- Last year, as Nancy and I toured the underground crypt at
St. Peter's, in Rome, where all the popes are buried, I overheard
another tourist tell his young son, "Look... this was the
'Good Pope.' "
- There were reams of it - some phony, most heartfelt and sincere.
- Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, son of poor peasants, who looked
like Yogi Berra, had died. The great and the near-great of journalism
took a crack at eulogizing him who needed none.
- The two best tributes were made by Morris West, writing for
Life, and Emmet John Hughes, a contributor to Newsweek.
West was very good. He is an Australian who has written two
highly respected and popular books centered around the world
of the Vatican. Life carried his straightforward and moving
description of the peasant pope; it captured the simplicity of
John XXIII and the deep sadness of mankind at losing the gentle
- Said Morris West: "I am very close to tears as I begin
to set down these words. What can I say of a man so manifestly
good, so manifestly the victim - or is it the victor- in a drama
of divine irony whose poignant prayer as he lies stricken, is
not for the salvation of his own soul but for the salvation of
a work begun in the name of God? I have no dignity in the Church.
I have no personal merit to commend me for the task of writing
a eulogy, save perhaps this - that I am, in the spirit, a stumbling
son of Angelo Giuseppi Roncalli."
- Morris West concluded: "Will they canonize him, officially
a saint in the calendar? In a way, I hope not. For my part, I
do not want to see him idealized by a Vatican painter, lit by
a thousand candles in St. Peter's, reproduced in plaster and
gilt, and sold to pious pilgrims. I want to remember him for
what he has been - a loving man, a simple priest, a good pastor,
and a builder of bridges across which we poor devils may one
day hope to scramble to salvation."
- The world was also treated to a constant flow of magnificent
words uttered by the Holy Father. None, however, caught the real
John XXIII quite like those reported in Time, the weekly
newsmagazine. The story goes that the pope and a young North
American archbishop were discussing the political and diplomatic
skills sometimes required to deal with the Vatican hierarchy.
Said John XXIII: "My son, when you stand before Jesus Christ,
he is not going to ask you how well you got along with the Roman
Curia, but how many souls you saved."
- As written: "There was a man sent from God whose name
- But to the Son of a carpenter, one suspects the Good Pope
was just always - Angelo Giuseppe.
- June 1963