Pope Says John XXIII's Faith Was His Secret

Remembers Predecessor on Election Anniversary

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Faith in Christ and the Church was the secret that made Pope John XXIII a worldwide promoter of peace, Benedict XVI proposed in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the election of the "Good Pope."



The German Pontiff affirmed this in an address Tuesday to pilgrims who gathered in St. Peter's Square to mark the anniversary with a Mass celebrated by the Pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

The hour of the Mass recalled the exact hour when, 50 years earlier, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli (1881-1963) was elected to the See of Peter.

Recalling the "gaudium magnum" (great joy) that the Church experienced at seeing the new Pope on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, his successor recognized that "it was a prelude and a prophecy of the experience of paternity, which God would offer us abundantly through the words, gestures and ecclesial service of the Good Pope."

"The grace of God prepared a vulnerable and promising season for the Church and for society, and found in docility to the Holy Spirit, which characterized all of John XXIII's life, the good soil to bring to germination concord, hope, unity and peace, for the good of all humanity," he added.

"Pope John presented faith in Christ and belonging to the Church, mother and teacher, as the guarantee of fruitful Christian testimony in the world," Benedict XVI continued. "In the difficult conflicts of his time, the Pope was a man and a pastor of peace, who knew how to open in the East and in the West, unexpected horizons of fraternity among Christians, and dialogue with all."

The German Pope recalled one of John XXIII's famous audiences -- his first Christmas as Pope in 1958 -- when he asked those who had gathered what was the meaning of their meeting. John XXIII himself responded: "The Pope has set his eyes on yours and his heart next to yours."

"I ask Pope John," Benedict XVI concluded, "to allow us to experience the closeness of his gaze and his heart so as to feel that we are truly the family of God."

Holy pastor

During the homily of the anniversary Mass, Cardinal Bertone also meditated on the faith of John XXIII, as revealed by his writings.

He cited a passage where John XXIII wrote, "My confusion provokes in me sentiments of humility and abandonment in the hands of the Lord. He has truly done everything, and he has done it without me, who would have never been able to imagine or aspire to so much. I do not desire, I do not think of anything else than to live and die for the souls that have been entrusted to me."

Cardinal Bertone also mentioned the Pontiff's dedication to prayer, again citing one of his own writings: "In the few years left to me, I want to be a holy pastor in every sense of the word. My day should always unwind in prayer. Prayer is my breath."