Archbishop Loris Francesco Capovilla, one of three archbishop emeritii to be made cardinals at next month’s consistory, is, at 98 years of age, possibly the oldest churchman ever to be elevated to the College of Cardinals.
The former private secretary to Pope John XXIII told the Italian bishops’ news agency SIR Jan. 12 that he received the news of his appointment with “much serenity” and “in communion” with all “humble priests” who “humbly and silently spend their whole lives” so that the joy of the Gospel reaches everyone and all families.
“I am very grateful,” he said. “I am grateful to Pope John because he has led me also to this, and to Pope Francis.”
Asked what kind of priesthood John XXIII taught him to be, Archbishop Capovilla said: “He taught me silence, hiddenness, humility and service given only out of love. He taught me that the summit of Christian behavior — John Chrysostom would say of Christian philosophy –- is simplicity and prudence.”
“If you are simple,” he continued, “you open your eyes to God and are not afraid of anyone or anything.” If you are prudent, he added, “you do nothing alone and you feel yourself not only a member of the Church but of the whole human family.”
“It is precisely on this day, with this news, that I turn to all the humble and poor of the whole world, that I repeat Pope John’s words: I am a citizen of the world because the whole world is my family in the unum, in the unity that God desires and that Jesus preached and left as testament to us all,” he said. “We are working towards this, all of us. And the number is boundless of men and women of good will who give witness of wanting to be obedient to the Lord’s call, in this historic moment which involves us all.”
He was then asked his thoughts on being made a cardinal so late in life. He replied: “It’s not at all something owed to me. It is altogether a grace, a gift of God. Nothing is late. I don’t think of these things.”
The cardinal-designate added: “I’ve always believed that true service begins with prayer, dedication and silence.” Remembering the many sick and incapacitated people there are who accept their limitations, he said: “Of course I cannot work today as a youth, but I can pray, I can love. I can give witness that for a Christian there is only one law: love.
“And for the Catholic,” he added, “there are not several countries, peoples and races in the world. There is only one people: the People of God walking on the hard roads of the world toward the Eternal.”