Register Radio this week was dedicated to the upcoming canonization of two popes. On Sept. 30, cardinals voted to set the date for the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014 is the day. And Rome is sure to be swarming with pilgrims whose lives were touched by both saints.
During the first half of Register Radio, I talked with British author and journalist Joanna Bogle, who just returned from filming a series in Poland on the life of John Paul II (that will likely air on EWTN in Spring 2014). She explains the significance of Divine Mercy in the life of Pope John Paul II.
He instituted Divine Mercy Sunday in 2001, and canonized St. Faustina, the polish nun who gave the world the familiar image of Divine Mercy during a time of great crisis in the world and helped to catapult great devotion to this characteristic of God’s love for us.
There’s so much that can be said about what Pope John Paul has given the Church and why he is being raised to ranks of a canonized saint. But in our short interview, Bogle was able to outline a few highlights about the saint’s life based on what she saw in Poland (see her column on the same topic) as she visited his hometown of Wadowice and Krakow the place where he was archbishop, then cardinal and where he influenced the life of so many Poles as they resisted communism.
Some aspects of the legacy of John Paul II that Bogle focused on are: his devotion to Mary and Marian theology, his teachings on women, his efforts to reach out to and dialogue with the Jewish community, and his love of Poland and the way he incorporates that into love of beauty and culture.
Bogle, together with co-author Clare Anderson, is completing a book about John Paul II that will be published in early 2014. Also, under the penname “Julia Blythe,” she has authored a children’s book called Blessed John Paul the Great.
Listen to the interview to hear more about Bogle’s coverage of the life of Pope John Paul II.
The Good Pope
In the next segment of the show, I spoke with author and theologian Matthew Bunson about the life of Pope John XXIII. Before this show, the only things I knew of the life of Blessed John XXIII are that he opened the Second Vatican Council and he has been nicknamed “good Pope John.” Bunson, who is author of the Papal Encyclopedia, was able to give me a quick summary of who John XXIII was.
Born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in northern Italy, he was ordained a priest in 1904 and served for many years as papal diplomat. He was a close collaborator for decades of Pope Pius XII, who he succeeded in 1958.
Said Bunson, Roncalli worked closely with Pope Pius XII “to help bring peace to a shattered Europe and to begin the process of rebuilding Europe and the rest of the world spiritually and materially. And what is not generally know, he worked so aggressively, in close cooperation with Pius XII, to save as many Jews as they could from Nazi oppression and the holocaust.”
In 1961, he wrote the encyclical Mater et Magistra in which he extended the social teaching of Pope Leo XIII and “proclaimed what the world actually needed for peace and progress.”
In 1963, Pope John XXIII wrote the encyclical Pacem in Terris, in which “he grounds the Church’s teaching on peace in natural law,” during a time when the world was witnessing the growing power of the Soviet Union and many states were living under the oppression of communism, communist China was on the rise, and materialism and existential despair were taking over Europe.
He opened the Second Vatican Council October 11, 1962 and then died less than a year later after suffering with stomach cancer. Bunson said, Pope John XXIII famously said he opened the council on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, believing that it was what the Church needed at the time to prepare to be “positioned to engage with the modern world.”
According to Bunson, John XXIII can’t be blamed for the misinterpretation that followed the council because the pope’s teaching about the objective of the council was very clear — to apply the unchanging teaching of the Church to dialoguing with and engaging the modern world.
“I think John would be very pleased with the work of especially John Paul II and Benedict XVI in steering the Church toward that authentic interpretation — what I would argue is the very faithful interpretation of what John intended to accomplish,” said Bunson.
For this pope’s canonization, Pope Francis has waived the traditional requirement of having two verified miracles for a saint to be canonized. Waiving the second miracle isn’t unprecedented but it is rare. And one of the reason Pope Francis has done so it because of John XXIII’s role in the Second Vatican Council.
Bunson explained, “One of the great hallmarks of the Second Vatican Council is the universal call to holiness, that is all of us are called to holiness, to be saints.” He said Pope John XXIII understood that and he sought to live this holiness.
“He was someone of immense, profound depth spiritually. His autobiography Journey of a Soul is considered one of the spiritual classics of the second half of 20th century,” said Bunson.
He described “good Pope John” as being of good humor, with a “practical pastoral sense, deep prayer life and his own pursuit of the perfection of virtues.”
According to Bunson, Pope John XXIII”s “commitment to the council reflected his desire for that universal holiness to assist the Church in speaking to the modern world and bringing the Gospel and bringing Christ to the modern world very effectively.”
Listen to the interview to hear more.