Canonizing John XXIII: “In fifty years’ time it will be too late”

Now here’s an interesting passage I came across today while checking for something else in Yves Congar’s Vatican II journals.

In his entry for October 2, 1964, Fr. Congar refers to the suggestion made by several bishops at the Council, including the great Belgian Cardinal Suenens, soon after the death of Pope John XXIII, that he be canonized a saint by popular acclamation — such as was done in the early days of the Church — rather than waiting for the formal process to happen. (A proposal advocating the move was circulated among the bishops at the Council, but Pope Paul VI preferred for the normal process to be followed and paired Pope John’s cause with that of his predecessor Pope Pius XII.)

Congar reports in his journal a car ride he shared with Suenens, in which the topic of the hoped-for canonization of Pope John by popular acclamation came up. He wrote, “He [Suenens] thinks that such a canonisation would find a very great echo in the world. But in fifty years’ time it will be too late.”

Here we are — almost precisely fifty years after Congar wrote those words on Suenens’ thinking — preparing for the canonization of John XXIII this Sunday. Obviously, Congar does not specify what Suenens meant by it being “too late.” But it’s worth surmising what he meant, and asking: was Suenens right?

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5 thoughts on “Canonizing John XXIII: “In fifty years’ time it will be too late”

  1. Yes and no. His “pairing” was shifted from Pius XII to JP2. Apart from what one can read into that shift, his cause apparently couldn’t stand on its own!

  2. Barry, I read this earlier today, and the post remained on my mind.

    Hans’ words strike me because what is it that his cause could not stand on its own? Of course, then I start thinking about what it means to have papal saints. That leads to another conversation altogether.

  3. Massimo Faggioli has commented frequently in recent weeks about how the canonization of a pope is always a “political” act (for better or worse). I’d suppose that it’s in that sense that the powers-that-be have found it necessary to pair him with another pope and that he seems not to have been able to stand on his own. Paul VI had his own political reasons for pairing him with Pius XII. Now Francis has his for pairing him with John Paul II.

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