What personal qualities make Popes John XXIII and John Paul II saints?
The two 20th-century popes, who will be canonized in Rome on Sunday, lived in such close profound communion with Jesus that they developed auras of holiness.
Such are the testimonies not only of those who knew the two men well, but also of two church officials who have overseen their journeys toward canonization.
Speaking to reporters at the Vatican on Tuesday, the Rev. Giovangiuseppe Califano and Monsignor Slawomir Oder, "postulators" for the respective causes of John XXIII and John Paul II, explained how these two pontiffs manifested Christian qualities to such an extent that they will now be "elevated to the altars" as prime examples of saintliness.
People who knew Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli – later "Good Pope" John XXIII – "immediately recognized" the Pope’s "aura of holiness," Califano said, stressing that his reputation for sanctity derived from his "spiritual way of living."
From his earliest days in the seminary, Roncalli committed himself to becoming a saint, he said. According to his diaries, Roncalli set about achieving it through unity with Jesus, praying the rosary and always keeping an eye on his actions.
At 21, he even said: "God, I truly desire that I be a saint, and therefore I should be a saint."
Later, as pope, he once remarked: "They call me the Holy Father. I should be so: Holy."
But Califano said he also achieved such a high level of sanctity through simple humility, obedience to his superiors, and his way of being. "We can recall the words of St. Francis of Assisi: 'God is everything, and I am nothing, and this is enough for me.'"
"This is what consoled the heart of John XXIII," the postulator said, recalling the late pope’s dependence on the providence of God after growing up poor.
"He entrusted himself completely to the heart of God," the Italian priest said. "We know that, and we see it through his decisions: how he always abandoned himself to his heart."
John XXIII had "humility, generosity and joy" – qualities seen through his actions, from giving gifts to sick children and reaching out to those on margins of society, to opening the doors of the church and convening the Second Vatican Council, which "updated" the church to better engage with the modern world. He was both a "shepherd and a father," or even synonymous with the word "love," as his successor, Paul VI, once remarked.
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