Editorial: Not only John Paul II

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

IT'S not surprising that in talking about the canonization on April 27 of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, the former’s life is being discussed more than the latter.

But John Paul II was pope for 26 years. John XXIII was pope for only four and a half years, from 1958 to 1963.

John Paul II visited more countries than any other pope in history. John XXIII was famous for his doing the rounds of “only” the Vatican and Rome’s peripheries.


John Paul II died nine years ago. John XXIII died 50 years ago.

Who had an imposing presence worldwide in recent history is therefore a no-brainer.

Still, there’s a reason why Pope Francis fast-tracked the canonization of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (Pope John XXIII), even bending the rules a bit (only one miracle was attributed to him instead of the customary two) so he could join Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) in Sunday’s rites.

It is therefore important that while Filipino Catholics recall the life and times of John Paul II, who visited the country in 1981 and 1995, they should also brush up on the life of John XXIII and his papacy.

Pope Francis sees more of himself in “The Good Pope,” as John XXIII is known, than any of his other predecessors. Which means that whatever good we see in the current pope, chunks of that emanated from John XXIII.

"He was courageous. A good country priest, with a great sense of humor and great holiness. He was one of the greats," Pope Francis had said.

Indeed, more than changing the way popes before him acted and spoke, John XXIII brought profound changes to the practice of Catholicism by convening the Second Vatican Council.

Vatican II pushed, for example, for the use of the vernacular instead of Latin during masses, which was the previous practice. It also called for bigger participation of the lay faithful in Church affairs.

While Vatican II also exposed the still ongoing conflict between the conservatives and the progressives in the Church, no one would deny that it sparked significant changes in the practice of Catholicism.

This Sunday’s event at the Vatican should therefore be seen as the canonization of two “greats” and not of one “great” and a lesser one.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 25, 2014.


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