One, Two, Three Popes…


The canonization of both John XXIII and John Paul II will take place this Sunday, April 27, in Rome, and the event is expected to attract million of people to the epicenter of Catholicism.

Though both popes will be elevated to sainthood on the same day, their impacts on the Catholic Church and its more than a billion followers worldwide could not be more different.

I am not sure many people remember John XXIII, who after all, died in 1963. He was a stocky little man with a prominent nose and a gentle voice. he was considered a “transitional pope”, being 76 years old when he was elevated after eleven ballots to the Throne of Peter.

Regardless, during his short-lived papacy (just under five years), he did much to open the Church not only to the world but also to the future. In calling the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), which he didn’t see completed because of his death in 1963, John XXIII shook the walls of a previously unchanging Church, essentially returning the individual human being to the center from the periphery of the Catholic vision as it was until that moment.

“We are all made in God’s image, and thus we are all Godly alike” was one of his teachings -an uncommon belief among his predecessors, where the supreme authority of the pope in all matters was unshakable.

The encyclical letter “Pacem in Terris” is not simply about peace. It is also (and especially) about human rights – about the dignity of man: the poorest, the forgotten, and the last. And this was more than fifty years ago.

I’ve written before that I consider John Paul II a pope that did damage to the Catholic Church.

His conservativism, his opposition to the opposition to the ordination of women, and his vision of a Church based on a sheltered and deaf perspective on the world (despite his frequent travels) all succeeded in alienating many that were ready to be embraced by the Catholic Church.

His appointing of conservative bishops throughout the world and his benevolence towards organizations like Opus Dei, Legion of Christ, Neocatechumenal Way and Schoenstatt, have served to push away those who are not part of such self-righteous way to see the Church.

There is a reason why churches are getting emptier and emptier, and there is a reason why the Catholic Church has pushed away more and more people.

The great popularity of Francis proves that people again wish to be part of the Church of Rome -a loving and open Church rather than one closer to the Middle Ages than our times.

I believe Francis is torn between the conservative forces that are still the predominant influence within the Vatican and his own vision of the Church of Rome (Just today news broke of a possible call he made to a divorced woman in Buenos Aires, telling her that she is doing nothing wrong in taking communion).

Francis is a Jesuit and by education is inclined to politics. Could this the reason he chose to make both John XXIII and John Paul II saints on the same day?

Is he trying to build a bridge?



April 23, 2014 · 9:01 pm

41 responses to “One, Two, Three Popes…

  1. Reblogged this on Top of JC's Mind and commented:
    From an Italian blog that I follow. I hope that Francis will find the wherewithal to follow the example of John XXIII. It is said that, had he been elected instead of Benedict after John Paul II’s death, he would have chosen the name John. Perhaps that is a sign of things to come.

    • Joanne, thank you so much for re-blogging my last article!
      I hear that rumor, however I know from a very strong source that Bergoglio, did not wanted to be elected after John Paul II (he was the leading cardinal in the list) and moved his votes to Ratzinger, that’s why he was elected in less than 1 day.
      The important thing is that now he is here (Francis) let’s hope!

  2. M-R

    I haven’t been a Catholic since I was 20 or so (a VERY long time ago); but issues such as these can still raise my ire, Gianfranco. I am entirely with you on this: John XXIII was a great man and deserves to be made a saint, for those who believe in such things; whereas John Paul was merely a reactionary. I doubt Francis is aught but a tool of the other Jesuits within the whole setup.

    • My friend, I love your passion! I believe that John XXIII was probably the greatest pope even though and maybe for this, strong and reactionary forces after his death tried to push his memory in a dark corner. History is always the best judge, don’t you think?
      Thank you, as always…

  3. Pop (Pope) goes the weasel,.
    Franscis/Francsco hope so ,but much……. (repeating) …… must be discussed on the Roman Catholic Church and the money and dirt

  4. Excellent post……..very insightful!

  5. Run To Mary

    I disagree. The popularity of Pope Francis has not increased the amount of Catholics in the pews. I am young, 27-years-old, and I only came back to the Church after a reversion six years ago. It was the traditional latin Mass that brought me back to my faith. Parishes with TLMs are growing and traditional orders have to turn down potential seminarians because they don’t have enough room for them! Compare this to the orders that have embraced modernism- the average age at the religious order is 65-years-old.

    • Thank you for sharing your opinion! One of the beauty of the Catholic Church is that… there is room for everybody! There is a difference between being traditionalist and being conservative. I grow up in Rome and went to school to the Vatican Seminary and I can sustain with first hand knowledge that blind conservativism is dangerous for the Church. Latin is the official language of the Vatican therefore integral part of the Roman tradition. I feel that being closed to the times is dangerous. I am friend with many traditionalist Religious Order, such as “Institute of Christ the King” and they are indeed wonderful and friendly people fully ready to appreciate and welcome anybody. They don’t feel to be the only and the best.
      Churches are getting emptier and emptier, all over the world. That’s an unfortunate facts and I wish that the reality was different. I am Catholic, not blind.

      • Run To Mary

        Admittedly, I misread the part where you mentioned JPII was in opposition to the opposition of the ordination of women, and thought you meant that he was in opposition to the ordination of women, and thus a conservative. My spiritual director (from the ICRSS) often says the same thing about the Catholic Church – there are many flowers in the garden of Catholicism. So you feel that Opus Dei is exclusive? From my experience with a Opus Dei priest, I may agree, but I am just curious as to why you feel that way?

      • Good morning and thank you for your new comment that I truly appreciate. I agree with you Spiritual Director and that’s the beauty of our Church! I for instance, being Roman, and having a classical education I truly like the Mass in Latin.
        I do have many reserves about Opus Dei. I don’t believe that they are plotting who knows what, or that they are evil. But that there is a precise political design that they have been following for so 30 years or so. The church should be expression of christianity and therefore being inclusive of all. Here is where Opus Dei in my opinion fails. You need to be “brainwashed” and fully controlled in order to find space among them. Controlling is never good: We do have the gift of free will for a reason, and that is one of the greatest gift that God gave us.
        I hope to read from you sometime soon!

  6. Thanks Gian for the post. I heard about Pope Francis meeting a divorcee and conversed with her privately. Many have been quite elated with the ‘news.’

    I just attended Mass this evening and the commentator mentioned about the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII. On the former I’d like to share that he is well loved here in our country. On the latter I agree he is almost unknown except for those who have studied liturgy or canon law or those interested in the social teachings of the Church.

    Philippines is still strongly Catholic especially in the Southern part – to my surprise. The Churches here are never empty. Manila, it is almost the same, except that Christians are vigorously recruiting youths because of their more dynamic programs in contrast with the Catholic Church’s emphasis on Sacraments and rituals. Many do not see this as a problem so long as young people get the guidance or community they long for.

    Though predominantly Catholic we could not claim to be exemplars of the faith. Yeah, it is really hard to be a Christian, more so as a Christian country. That is why our leaders are so important, not as symbols, but as pastors to us. We still do listen to them. Don’t we?

    • My friend, thank you for sharing your opinion! It is true indeed that (thanks God) in some parts of the world the pews are still full with people and the Philippines are today one of the strongest catholic countries in the world. Alas, in Europe -included Rome (which is were I am from), North America, things have changed quite a lot. Also in South America, things have started to change. John Paul II is well known because his traveling around the world and because he lived in a time where communications were easier and wider.
      We all are Catholics. Both traditionalist and more “liberal” are part of the same large family. But as I said to another reader, there is a difference between being traditionalist and being…obtuse and blind to the fact that the world indeed is changing. Christ didn’t institute His church for a small group, but rather for everybody.
      Very few are without blame. Very few don’t make mistakes, that’s why we need a loving, just and truly welcoming church.

  7. interesting! I’m an evangelist, but I pay attention to what goes in in the Catholic church. I liked John Paul, and Francis seems pretty nice too. I find great interest in prophecy too, they fit the Malachi Prophecy well.

    • Thank you for your comment! I hope that Prophetia Sancti Malachiae Archipiscopi de Summis Pontificibus (the latin name of the full prophecy) will not happen as at the end there is the destruction of Rome! You know, my mother live there…beside the joke, I truly appreciate your interest and I hope to see you again soon!

  8. Good for Pope Francis–“(Just today news broke of a possible call he made to a divorced woman in Buenos Aires, telling her that she is doing nothing wrong in taking communion).” Wonder if he studied the history of United States Presidents? He is doing a good job of imitating Harry S. Truman. Cheers!

  9. I do think these two popes made contributions to the church. I am not alone in wondering, however, why Mother Teresa still lags behind. Those touched by the life of a saint can recognize holiness…even if unaccompanied by a title.

    • Good point my friend! As today she is Blesses and yet a Saint. In order to be canonized you need 2 proven “miracles” and so far there is only one. HOWEVER, Pope did canonized John XXIII with only one miracle. in fact the Pope could do it also for Mother Teresa. In my opinion she did more for the outcast, the lonely, the afflicted than many more Saints (How can for instance the founder of Opus Dei be a Saint, that’s something I will never understand).
      You might find interesting that many do not approve of Mother Teresa…is this a reason perhaps?

  10. Thank you so much for following my blog. May the good Lord visit you in your times of needs in the name of Jesus Christ.

  11. Thanks for following my blog, especially after our similar posts. My main thrust is disappointment in beatifying two popes who did some good things, but failed to act to stop pedophilia of priests on their watch. It breaks my heart what happened to those kids and it seemed the leaders were more concerned with protecting the church than the members, especially the ones with little voice. I feel the fewer numbers of church goers is more than a Catholic issue, but the issues are similar. When religion practices inclusion it is at its best, but when it excludes, it is at its absolute worst. I am hopeful Pope Francis will continue to make the church more inclusive and move away from exclusive behaviors. He is a beacon of light and can be an example to others. Many thanks, BTG

  12. Thanks for stopping by AND following my blog. I just read your blog on the popes. I’m not very familiar with the Catholic church, but found it very interesting.

  13. As You said, francis is proving to be a politician. But the ‘church’ has been full of them, and (except for the likes of John the 23rd), and politicians never did anybody any good. Am disappointed in francis, as I have written in Blog.

    • Thank you for your insightful comment, I truly appreciate them!
      After all the problem is not “politics per se”. Also then “Great Soul” understood that, is the use of it and the closure to what is around us…

  14. Thanks for visiting and following my blog. I don’t believe in denominational religion (although I was christened in the RC “faith”) but do believe that Christ died for us all. And, I don’t care much for the offices of popes, presidents, and the like but do acknowledge and respect the human condition in all its frailty.

  15. I have always cherished the memory of John XXIII. He was a great and decent man.

  16. Thank you for highlighting the life and work of a great Christian. He would have liked our blog I think, which emphasizes the need for Christians to obey the new command of Christ to love one another, and answer Christ’s prayer, “Father, that they may be one.” I don’t know many popes, not being R.C., but even as a young man I greatly admired his courage and magnanimity in opening the musty doors of your church and letting the light of God’;s love in.

    Sadly, subsequent popes have lacked his greatness, and have begun to close them again. Back in the 80’s Cursilllo was a powerful movement, bringing together Christians of every stripe, from Pentecostals to Presbyterians to Roman Catholics and even Orthodox. It changed my life. But in the mid 80’s the church backed down, not allowing non Catholics to have any leadership role. This caused a vital movement of the Spirit to splinter into various denominational expressions, thereby losing much of its dynamic.

    At any rate, I look forward to seeing Brother John/Angelo some day. True to both his names he was God’s angelic messenger and an apostle of love.

    • What a beautiful response to my post! Thank you…Unfortunately you are right; with the advent of John Paul II many deserving doors were locked once again and others -unfortunately- got open.

  17. Such a profoundly intelligent post! You have taught me much of the Catholic Church. “We are all made in God’s image, and thus we are all Godly alike” Although I was a youngster during the early ’60’s, I never knew Pope John XXIII to have said such a loving statement. The Catholic Church seemed to be more about tradition and ritual. Your post is a breath of fresh air. Thank you much!

  18. peterananda

    First, I appreciate your deciding to follow my blog, at least for now! I read your piece on the “Three Popes.” I do follow your arguments about which of them had a truly humanizing influence on the Church and the populations it purports to serve. However — and speaking as a non-Catholic, although I would apply the same criteria to any expression of the human/divine spirit — I find the whole canonization process to be rather self-contratulatory if not narcissistic. A saint to me is something much more and also very different from a “do-gooder,” however much good he/she does or tries to do. A saint gives himself, up to the last drop, for the welfare of others, no matter who they are and with no consideration of whether they deserve it or not or of his own self. Buddha was a saint. I think Martin Luther King Jr. was a saint. Christ, if historical, was at least a saint. By comparison, the popes are mere administrators with varying degrees of political savvy, social consciousness, egocentricity, and we always hope, with at least a grain (if not a big streak) of compassion.

    • Peter, thank you for sharing your very interesting point of view! I d agree with you that there are non-catholic (even if unofficially) saints. Not only MLK, but Gandhi and who knows how many more! I hope to read more from you!

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