Vatican Radio: Propagation by the Airwaves

By Marilyn J. Matelski | Go to book overview

Quite clearly he transformed the image of the papacy more than any other pope of this century. He did it by goodness. Goodness can only be experienced, it cannot be explained. For a public figure who reaches people only through the distorting lens of the media, John's ability to communicate even with those he had never met was remarkable. On his death in 1963 the Union Jack fluttered half-mast in Belfast -- a sight that had never before been seen in that divided city. We can put it down to his charisma, a word that had a religious habitat before it was used of politicians (it means simply the gift of grace), but then we have merely substituted one word for another. 78

John XXIII had indeed ushered the Catholic Church into a new era. Through his leadership and guidance, people from all over the world -- Christians, non-Christians, priests, politicians, journalists, broadcasters, statesmen, and dictators -- had acknowledged the need for compromise through ongoing dialogue. The pontiff's successor would enjoy tremendous respect from the secular world due to Pope John's historic demonstrations of papal diplomacy. Unfortunately, the new heir to the bishop's throne would also inherit a divisive Church, torn apart by the Second Vatican Council.


NOTES
1
Barrett McGurn, A Reporter Looks at the Vatican ( New York: Coward-McCann, 1962), pp. 10-11.
3
In McGurn's book (pp. 26-29), the author mentions several non-Italian candidates who were well regarded among Vatican circles. Heading the list was Gregory Agagianian of Armenia, a sixty-three-year-old cardinal from the Oriental wing of the Church. Cardinal Agagianian spoke ten languages, including English, and despite his Russian background, was extremely loyal to Rome.

Another possible candidate was the dean of the Sacred College, Cardinal Tisserant. A healthy seventy-four-year-old French scholar, Tisserant spoke thirteen languages fluently and had been in Rome for nearly fifty years.

Francis J. Spellman, the famous cardinal from New York, was also a strong candidate, although his predisposition toward political power versus religious leadership, as well as his American origin, made him unacceptable in the long run.

4
McGurn, p. 31.
5
Ibid.
6
Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini became Pope Paul VI in 1963, after John XXIII's death. Despite Montini's early dismissal as a strong papal candidate in 1958, he obviously possessed enough power and influence to be elected at a later time. In addition to the credentials listed above, it is important to note that Montini had been extremely helpful to Pius XII during World War II, serving as one of his mediators with both Axis and Allied powers. After the papal elections in 1958, Montini continued to serve as both mediator and confidante to the new pope, John XXIII, during the Second Vatican Council as well as during the pontiff's negotiations with the Moscow Politburo. The Soviet negotiations will be discussed more fully later in this chapter.

-106-

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