"Il Buon Papa," 50 Years On
Eight months after the opening of the Council he called, Papa Giovanni went to the Father's House at 17.45 Vatican time, closing a pontificate of less than five years, yet one that irrevocably changed the face and life of the Catholic world.
At 6pm tonight in Rome (Noon Eastern), Pope Francis – who has evoked innumerable comparisons with his paesan' predecessor over these months – will meet with a pilgrimage from Roncalli's native Bergamo at the close of a Mass commemorating the milestone in St Peter's Basilica... for now, though, it befits the moment to recall John's most beloved of words: his Discorso alla Luna (the "Moonlight Speech") given on the evening of 11 October 1962, to a torchlight vigil that gathered below the Apartment window at the end of the day on which he opened the Second Vatican Council.....
“Dear sons and daughters,
I hear your voices! Mine is just one lone voice, but it sums up the voice of the whole world.
And here, in fact, all the world is represented here tonight. It could even be said that even the moon hastens close tonight, that from above, it might watch this spectacle that not even St Peter's Basilica, over its four centuries of history, has ever been able to witness.
We ask for a great day of peace. Yes, of peace! 'Glory to God, and peace to men of goodwill.'' If I asked you, if I could ask of each one of you: where are you from? The children of Rome, especially represented here, would respond: ah, we are the closest of children, and you're our bishop. Well, then, sons and daughters of Rome, always remember that you represent 'Roma, caput mundi' ['Rome, the capital of the world'] which through the design of Providence it has been called to be across the centuries.
My own person counts for nothing -- it's a brother who speaks to you, become a father by the will of our Lord, but all together, fatherhood and brotherhood and God's grace, give honor to the impressions of this night, which are always our feelings, which now we express before heaven and earth: faith, hope, love -- love of God, love of brother, all aided along the way in the Lord's holy peace for the work of the good. And so, let us continue to love each other, to look out for each other along the way: to welcome whoever comes close to us, and set aside whatever difficulty it might bring....
When you head home, find your children. Hug and kiss your children and tell them: 'This is the hug and kiss of the Pope.' And when you find them with tears to dry, give them a good word. Give anyone who suffers a word of comfort. Tell them 'The Pope is with us especially in our times of sadness and bitterness.'
And then, all together, may we always come alive -- whether to sing, to breathe, or to cry, but always full of trust in Christ, who helps us and hears us, let us continue along our path.”