Since I wrote these last things, great events have taken place, but I have not written anything here about them. There was the last suffering and the death of John XXIII. In this, the Church and even the world have been through an extraordinary experience. All at once, one became aware of the immense impact this humble and good man has had. It has become clear that he has altered the religious map and even the human map of the world, simply by being what he was. He did not operate by great expositions of ideas, but by gestures and a certain personal style. He did not speak in the name of the system, of its legitimacy, of its authority, but simply in the name of the intuitions and the movement of a heart which, on the one hand, was obedient to God and on the other loved all people, or rather he did both these things in a single action, and in such a way again, the divine law has proved true: God alone is great; true greatness consists in being docile in the service of God in himself and in his loving plan. God raises up the humble. Blessed are the meek for they shall possess the land. Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called children of God. Everyone had the feeling that, in John XXIII, they had lost a father, a personal friend, someone who was thinking of and loving each one of them. Continue reading
June 6, 1963: The funeral of Pope John XXIII.
Pope John died yesterday. A holy and good man, and he was both because he was first of all a man — that is to say, human. This is the great meaning of his papacy, of the Council, of Pacem in Terris. Not humanism, “but the bare statement of the fundamental value of humanity.” Pacem in Terris is not theological. It simply says war is unhuman, and therefore a sin — (not war is a sin and therefore you must not use the bomb). Certainly everyone loved him, and statements to this effect, despite the fact that language is too exhausted to convey it, are probably sincere. May he rest in peace, this great and good Father, whom I certainly loved, and who had been good to me, sending me the stole and many blessings. And I don’t think he has stopped being a father to us, to me. He will one day be canonized, I think (if we last that long), and I do not hesitate to ask his intercession now.
Turning Toward the World: The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume Four, 1960-1963, edited by Victor A. Kramer
There many explanations why John XXIII had so unparalleled a number of individuals and different religious bodies praying for him in his last illness-why peoples of various religious persuasions throughout the world manifested a deep personal concern when it became known that his death was near. Pope John had a most engaging personality. In his dealings with his fellow men of every rank and station he was genial, warm, solicitous and human, humble, simple and direct. The anecdotes about his simple friendliness are legion. He strongly impressed all, most appropriately, as wholly benign and fatherly.
Pope John’s strong personal appeal had a lot to do with the wide and eiithusiastic acceptance of his many statements that directly carried on and developed principles expounded by his predecessors, notably Pius XII. It was Pius who instituted, for instance, maior liturgical reforms that led to the further changes recently approved by the Fathers of the Vatican Council. Continue reading
From America, March 23, 1963:
John XXIII has quietly put Church-State relations on a new footing in Italy
ROME—Readers of the Washington Post for February 19 may have raised an eyebrow over a remark reported from a luncheon held at the National Press Club the previous day. The guest of honor at the affair happened to be a visitor fromItaly, Giuseppe Saragat, head of the Social Democratic (Right-leaning Socialist and historically anticlerical) party. Reporters queried him on the current status of Church-State relations in his country. He replied indirectly by remarking: “I hope the present Pope lives a long time.” What some may have missed in what the Post report described as Signor Saragat’s “quip” could be appreciated only by someone who has witnessed what breezy Italian journalists refer to as Pope Roncalli’s “conquest” ofItaly.
Perhaps Americans wonder what all the fuss is about. After all hasn’t John XXIII conquered the whole world? Hasn’t Time certified the fact by bestowing its supreme accolade in choosing him as its “Man-of-the-Year” for 1962? Continue reading
Pope John XXIII told non-Catholics attending the ecumenical council that he intends to work and suffer to speed the achievement of Christian unity.
Pope John spoke at a special audience (Oct. 13) in the Vatican’s Consistory Hall for 35 delegate-observers and guests representing 17 Orthodox and Protestant denominations.
The 35 were led into the audience by Msgr. Jan G. M. Willebrands, secretary of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity.
The first two delegate-observers to enter were the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church who had arrived from Moscow the day before. Others included observers from the Coptic Church of Egypt, the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Church, the Armenian Church, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and the Old Catholic Church, as well as Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, Quaker, Congregationalist and Methodist observers.
Among the seven official guests of the secretariat were the Rev. Stanley I. Stuber of Jefferson City, Mo., a Baptist, and the Rev. Joseph H. Jackson of Chicago, president of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.
The visitors, who showed warm sympathy toward the Pope, gathered in a semicircle around the Pontiff, who was seated not on the usual throne but in an armchair. Continue reading
An editorial from America, October 13, 1962:
The moment that Pope John announced his plan to convoke an Ecumenical Council, interest centered on the question of what the Council could accomplish for Christian unity. Some, both Catholics and non-Catholics, impetuously talked of achieving unity in the Council itself. But most observers quickly realized that its immediate aim could not be the union of the Christian world, or even, as Augustin Cardinal Bea wisely cautioned, “reunion with particular religious groups.” This is not to deny, however, that the Council may prepare the way for unity by smoothing out many existing difficulties. The most fundamental of these, unfortunately, rise out of theological differences. Can anything be done about them?
No informed person, whatever his belief, expects the Church to compromise in this area. A leading Lutheran churchman, Dr. Hans Lilje, once observed that it would be unthinkable that an ecumenical council would cast doubt upon the dogmatic foundation of the Catholic Church. The executive secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, Dr. Kurt Schmidt-Clausen, also correctly insists that “the realization of Church unity has a chance of succeeding only if we place ourselves on the terrain of truth. Any other way of aspiring to unity by setting truth apart will only lead to a fictitious unity.” (His remark was cited over the Vatican radio station in a recent broadcast which the Religious News Service reported at length and with its customary competence.) Continue reading
Following is the text of an English translation made available by the Vatican of Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, the address of Pope John XXIII at the solemn opening (Oct. 11) of the Second Vatican Council.
Mother Church rejoices that, by the singular gift of Divine Providence, the longed-for day has finally dawned when—under the auspices of the Virgin Mother of God, whose maternal dignity is commemorated on this feast—the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council is being solemnly opened here beside St. Peter’s tomb. Continue reading