A member of the Vatican department in charge of canonization says that John XXIII and John Paul II, both expected to be proclaimed saints later this year, were very similar in character and mission.
“There is a great affinity between the two Popes,” said Cardinal Angelo Comastri, member of the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints.
“John XXIII felt the need to re-translate the Gospel in an accessible language for the people of our times,” he told CNA July 17.
The cardinal noted “he wanted the language of the Gospel to be more simple so that people could understand it, appreciate it and love it.”
“He was the Pope who brought the Gospel to all the corners of the world where John XXIII could not go because he was elected Pope at an old age,” he stated. “John Paul II was the first missionary Pope.”
Pope Francis recently announced that the two former Popes will be made saints later this year. But the decision was made despite Bl. John XXIII having only had one miracle attributed to him, instead of two, which was up to now the norm to be made saint.
The miracle of Bl. John XXIII involves his apparition to a nun while on her death-bed, in which he told her “you are now cured, I have come to cure you.”
“This miracle was enough because the Pope is always a well known world figure; beatification simply recognizes local worship,” Cardinal Comastri explained.
“But for a Pope, there is no such thing as a local worship, he immediately has a universal dimension,” he remarked. “Pope Francis sustained that one miracle was enough to recognize this universal worship, which was already there.”
The Cardinal told that, on the other hand, Bl. John Paul II had another miracle approved “by the grace of God.”
“In his devotion, there have been so many miracles, wonders and healings,” said the Cardinal.
He stressed that the exact canonization date still cannot be predicted, but that Pope Francis will announce it during a consistory expected to take place late September since this decision, according to the cardinal, is his “exclusive competence.”
Cardinal Comastri reflected on the life of John XXIII, noting that the late pontiff wanted the Second Vatican Council during the early 1960s “to make the Church closer to the world and to the people and to make the world familiar with the Gospel.”
“This was his deep wish because he was a missionary man and wanted to lead people to the path of God,” he said.
According to the cardinal, Bl. John XXIII believed the council would last a short time. “But it lasted a lot longer and after the first session, he died and it was Paul VI that continued it.”
The cardinal finds it “particular” that the council began on Oct. 11, 1962, “and by Oct. 22 it seemed as if the world was on the brink of a world war.”
He told that Soviet ships were heading towards Cuba and former U.S. president John F. Kennedy announced that he would never allow those ships to come close to the United States.
“We were at risk of a war that would've probably been atomic,” the cardinal said.
“John XXIII, disarmed like David in front of Goliath, intervened and was able to make (the leader of Russia's communist party) Kruschev and Kennedy speak with each other and make them sign a non-aggression pact,” he added.
Cardinal Comastri said that this “miracle” took place on the night of Oct. 22 and that the result of it was peace.
“John XXIII said 'I hope that the one who said blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God, will tell me the same one day on the threshold of paradise,'” he remarked.
“I personally met John XXIII but from afar, during an audience, and I didn't have the familiarity that I instead had with John Paul II,” said Cardinal Comastri.
“But I had the grace of knowing well the secretary of John XXIII, Archbishop Loris F. Capovilla,” he stated.
The archbishop told him that during the night of his papal election, he could not see the people because of the bright lights and television cameras when he greeted them on the balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica.
According to the archbishop, after John XXIII greeted the people and gave his blessing, he went back inside.
“He told his secretary 'I couldn’t see anyone. I heard the people clapping, but this is a sign for me: if I want to see the faces of the brothers, I have to turn off the lights of pride,'” the Cardinal said.
“Only if I’m humble, I'll be able to see their eyes and take them the light of God,” the pontiff said.
The cardinal also recalled how Archbishop Capovilla told John XXIII that the Italian media were saying he would be a transitory Pope shortly after his election because of his old age.
“He smiled and replied 'And do you not believe that the others are not in transition? We all are passing rapidly, what is important is to believe behind is a sign of goodness.'”