Vatican City, 4 June 2013 (VIS) – After the memorial Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica yesterday afternoon, presided by Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo, Italy, the Holy Father went to the Basilica and, after praying before the coffin containing the remains of Blessed John XXIII, met with the two thousand pilgrims from the Diocese of Bergamo who had traveled to Rome to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of the Blessed.
The Pope noted how, in those days, St. Peter’s Square had been transformed into a sanctuary under the open skies, receiving faithful of different ages and social backgrounds who had gathered to pray for the Pope’s health day and night, as well as the tremendous grief that 3 June in 1963 on receiving the news of the pontiff’s death. The entire world had seen Pope John as a pastor and a father. And how had he won the hearts of such different people, many even non-Christians? The answer, Pope Francis said, is found in his episcopal motto: “Oboedientia et Pax”, obedience and peace.
“I would like to start from peace, because this is the most obvious aspect that people perceived in Pope John. Angelo Roncalli was a man capable of transmitting peace: a natural, serene, and friendly peace; a peace that he expressed to the entire world upon his election to the pontificate and received the reputation of goodness.”
“It is so wonderful to meet a priest, a good priest with goodness.” The pontiff recalled the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola when he gave the Jesuits an entire list of virtues that a superior should have. “But in the end he said: ‘And if he doesn’t have these virtues, let him at least have much goodness.’ This is what’s essential.”
“This was undoubtedly,” continued the Pope, speaking of John XXIII, “what distinguished his personality, that which enabled him to build strong friendships everywhere … often coming in contact with environments and worlds that were far removed from the Catholic universe in which he was born and formed. It was in precisely those spheres that he proved an effective weaver of relationships and a valuable promoter of unity, within and outside of the ecclesial community, open to dialogue with the Christians of other Churches, with proponents of the Jewish and Muslim worlds, and with many other men and women of good will.”
“Here,” the Holy Father said, “we come to the second and decisive word:’obedience’ … In fact, it was the instrument for achieving peace. Firstly, it had a very simple and concrete meaning: carrying out, in the Church, the service that his superiors asked, without seeking anything for himself, without trying to get out of anything that was requested of him, even when it meant leaving his own land, dealing with worlds unknown, staying for long years where the Catholic presence was scarce. This letting oneself be led, like a child, constituted his priestly journey.”
“Through this obedience, however, Roncalli, the priest and bishop, lived an even deeper faithfulness, which we can define—as he would have called it—abandonment to Divine Providence. In the faith he continuously recognized that, through that life’s journey that was seemingly guided by others, not led by his own tastes or on the basis of his own spiritual sensitivity, God was carrying out His plan.”
“Even more profoundly, through this daily abandonment to God’s will, the future Pope John lived a purification that allowed him to completely break away from himself and to adhere to Christ, letting that holiness that the Church has officially recognized emerge. ‘Whosoever loses their life for my sake will save it’, Jesus tells us. Herein lies the true source of Pope John’s goodness, of the peace that he spread in the world, herein we find the root of his holiness: in his evangelical obedience.”
“This is a lesson for all of us, but also for today’s Church: if we know how to let ourselves be led by the Holy Spirit, if we know how to mortify our selfishness to make room for the Lord’s love and his will, then we will find peace, then we will know how to be builders of peace and we will spread peace around us.”
In conclusion, the Pope addressed the faithful present, urging them to “imitate his holiness. Let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Don’t be afraid of the risks just as he was unafraid. Docility to the Spirit, love for the Church, and forward … the Lord will do the rest.”