John Paul II Recalls John XXIII's Spiritual Legacy

Marks the 40th Anniversary of His Predecessor’s Death

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2003 ( For a believer to be a «spark» of light and peace, he must «live in permanent contact with God,» says John Paul II.

The Holy Father made that observation when recalling the spiritual legacy left by Pope John XXIII, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of his death.

John Paul II dedicated today’s general audience, which attracted 20,000 people to St. Peter’s Square, to recall the figure of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (1881-1963), the «Good Pope.»

The Holy Father summarized his predecessor’s spirituality with one of his famous maxims: «Every believer, in this, our world, must be a spark of light, a center of love, a vivifying ferment in the dough: He will be so to the degree that, in his innermost being, he lives in communion with God. In fact, there can be no peace among men if there is no peace in each one of them.»

He recalled the last hours of the life of John XXIII, in the afternoon of June 3, 1963, when thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square to attend a Mass celebrated for the ailing elderly Pontiff. He drew his last breath as the Mass ended.

«This bed is an altar; the altar needs a victim: Here I am, ready,» John XXIII had said. «I offer my life for the Church, for the continuation of the ecumenical council, for peace in the world, for Christian unity.»

John Paul II said the secret of the priesthood of John XXIII, whom he proclaimed blessed in September 2000, was in the «crucifix, always jealously kept in front of his bed.»

He quoted from John XXIII’s writings: «In the long and frequent nocturnal conversations, the thought of the redemption of the world seemed to me more urgent than ever. Those open arms say that he died for all, for all; no one is denied his love, his forgiveness.»

John Paul II said: «It is not difficult to perceive in these brief words the meaning of his priestly ministry, entirely dedicated to making known and loved ‘that which is worth most in life: blessed Jesus Christ: his holy Church, his Gospel.'»

The Holy Father recalled the most famous document of John XXIII’s pontificate, the encyclical «Pacem in Terris

«My venerated predecessor, who has left a mark on history, also reminds men of the third millennium that the secret of peace and joy is in profound and constant communion with God,» he said. «The Heart of the Redeemer is the source of love and peace, of hope and joy.»

John Paul II concluded by transforming the evocation into a prayer, that John XXIII may intercede in paradise «so that we too, like him, may confess at the end of our life, that we have only sought Christ and his Gospel.»

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