Loris Francesco Capovilla, among the 19 new cardinals appointed by Pope Francis, is not only one of the longest-serving archbishops in the world but was John XXIII's secretary for the entirety of his pontificate.
Pope Francis made a surprise announcement during his Sunday Angelus on Jan. 12, giving the names of those who will be created cardinals next month. He emphasized that those chosen hail “from 12 countries from every part of the world” and “represent the deep ecclesial relationship between the Church of Rome” and the global other Churches.
Of the 19 men named, three are over the age of 80 – and will not be eligible to vote in the next conclave – including Archbishop Capovilla, who is the third longest-serving archbishop in the world and is currently the Titular Archbishop of Mesembria.
Archbishop Capovilla was born in Pontelongo in 1915, which is a province of Padua in the Italian region Veneto, and was ordained a priest by Cardinal Adeodato Giovanni Piazza on May 23, 1940 for the diocese of Venice.
Following his ordination, the archbishop performed various tasks in parishes around the diocese as well as for the curia, serving also as a catechist for middle schools and as a hospital and prison chaplain.
During World War II the young priest offered his aid to the Air Force, and spent much of his time helping to exclude as many airmen as possible from internment in Germany, efforts which, sixty years later, were lauded in Italian newspaper La Gazzetta di Parma under the headline “So Don Loris defied the Germans.”
In 1945 the Cardinal-elect was designated as preacher for the Sunday Radio in Venice, a position which he held until 1953, and in 1949 was appointed by Patriarch Carlo Agostini to be director of the weekly La Voce di San Marco publication.
Following these assignments, Archbishop Capovilla was appointed as secretary to Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who was elected as Bishop of Rome on Oct. 28, 1958, taking the name of Pope John XXIII.
After the conclave, the newly elected pontiff maintained Archbishop Capovilla as his personal secretary, who remained close to the Pope until death in 1963. John XXIII is most commonly remembered for his encyclical letter “Pacem en Terris,” and for his calling of the historic Second Vatican Council.
Four years after the pontiff died, Archbishop Capovilla was assigned by Pope Paul VI to the diocese of Mesembria, the see that was overseen by the late Pope from 1934-1953, when he was still known as Archbishop Roncalli.
Although the Cardinal-elect resigned from his duties in 1988, he has played an active role in many of the events related to the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council that was celebrated last year, and despite his age, continues to work with unlimited availability in the preparations for the April canonization of his longtime friend and spiritual father.
The canonization, during which Polish Pope John Paul II will also be declared a Saint, will take place on Divine Mercy Sunday of this year in Rome.
Upon announcing the names of those to be made cardinals, Pope Francis urged the pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square to pray for them, “that clothed with the virtues and sentiments of the Lord Jesus, (the) Good Shepherd, they can more effectively help the Bishop of Rome in his service to the universal Church.”
Among the others slated to be elevated to the rank of Cardinal are eight bishops from Europe, seven from the Americas, and two from both Africa and Asia.
Others who will be created cardinals but are not eligible to vote due to age are Archbishop Fernando Sebastian Aguilar, and Archbishop Kelvin Edward Felix, who have both been chosen, in addition to Archbishop Capovilla, for their long-standing service to the Church.
The ceremony during which the Cardinal-elects will receive their new titles and positions will take place on Feb. 22 of this year, following a Feb. 20-21 consistory which will discuss the topic of the family.