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Saint John XXIII and Loris Capovilla: A Witness to His Last Words


A portrait of Pope John the XXIII

Aleteia - published on 06/05/14

One of the newest cardinals recalls being at the bedside of dying saint.

(Vatican Radio ) On the evening of June 3, 2014 Holy Mass was celebrated in the northern Italian town of Sotto Il Monte, birthplace of  Angelo Roncalli, Pope John XXIII. It’s  a moment to remember this much loved pope, who died 51 years ago in the presence of his personal secretary Loris Capovilla, who was created cardinal by Pope Francis this year.

Veronica Scarisbrick brings you the words of Cardinal Capovilla, who describes that moment:

“I said to him, ‘Holy Father there are only a few of us here in this room, but if you were to look out of your window on to the square you’d see crowds of people.’ I thought he’d reply in his usual reserved manner; instead, he remarked, ‘Naturally, that’s the way it should be; the Pope is dying. I love them, they love me.’”

Saint John XXIII has gone down in history as an ordinary man who called the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, launching the Church into one of its most momentous epochs. But according to Cardinal Capovilla all you need to describe Pope John is to say, “Two eyes and a smile, innocence and goodness.”

Pope John’s personal secretary has often highlighted how rather than cultivate nostalgia the new saint was wont to look towards the future. 

“We are not custodians of a shrine, a reliquary or  a museum," the cardinal said. "As Pope John himself said we are called to cultivate a garden where the seed of the Word, of the Word Incarnate, is set in an effort to foster the Advent of a New Pentecost, a new Easter, a new Spring. Not just for our personal happiness but for the happiness of all of humanity. It’s a long journey, we are far from our final  destination, one  that is not there merely to safeguard but  to share with  the people of  the world.”

Referring to the recent apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, Cardinal Capovilla specifies how the Gospel is the good news. But he adds, "What is this good news? It’s that I am a son of God and God does not abandon me. It’s wonderful to hear the pope say almost every day that God does not reject anyone but accepts everyone.”

(From archive of Vatican Radio)

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