A Simple, Lovely Gesture: Cardinal Loris Capovilla


Retired Archbishop Capovilla under Portrait of John XXIII

Pope Francis has now announced his selections to be named Cardinals at the next Consistory on 22 February 2014.  There were no real surprises in the list, but there was an unusual tribute paid to Pope John XXIII, who will be canonized in company with Pope John Paul II next April.  On the list of new cardinals was the name of Loris Francesco Capovilla, formerly a priest of the Archdiocese of Venice and long-time secretary to Cardinal Roncalli during his service as the Patriarch of Venice and then during his tenure as Pope John XXIII.

Roncalli and Capovilla and Pacelli

Last Audience with Pope Pius XII. Cardinal Roncall and Father Capovilla, 1957

Loris was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Venice in 1940.  When newly-appointed Cardinal Angelo Roncalli arrived in Venice in 1953 to take over as Patriarch, he tapped Fr. Capovilla to be his priest-secretary.  He accompanied the Cardinal to Rome on many occasions, including Roncalli’s trip to Rome for Conclave following the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958.  Following his boss’s election to the papacy, Fr. Loris remained at his side until Pope John’s death on the feast of Pentecost, 1963.

Father Capovilla was ordained a bishop in 1967 and retired in 1988.  He now resides in a community named after the birthplace of his old friend.  Over the years, he has been an invaluable resource for scholars studying the ministry of Papa Giovanni, and his selection to be a Cardinal is simply one more sign of Pope Francis’ own devotion to Pope John.  The pope, of course, already waived the necessity of a second miracle to be attributed to Pope John, and coupled his canonization with that Pope John Paul II.

roncalli e capovilla

Capovilla walking in the Vatican Gardens with Pope John

Amidst all of the armchair analysis of the other cadinalatial selections and their possible impact on the Church, this particular selection is a simple, lovely gesture of humility and respect.


Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII

The Community of “Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII”

An Advent Remembrance: War and Peace

colour-smoke_2076773i7 December 1941.  Seventy-two years since that particular “Day of Infamy.”  World War II had, of course, begun years earlier.  By the time it ended, at least 70 million people were dead.  Pope John Paul II, in his 2004 Message for the World Day of Peace, referred to the Second World War as “an abyss of violence, destruction and death unlike anything previously known.”  How does a world recover from such madness?  For those of us who were born following the War, we have lived with its effects our whole lives, even though specific memories of the War continue to fade with the passing of the World War II generation.

For Catholics, I believe it is important to understand the Second Vatican Council as the Catholic Church’s response to World War II: the conditions that led to the War and the world that emerged after it.  Pope John XXIII announced his plans for the Council only fourteen years following the end of War.  Opening the Council, he observed:


We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand.  In the present order of things, Divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations which, by men’s own efforts and even beyond their very expectations, are directed toward the fulfillment of God’s superior and inscrutable designs. And everything, even human differences, leads to the greater good of the Church.

How do we cooperate with Divine Providence in attaining this “new order of human relations”?  The bishops of the Council were not seeking simple superficial updating of the Church; they were setting out to create a new understanding of the Church in a world already gone mad and in need of the “soul and leaven” a renewed Church might provide.  Pope Paul VI, in his famous speech at the General Assembly of the United Stations in October 1965, famously proclaimed:


Paul VI at the United Nations

And now We come to the high point of Our message: Negatively, first: the words which you expect from Us and which We cannot pronounce without full awareness of their gravity and solemnity: Never one against the other, never, never again.  Was it not principally for this purpose that the United Nations came into being: against war and for peace?  Listen to the clear words of a great man, the late John Kennedy [himself a veteran of World War II], who declared four years ago: “Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.”  Long discourses are not necessary to proclaim the supreme goal of your institution.  It is enough to remember that the blood of millions of men, numberless and unprecedented sufferings, useless slaughter and frightful ruin are the sanction of the covenant which unites you, in a solemn pledge which must change the future history of the world No more war, war never again.  It is peace, peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and of all mankind.

What is particularly telling is the fact that when Pope Paul returned to Rome from this trip, he went immediately to the St. Peter’s and shared his insights with the assembled Council Fathers who, in their own turn, adopted the pope’s message as their own.  They were in the midst of their own work on their capstone document, Gaudium et spes, “The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.  In particular, they began working on the section dealing with war and peace, incorporating the insights of Pope John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris and Pope Paul’s speech to the UN.

No more war, war never again!

As we remember the personal, national and global tragedies of the Second World War, may we this Advent renew our commitment and preparation for the new order of human relations foreseen by Pope John.  May we, like Mary pregnant with the Christ, work to bring Christ and his Gospel to the world in the real, concrete terms envisioned by the Council and now renewed for us again by the words and deeds of Pope Francis.

Advent candle 2