Postulators Reflect on Humanity of John Paul II, John XXIII

The soon-to-be-canonized popes were not without human limitations, but both displayed saintly characteristics that were evident from a young age.

Father Giovangiuseppe Califano (l) and  Msgr. Slawomir Oder (r) with Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi at the Holy See Press Office on April 22.
Father Giovangiuseppe Califano (l) and Msgr. Slawomir Oder (r) with Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi at the Holy See Press Office on April 22. (photo: Daniel Ibanez/CNA)

VATICAN CITY — The postulators of the canonization causes for both John Paul II and John XXIII told journalists at the Vatican that the soon-to-be-saints also had faults that show their “humanity.”

At the Holy See Press Office April 22, Msgr. Slawomir Oder and Father Giovangiuseppe Califano discussed both the innate signs of holiness as well as the limitations of the popes.

Msgr. Oder recalled that John Paul II “was a man with blood in his veins,” and as such “had no problem in showing his feelings” — sometimes “he was angry, which demonstrated his humanity.”

The Polish priest noted that, in one of his trips, Pope John Paul II was told to use a bulletproof vest. However, the pope strongly and negatively rejected the move, “because he trusted in another type of protection.”

Father Califano indicated that Pope John XXIII, known as the “good” pope, also had faults and “used to worry too much about things.”

But, he added, the late pope also “had a sense of simplicity and wisdom that helped him to be ironic with himself.”

The priest recounted how, one day, a newly appointed bishop confessed to John XXIII “that he could not sleep at night due to an anxiety which was caused by the responsibility of his office.”

“The pope told him, ‘You know, I also thought the same when I was elected pope. But one day, I dreamed about my guardian angel, and it told me not to take everything so seriously.’”

Both postulators concurred that “all of us have faults, but true holiness is the one in which man responds to the grace of God correcting [his] mistakes.”

The two also reflected on the saintly characteristics of both men, which they said could be seen from the time both popes were young.

As a 15-year-old seminarian, Angelo Roncalli not only exhibited the qualities of his future episcopal motto — “Obedience and Peace” — but also showed his deep humility and paternal care for others, Father Califano said.

University friends of Karol Wojtyla were struck by the future saint’s prayer habits and profound understanding of the value of human life, Msgr. Oder added.

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