Francis’ phone call to Capovilla in memory of John XXIII


Francis’ phone call to Capovilla in memory of John XXIII

Mgr. Loris CapovillaMgr. Loris Capovilla

Archbishop Loris Capovilla, the man who was personal secretary John XXIII, received an extraordinary phone call yesterday evening

Marco Tosatti
vatican city

It was Pope Francis on the other end of the line. According to the vox populi there are a quite number of similarities between him and Angelo Roncalli. Isn’t it a big coincidence that the phone call was made just as the Church celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the “Pacem in Terris” encyclical, possibly the most famous document produced by John XXIII.


Loris Capovilla was at home in Camaitino sotto il Monte (Bergamo, Italy) when he received the call. People close to the elderly prelate (98) said Pope Francis called to thank him for the document prepared by Capovilla for the Year of Faith. On the cover of the encyclical there is a photograph of a famous medal minted by sculptor Manzù for the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The medal depicts Pope John with Tanzanian cardinal Laurean Rugambwa and bears the inscription Una, Sancta, Catholica, Apostolica (One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic). Below it is a passage from Isaiah and the Revelation “The former things have passed away. Behold, I make all things new.”


Capovilla was surprised and touched. He said: “I could hear the Pope breathing down the phone. He said to me: “I see you with my heart’s eyes, every word you wrote is as precious as a homily.” The Pope continued: “Fr. Comastri told me and I can hear in your voice that your spirit is young, this matters.” Cardinal Angelo Comastri, St. Peter’s archpriest, was the one who delivered Mgr. Capovilla’s document to the Pope.


Pope Francis then told Capovilla that he wanted to meet him in person and the elderly prelate, who has not been to Rome since Roncalli’s beatification, promised to visit in the near future. His visit could in fact coincide with one of “Pacem in Terris’” celebratory moments. The encyclical was published on 11 April 1963, when John XXIII was fighting an illness that eventually led him to the grave just a few months later.


The document was addressed to Catholics and faithful as well as to “all men of good will”; in this phrase it is easy to discern the followers of real communism in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. The world was faced with the terror of nuclear war and the memory of the Cuban missile crisis, when conflict had seemed imminent, was still fresh. Shortly before this, however, the start of the Council had triggered a sense of widespread optimism that extended beyond the Catholic Church and the “Pacem in Terris” encyclical seemed to echo this. The Washington Post wrote a comment on the document, saying: “is not just the voice of an old priest, nor just that of an ancient Church; it is the voice of the conscience of the world.”


Loris Capovilla’s name recently came up because in an interview with bishops, Catholic newspaper Avvenire mentioned a thick “memorandum” which Benedict XVI is said to have prepared for Pope Francis. The Holy See had denied this, but photographs from the meeting between Francis and Benedict show a box full of documents and a big sealed white envelope, which Benedict XVI had prepared for his successor. The contents of this envelope remain a mystery.

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One comment on “Francis’ phone call to Capovilla in memory of John XXIII

  1. Pretty interesting that this 98 year old priest has been in the headlines in Rome twice. Lets not forget he was the one that confirmed to Italian writer Antonio Socci that there were 2 parts to the 3rd secret.and now this.

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