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Viewpoint: ‘The cry of humanity: peace, peace’


That Halloween season Strategic Air Command bombers with bright orange markings started flying low over our schoolyard to land about four miles away at Philadelphia’s airport. It’s a memory confirmed by histories that report it was Oct. 26, 1962, when B-47s were deployed to civilian airports in a DEFCON 2 alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

As an 11-year-old following the news, I assumed the problem of Communist Russia’s missiles in Cuba would be resolved by the United States invoking the Monroe Doctrine to keep the Soviet Union’s weapons both out of Cuba and the entire Western Hemisphere. Read more »

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Women tell the stories of two healings through intercession of two popes


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — People said Floribeth Mora Diaz was crazy to think Blessed John Paul II interceded with God to heal her brain aneurysm, but if so, “then it is a blessed craziness, because I’m healthy,” she told reporters at the Vatican.

The 50-year-old Costa Rican woman spoke at a news conference April 24, just three days before she would participate in the Mass for the canonization of Blessed John Paul; Pope Francis accepted her healing as the miracle needed for the late pope’s canonization.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, and Floribeth Mora Diaz, attend a press conference at the Vatican April 24 in advance of the canonization of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II. Mora Diaz’s cure from an aneurysm in 2011 was the second miracle in the sainthood cause of Blessed John Paul. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

At the same news conference, Daughter of Charity Sister Adele Labianca gave her eyewitness account of the healing of Sister Caterina Capitani, the nun whose healing in 1966 was accepted as the miracle needed for the beatification of Blessed John XXIII. Pope Francis waived the requirement of another miracle for his canonization.

Even though both women have told their stories hundreds of times, they were emotional before an international gathering of reporters at the Vatican. Sister Labianca said she had to read her testimony from a prepared text because she was certain she would forget something. Mora Diaz simply let her voice tremble.

The Costa Rican woman, who traveled to the Vatican with her husband and four children, told about having a severe headache in April 2011, going to the doctor and being told she had a brain aneurysm. The doctors in Costa Rica said surgery might be able to help, but she would have to go to Mexico or Cuba for the operation, and she did not have the money.

The local doctors could do nothing more for her, so they sent her home, “telling me I had only a month to live.” She began crying as she talked about her husband trying to prepare their children for their mother’s death and urging them to pray.

Mora Diaz said she had long had a devotion to Pope John Paul and watched his beatification May 1, 2011, “and then I fell asleep.” A few hours later, she heard the late pope’s voice, “Rise! … Do not be afraid.” She said, “I had a peace, a peace that assured me I was healed.”

Still, she said, she and her husband did not have the money to pay for more tests to verify the healing, but eventually her doctor did an MRI. “He was shocked,” she said. “My husband wondered why he wasn’t saying anything and I said, ‘because I’ve been healed through the intercession of John Paul II.’”

The doctor’s reaction was important, she said, “because I wasn’t the only one saying I was healed, but there were doctors, who were very serious, saying so.”

Sister Labianca, who spoke about the miracle accepted for Pope John’s beatification, worked in an Italian pediatric hospital with Sister Capitani in 1963 when, for the first time, she had a gastric hemorrhage in the middle of the night. “She panicked and woke me up.”

After months of treatment, doctors removed most of her stomach, which was covered with tumors, and her entire spleen and pancreas. At first she improved, but then she developed an external fistula, which leaked, Sister Labianca said. She was on the point of death May 22, 1966, when the assistant provincial of the Daughters of Charity brought her a relic, reportedly a piece of Pope John’s bed sheet.

“She put it on her wound in the hope that the Lord would come with his mercy and his love,” Sister Labianca said. “Suddenly, Sister Caterina woke from her stupor and no longer felt any pain,” instead she felt a hand on her wound and heard a voice calling, “Sister Caterina!”

“Frightened to hear a man’s voice” in her room, she turned and saw Pope John standing by her bed. He told her she was fine, and she went to tell the other sisters that she was healed and hungry, Sister Labianca said.

With the acceptance of her healing as a miracle, Pope John Paul beatified Pope John in 2001, and Sister Capitani was there. She died in 2010, more than 43 years after she was healed.


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Viewpoint Two newest saints were voices for the voiceless


Saints Popes John XXIII and John Paul II prophetically raised their voices on behalf of the suffering masses. The two popes, who will be canonized April 27 by Pope Francis, spoke truth to power, and challenged all of us to advance the kingdom of God – a kingdom of love, justice and peace.

St. John XXIII, affectionately known as “Good Pope John,” was expected to be a “caretaker pope,” someone who wouldn’t make any waves.

A woman takes a picture of an illustration depicting Blessed John Paul II, left, Pope Francis and Blessed John XXIII outside a shop in Rome April 23. On April 27, Pope Francis will canonize both former popes. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

But he would have none of that.

In addition to his monumental decision to convene the Catholic Church’s 21st ecumenical council – Vatican II, in 1961 he penned the powerful and controversial encyclical “Mater et Magistra” (“Christianity and Social Progress”).

There St. John XXIII wrote that the economy “has become harsh, cruel, and relentless in frightful measure.” And that “even public authorities were serving the interests of more wealthy men.”

To those who insist governments should leave the economy alone and let the “free market” correct itself, St. John XXIII wrote, “Civil authority should resume its function and not overlook any of the community’s interests.” And “on a world-wide scale, governments should seek the economic good of all peoples.”

Then in 1963, just months after the Cuban missile crisis ended, he authored an even more powerful and controversial encyclical: “Pacem in Terris” (“Peace on Earth”).

Mindful of humanity’s recent close brush with nuclear war, and the devastation conventional wars cause, he wrote, “Justice, then, right reason and consideration for human dignity and life urgently demand that the arms race should cease, that the stockpiles which exist in various countries should be reduced equally and simultaneously by the parties concerned, that nuclear weapons should be banned, and finally that all come to an agreement on a fitting program of disarmament, employing mutual and effective controls.”

If only the world would listen to this saint.

“John Paul the Great,” as many of us admiringly refer to St. John Paul II, was bigger than life.

He took the Good News of the nonviolent Jesus to the far corners of the earth, boldly defending the vulnerable and poor.

Early in his papacy in 1979, I remember hearing in Washington, D.C., along with 700,000 others, these challenging words: “We will stand up every time that human life is threatened. When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life.”

But St. John Paul was equally committed to protecting born life as well.

Again in 1979, in New York City he proclaimed, “The poor of the United States and of the world are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Never be content to leave them just the crumbs of the feast. Take of your substance, and not just of your abundance, in order to help them. Treat them like guests at your family table.”

Confronting the world’s addiction to the violence of war he said, “War is a defeat for humanity.”

In his Jan. 1, 2005 World Day of Peace message he wrote, “Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings.”

In his powerful encyclical “Sollicitudo Rei Socialis”  (“The Social Concerns of the Church”), St. John Paul beautifully summed up all of Catholic social teaching in one clear sentence: “We are all really responsible for all.”


Magliano is a syndicated social justice and peace columnist, who lives in the Diocese of Wilmington. 

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Vatican expects a million pilgrims for canonizations of John XXIII, John Paul II


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Just over five weeks before the canonizations of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II, Rome hotels are reporting they are almost fully booked and the Vatican has confirmed the Mass will take place in St. Peter’s Square, despite knowing that hundreds of thousands of people will have to watch the ceremony on large video screens.

Blesseds John Paul II and John XXIII are seen on a 1-euro sheet Feb. 18. The popes will be canonized April 27. (CNS photo courtesy of the Vatican stamp and coin office)

Pope Francis had announced in late September that he would proclaim the two popes saints in a single ceremony April 27, Divine Mercy Sunday.

Less than two weeks after the date was announced, the Prefecture of the Papal Household issued an advisory that access to St. Peter’s Square would be first-come, first-served and warned pilgrims that unscrupulous tour operators already were trying to sell fake tickets to the Mass.

With perhaps more than 1 million people expected to try to attend the liturgy, rumors abounded that the Vatican would move the ceremony to a wide-open space on the outskirts of town. But the Vatican confirmed Feb. 27 that the Mass would be held in St. Peter’s Square, just outside the basilica where the mortal remains of the two rest.

Blessed John Paul, known as a globetrotter who made 104 trips outside Italy, served as pope from 1978 to 2005 and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on Divine Mercy Sunday, May 1, 2011. Blessed John XXIII, known particularly for convoking the Second Vatican Council, was pope from 1958 to 1963; Pope John Paul beatified him in 2000.

In July, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing the healing of a Costa Rican woman with a life-threatening brain aneurysm as the miracle needed for Blessed John Paul’s canonization. The same day, the Vatican announced that the pope had agreed with members of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes that the canonization of Blessed John should go forward even without a second miracle attributed to his intercession.

A first miracle is needed for beatification. In Pope John Paul’s cause, the miracle involved a French nun suffering from Parkinson’s disease, the same disease the pope had. In the cause of Pope John, the Vatican recognized as a miracle the healing of an Italian nun who was dying from complications after stomach surgery.

In February, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said Pope Francis did not skip an essential step in approving Blessed John’s canonization, but “only shortened the time to give the entire church the great opportunity of celebrating 2014 with John XXIII, the initiator of the Second Vatican Council, and John Paul II, who brought to life the pastoral, spiritual and doctrinal inspiration of its documents.”

The cardinal said Pope Francis did not dismiss the need for a miracle attributed to the late pope’s intercession, but recognized that the “position” or official position paper prepared for Blessed John’s cause, is “full of accounts of miracles” and favors granted by God through his intercession. One case, often mentioned, involves a woman from Naples who accidently swallowed cyanide; she believes her poison-induced liver damage was miraculously reversed after prayers to Blessed John.

Asked by reporters in July to describe the two late popes, Pope Francis said Blessed John was “a bit of the country priest, a priest who loves each of the faithful and knows how to care for them; he did this as a bishop and as a nuncio” in Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece and France before becoming a cardinal and patriarch of Venice.

He was holy, patient, had a good sense of humor and, especially by calling the Second Vatican Council, was a man of courage, Pope Francis said. “He was a man who let himself be guided by the Lord.”

As for Blessed John Paul, Pope Francis told the reporters on the plane, “I think of him as the great missionary of the church,” because he was “a man who proclaimed the Gospel everywhere.”

A spokeswoman for the office of Rome’s mayor said the city hoped by March 24 to have a working estimate of the number of pilgrims, as well as preliminary plans for transporting them to the Vatican and providing them with water, toilet facilities and first aid stations.

Marco Piscitello, a spokesman for the Rome hotel owners’ association, Federalberghi, said that already by early March, owners were reporting that more than 82 percent of hotel rooms in the city had been booked for the canonization weekend.

“There will be a strong presence in Rome for this double canonization,” he said.


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Istanbul residents recall former neighbor Angelo Roncalli, future saint


ISTANBUL — A large, beige-colored building sits on a corner of a semi-quiet street in Istanbul’s Sisli district.

The stone structure once housed Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, who lived in Istanbul from 1935 to 1944 as the Vatican’s apostolic delegate to Turkey and Greece.

In 1958, Archbishop Roncalli became Pope John XXIII; he will be canonized April 27 along with Blessed John Paul II.

“Many foreign tourists come from all over to look and they take photos,” said Neriman Reyhan, a Muslim, who lives across from the future saint’s former Istanbul residence on the street now called “Papa Roncalli.”

Reyhan, 82, told Catholic News Service the “street used to be called Ocelik” but it was renamed to honor the pope.

“He must have been a very good man,” Reyhan said of Archbishop Roncalli, who also served as administrator of Istanbul’s Latin-rite vicariate.

Istanbul’s present-day apostolic vicar, Bishop Louis Pelatre, said historical accounts concur that Archbishop Roncalli “was a good, saintly man,” and apparently very modest during his Turkey tenure.

“He wasn’t considered so important. He would go to ministries and sometimes wait all day to see someone, but if he was unable to meet the person he wanted, he never got discouraged. He would leave his card,” Bishop Pelatre said, relaying stories he had read and also heard from “the very few persons living” who had met Archbishop Roncalli in Turkey more than 70 years ago.

“There is hardly anyone left now though, most have departed or are on their way,” the priest said during an interview at his home, a former school, next door to Archbishop Roncalli’s residence. He said this residence has been mostly vacant since 1960, the year the Vatican and Turkey established official ties and papal ambassadors were moved permanently to the Turkish capital, Ankara.

“It’s now the pontifical nuncio’s residence when he visits from Ankara, but he doesn’t come much, and it remains mostly closed. Sometimes people come asking for the key and we tell them to call Ankara,” Bishop Pelatre said.

The bishop said he attended the ceremony for the renaming of the street to “Roncalli,” in 2000, three months after Blessed John Paul II beatified his predecessor.

As apostolic delegate to Turkey, Archbishop Roncalli had helped the Jewish underground to save thousands of refugees in Europe, Bishop Pelatre said, adding that the former pope was renown among Catholics and non-Catholics alike for convening the Second Vatican Council, which led to reforms that included stronger emphasis on ecumenism and a new worldly approach.

“I think for the Muslims here, as well as for many Christians, that when (Blessed John XXIII) was beatified, it was as if he had already become a saint,” Bishop Pelatre said. He said the street-naming event to mark the beatification had been organized by local government officials, and that many of the city’s Muslims, Christians and “especially Jews” had been present.

“For me it is something wonderful, because all levels of society rendered him homage. He had friends everywhere,” he said.

Jean Andriotti, 90, is one of the rare Istanbul natives who remembers meeting and greeting Archbishop Roncalli.

He said he grew up attending French Mass and praying to saints at Istanbul’s Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, where Archbishop Roncalli routinely celebrated Mass.

He “had a very strong Italian accent and sounded very funny when he spoke to us in French, and it made all of us boys laugh very hard. But, of course, we were only teenagers,” said Andriotti, who now lives with his Italian wife, Amelia, in a Catholic retirement home near the cathedral.

Andriotti said it was too early to decide whether he would be adding Blessed John XXIII to the list of saints he now prays to on Sundays in the chapel on retirement home grounds.

“He is not a saint yet,” he said. “Let’s wait until that happens and talk then.”


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