the human person.”
In addition, while the Pope did work with Western leaders in helping to bring about change in Eastern European countries, they had “divergent reasons for what they did,” and they worked for different goals, Widmer stated.
While Western leaders such as U.S. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher worked to end communism itself, Pope John Paul II had a broader goal, he explained.
“It's too simplistic to say he fought communism, because he didn't fight communism: he fought atheism and consumerism,” Widmer said of the Pope's aims.
This is why the Pope did not stop when communist rule ended in Eastern Europe, Widmer said. Rather, he continued to fight atheism and materialism as they were manifest throughout the world in other ideologies, particularly consumerism.
Both ideologies of communism and consumerism, Widmer explained, “say 'there is no truth; the truth is that you are what you have,'” and to Pope John Paul II the two ideologies are “two sides of the same materialistic coin.”
It is therefore mistaken, he explained, to “look at this as communism versus capitalism.” Instead, for St. John Paul II, “it was love of humanity versus hatred of humanity.”
“That fight is just as well fought right now in our society as it was in Soviet Russia.”
Pope John Paul II approached his papacy with a strong sense of mission, Widmer continued, in part because of the assassination attempt on him in 1981. Surviving an attempt from a well-trained sharp shooter “was nothing short of a miracle,” he said, and the Pope “realized that and knew that he had a mission to fulfill.”
“He knew that he was going to lead the Church across to the new millennium.”
In retrospect, Pope John Paul II was “an unlikely man to change the world,” Widmer reflected, observing that a “shy poet” and orphan “coming from the backwaters” of Poland “turned out to be one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century.”
In this way, he said, St. John Paul II’s life and legacy contuse to teach us a powerful lesson: “if we allow ourselves to pursue the excellence that God has in store for us then the sky's the limit.”
Vatican City, Apr 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In a packed St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis officially declared former pontiffs John Paul II and John XXIII as Saints.
“For the honor of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and having sought the counsel of many of our brother Bishops, we declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II be Saints,” Pope Francis exclaimed April 27 as the crowds cheered.
“We enroll them among the Saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Throngs of pilgrims flooded the Vatican on Divine Mercy Sunday to celebrate the highly anticipated canonizations of now-Saints John Paul II and John XXIII.
Pope John XXIII was born in Sotto il Monte, a diocese and province of Bergamo, Italy, Nov. 25, 1881 as fourth of 13 children. He was elected Roman Pontiff Oct. 28, 1958.
Known as “Good Pope John,” he is most remembered for his historic encyclical “Pacem in Terris,” and for his calling of the Second Vatican Council.
He was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II Sept. 3, 2000, during celebration of the Great Jubilee Year in 2000, and was approved for canonization by Pope Francis last July.
Saint John Paul II is perhaps one of the most well-known pontiffs in recent history, and is most remembered for his charismatic nature, his love of youth and his world travels, along with his role in the fall of communism in Europe during his 27-year papacy.
The cherished Polish Pope died in 2005, marking his 2011 beatification as one of the quickest in recent Church history, and is the first Pope to be beatified by his immediate successor.
In an April 24 message sent to both the Church in Poland and the diocese of Bergamo, Italy, Pope Francis thanked each for the great “gift” of the Saints for the Church and for the world, saying of John Paul II that he is grateful, “as all the members of the people of God, for his untiring service, his spiritual guidance, and for his extraordinary testimony of holiness.”
Speaking of Saint John XXIII’s historic calling of the Second Vatican Council in order to address a pastoral response to the presence of the Church in the modern world, the Roman Pontiff explained that “the renewal desired from the Second Vatican Council has opened the road.”
It is “a special joy that the canonization of Pope Roncalli takes place together with that of Bl. John Paul II,” he continued, adding that “this renewal has brought forward in his long pontificate.”
Seated alongside the cardinals in attendance for the canonization is retired pontiff Benedict XVI, making this the first Mass in history concelebrated by a Pope and his predecessor.
Vatican City, Apr 27, 2014 (CNA) -
At the canonization Mass for Popes John Paul II and John XXIII on Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of Christ’s suffering as a visible sign of divine love.
“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,” the pontiff said in his homily on April 27.
500,000 pilgrims packed into St. Peter’s Square on the cloudy Sunday morning while 300,000 filled the surrounding neighborhood. They had travelled from all over the world to attend the Divine Mercy Sunday Mass at which John Paul II and John XXIII were declared saints.
Pope Francis reflected on Sunday’s Gospel passage recounting the story of “doubting Thomas” who refused to believe in the risen Christ’s appearance to the disciples, noting that only after Thomas was able to touch the wounds of Christ did he have faith.
Jesus’ wounds “are essential for believing in God,” stressed Pope Francis. “Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness.”
“John XXIII and 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, because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles.”
The two newest saints of the Church “were priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them,” said Pope Francis.
“These were two men of courage, filled with the ‘boldness’ of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.”
John XXIII and John Paul II's faithfulness to Christ was an acknowledgement of their belief that “God was more powerful” than any of the evils they faced,adding that "the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds (of Christ) was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother."
Such faith was tied to “a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy” which “Christ bestows on his disciples.”
The “hope and joy of Easter” are won precisely through suffering, Pope Francis explained. They are “ 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.”
“These two holy Popes” received the gifts of hope and joy “from the risen Lord.”
“They in turn bestowed (these gifts) in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude,” acknowledged the Holy Father.
John XXIII “showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit,” in convening the Second Vatican Council, said Pope Francis. “He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader.”
John Paul II “was the Pope of the family,” reflected the pontiff. “I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family,” he said, referencing the meeting of bishops which will take place in October to discuss matters related to family life.
“May these two new saints and shepherds of God’s people intercede for the Church, so thatduring 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.”
At the close of Mass, Pope Francis led the crowds in the traditional Marian prayer of the Easter season, the Regina Coeli.
He thanked the many organizers of the event and all the pilgrims present in Rome, as well as those following on various forms of media.
Vatican City, Apr 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
One young woman's participation in today's canonization liturgy offered a special opportunity for intercessory prayer.
Julia Marie Desilets, who was a candle-bearer in the procession of John Paul II's relics, reflected, “I felt like I was carrying more than a candle. It was like carrying many of the devoted to the altar with their intentions, gratitude and love for these popes.”
“I felt like I was placing the prayers of all those millions of faithful there before the relics,” she told CNA on April 27.
Desilets is in her early thirties and describes herself as a “JPII generation child.”
“It was JPII whom I 'knew' as 'my' Pope,” she reflected. “Early on when I had first moved to Rome, I remember vividly the Holy Thursday chrism Mass and vigil afterwards that moved me.”
“It must have been one of his last celebrations of that event. He suffered so much that it moved me to tears and I remember truly believing that he carried the pain of humanity on his shoulders.”
The doctoral student at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome was also in the city when John Paul II died.
“It felt like the earth had been struck silent,” she recalled. “But there was a silent joy from the crowds today...as I sat up by the altar, I thought to myself how amazingly quiet a few million people could be!”
Desilets said the “unexpected role” of candle-bearer at the canonization mass “really came as a surprise!”
Many years ago she began volunteering as a translator in office responsible for postulating the cause of John Paul II's sainthood, primarily helping with articles for the English edition of the magazine, Totus Tuus. Although the publication was discontinued, Desilets was recently asked to help with the preparation of the official website and app.
“I thought I'd get a ticket but didn't expect a role to play!” she exclaimed. “I was very honored and felt like it was truly a gift from JPII!”
Although she regards the role as an honor, Desilets noted, “I was also very blessed to be present at (John Paul II’s) funeral and beatification in the midst of the tumultuous and energy-charged crowds - which in many ways is more moving than being 'above' it all.”
The young woman went on to note that she was also grateful for the witness of John XXIII, who was canonized alongside John Paul II today.
“I realize how much my generation and many others would have lived the experience of the Church so much differently had it not been for John XXIII's courageous step to open the Second Vatican Council,” she said.
“Every Pope from John XXIII through Pope Francis has been a leader of a different kind and has been the right inspiration for the times.”
Vatican City, Apr 27, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A group of Polish friends decided to run the whole way to Rome to be present for the canonizations of Saints John Paul II and John XXIII, explaining that their key motivation was to give “thanks.”
“We don't have any (official) group. We are friends,” Tomasz Pietnerzak told CNA April 27, explaining that when another friend suggested “why don't we run to Vatican? I said ok, we run. Let's go!”
Having run a grand total of about 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) in order to be present at the Vatican on Divine Mercy Sunday for the papal canonizations, the group consists of 22 men of varying ages, who collectively ran about 185 miles (300 kilometers) a day.
When asked about the primary motivation driving the initiative, Pietnerzak simply stated that they “Run for thanks,” pointing to the word “Thanks” printed on the back of the matching athletic jerseys they wore.
“We run because we can’t do anything else,” the pilgrim explained, emphasizing their gratitude for John Paul II first of all because he is “from Poland,” but also because “he changed world, and Poland.”
“He’s a good man, good man,” they reflected, “he changed Europe.”
Despite the group’s fondness of the sport, they replied with a firm “No, no!” when asked if they would run on the way back, stating that they would most likely return by car – a “come back car,” they jested.
The Mass for the canonization of now-Saints John Paul II and John XXIII was held April 27 at 9:30 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square, where huge numbers of pilgrims gathered, spilling out onto the main road and overflowing into the surrounding squares.
Dubbed by some as the “Mass of the four Popes,” the celebration was presided over by Pope Francis and was concelebrated by retired pontiff Benedict XVI, marking his third public appearance since his resignation rocked the world last February.
His first outing was on July 5th of last summer for the inauguration of the St. Michael Statue in the Vatican City State Gardens, his second being for the Consistory of Cardinals this February.