The absurd choice of proclaiming Saint John XXIII as the Patron Saint of the Italian Army
The choice of naming Saint John XXIII as Patron Saint of the Italian Army leaves us more than a little perplexed. Even today if we go into Italian homes – and not only Italian ones – just inside the entrance we find a somewhat faded photograph of Pope John, with his serene and assuring face. In the collective conscience, Pope John is associated with his goodness, with his historic encyclical on peace, which bore not only his name but was a banner, Pacem in Terris; he is associated with his visits to the Regina Coeli prison in Rome as well as the Bambino Gesù Hospital. His is a daily holiness that penetrates all homes. The whole world still remembers his caress to be given to children in that unforgettable speech at the opening ceremony of the Second Vatican Council. What should we say today when we get home: “ give your children a helmet and a rifle “?
This choice, made some time ago, at least since 1966, although formally motivated, has a musty, old Curia flavour. It seems out of place, stretching a point, the flick of a tail of past history, a choice against conciliation. The People of God doesn’t appear to need a patron saint of the army but urgently needs men of peace.
Roncalli ,Patriarch of Venice, wrote to his successor, Montini: “the Pope desires the presence of this priest in Rome; to grant this request is a grave sacrifice for Venice, but I grant it because it is ‘necessary to look far and wide’ in the Church”. There is no question at all that throughout his life, Pope John XXIII contributed to bringing the Church out of the shallows of time and enabling it to sail to the ends of the earth, starting it off on that great adventure of the Spirit that was the Council. In contrast, the choice of making him the Patron Saint of the Italian Army appears to be inappropriate and short-sighted.
Pope John XXIII witnessed that the Word of God does not make war but is a Word of love that God announced to us, to the world, to history and that caress was like a gentle breeze on our life. . He witnessed that the Word of God is an effective Word that performs what it was sent to do. He witnessed that the Word of God bears within it the lament of all flesh and all humankind on the road towards the fullness of God. .
The posthumous involvement of Mons Loris Capovilla , the Pope’s personal secretary also appears to be in bad taste. If it hadn’t been him that evening when the Council opened, to convince the Pope, with his intelligence and bonhomie, to appear at the window once again after a long and tiring day, children, sick people, old people and men of peace all over the world would today be lacking that caress. The caress that changed History.
Many authoritative voices have been raised against the title of Patron Saint of the Italian Army for John XXIII. The Bishop of Pescara- Penne Valentinetti “it is disrespectful to name him as Patron Saint of the Armed Forces ”. “Pope John XXIII is in all hearts as the Good Pope, the Peace Pope, not the Pope of armies” declared Mons. Giovanni Ricchiuti, Bishop of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti and President of Pax Christi Italia. «I don’t want to go into the matter because unfortunately I was only informed about it this morning» declared the Chairman of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti .