June 11, 2012

I enjoyed reading the article on Blessed Pope John XXIII and his secretary Archbishop Loris Capovilla (WCR May 28).

Pope John is an unforgettable pope for me. He was the pope when I was a child. I remember a Grade 2 religion teacher who pointed at the photo of Pope John on the wall in our classroom, and said sweetly, “Pope John XXIII is like Jesus.”

In my mind, I asked, “How could that be? Pope John is stout and surely doesn’t have a face that even faintly resembles the handsome face of Jesus.”

More than three decades later, I realized my religion teacher was right. By doing some research on Pope John, I found that indeed he was like Jesus. Pope John was surely like Jesus in his humility, love and charity.

Like Jesus, he also hated hypocrisy and putting the law above human justice and compassion. He’s not judgmental, but inclusive in his acceptance of people, making him a gifted diplomat.

He gained friends for the Catholic Church from all cultures, political beliefs and religions. This fact was often downplayed, if not completely ignored.

According to his biographies, his forward vision and open-mindedness were taken against him. He was branded a simpleton perhaps because of his humble origin and the child-like simplicity of his expressions in his retreat diaries published in the Journal of a Soul.

Because of these, some people fail to recognize his magnanimous spirit, innate intelligence, remarkable wit, great common sense and humour, and utmost fidelity to the Catholic Church.

Upon his death in 1963, many wanted him to be proclaimed a saint right at Vatican II. This honour may not be something Blessed Pope John would have wanted. The humble man he was, this affable pope would rather remain a saint in obscurity.

Celia Paz