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T
HE CHRISTOPHERS JOYOUSLY CELEBRATE THE CANONIZATION OF POPE JOHN PAUL II AND POPE JOHN XXIII ON APRIL 27, 2014, DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY. During their papacies they consistently reached out to the poor and disenfranchised and 
provided the courageous leadership necessary to keep the Church on course through tumultuous times. We should pray confidently for their intercession and look to their lives for inspiration in our own.


A Pope of the People

It’s fitting that the plan to canonize John XXIII was announced during the 50th anniversary year of the opening of Vatican II. By calling the Council, he set in motion a four-year process that addressed the relation between the Church and the modern world and ushered in greater accessibility within the faith as well as greater ecumenism towards other world religions.


Upon his election to the papacy, John became the first pope in almost 100 years to make pastoral visits around his home diocese of Rome. He visited the sick and infirm, and when he visited a prison, he announced to those incarcerated, “You could not come to me, so I came to you.”


A few years later, John visited a reformatory in Rome, where nearly 200 youth meticulously prepared for his arrival by scrubbing floors and painting walls. They greeted him with cries of “Il Papa, Il Papa! Bravo, Il Papa,” and he tearfully exhorted them to look beyond their circumstances and have

hope in the future.


John was a tireless advocate for peace, and he understood that lasting peace could never come about without courageous leaders willing to stand against evil. Before becoming pope, as Bishop Angelo Roncalli, he assisted Jewish refugees and other endangered groups in their attempts to flee the Nazis. Later, as pope, he called all mankind to work for peace through civil dialogue and respect for human rights.


At the opening of his encyclical, Pacem in Terris, John writes, “Peace on earth—which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after—can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order.” Then later he writes: “May Christ inflame the desires of all men to break through the barriers that divide them, to strengthen

the bonds of mutual love, to learn to understand one another, and to pardon those who have done them wrong.”

 

John XXIII also understood that a desire for peace required tremendous introspection in order to correct personal and institutional faults. He repented on behalf of Catholics for the sin of anti-Semitism that existed for centuries throughout Europe and elsewhere.


Both The Catholic Herald and Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide have attributed the following prayer of reconciliation to John XXIII: “We are conscious today that many, many centuries of blindness have cloaked our eyes so that we can no longer see the beauty of Thy chosen people nor recognize in their faces the features of our privileged brethren…Forgive us for the curse we falsely attached to their name as Jews. Forgive us for crucifying Thee a second time in their flesh. For we know not what we did.”

 

John XXIII canonized several saints, including Martin de Porres, Juan de Ribera, and Maria Bertilla Boscardin. In 1959, he beatified Marie Marguerite d’Youville, who founded the Sisters of Charity of Montreal and would later become the first Canadian elevated to sainthood when John Paul II canonized her in 1990.

 

On October 11, 1962, at the end of the opening day of the Second Vatican Council, the people of Rome gathered in Saint Peter’s Square and chanted for John to appear. He came forth and gave his now famous impromptu “Speech to the Moon.” He spoke in his typical down-to-earth, fatherly manner and said: “All the world is represented here tonight. It could even be said that even the moon hastens close tonight, that from above, it might watch this spectacle that not even Saint Peter’s Basilica, over its four centuries of history, has ever been able to witness.” Then later he said, “When you head home, find your children. Hug and kiss your children and tell them: ‘This is the hug and kiss of the pope.’”

 

He came to be known as “Good Pope John,” and upon his death some of the Cardinals of the Second Vatican Council wanted to canonize him immediately. However, it wasn’t until September 3, 2000, that he was finally beatified by John Paul II, and since then numerous reports have been made about miracles, graces and favors due to his intercession. Though only one miracle has been officially confirmed, Pope Francis has decided to waive the usual two miracles necessary for canonization. This is not unprecedented and perfectly in keeping with canon law. Pope Francis simply wishes to recognize the holiness of the great pope of the Second Vatican Council.

 

 

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