The words that follow were attributed to Good Pope John XXIII as he lay dying, by his secretary, Monsignor (later Cardinal) Loris Capovilla in his memoir ‘The heart and mind of John XXIII’, London, Corgi, 1966. We found a few copies for sale on-line. The shadowy Crucifix above is in the dark chapel of Saint Nicholas at Canterbury Cathedral. During the Second World War the future pope was Apostolic Delegate to Turkey, where Saint Nicholas was Bishop of Myra (Dembre). I imagined Pope John seeing such a shadowy cross during the long nights when he lay dying but later read that it was a white Crucifix. The one below hangs in Christina Chase’s room; here she is holding it for us to see clearly.
This bed is an altar, and an altar wants a victim. I am ready. I offer my life for the Church, the continuation of the Ecumenical Council, for peace in the world, for the union of Christians.
The secret of my priesthood lies in the crucifix I wanted in front of my bed.
Christ looks at me, and I speak to him. In our long and frequent conversations during the night, the thought of the world’s redemption has seemed to me more urgent than ever. ‘And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold.’ (John !0:16).
Those outstretched arms tell us he died for everyone, for everyone. No one is refused his love, his forgiveness. But especially that ‘they may be one’ he entrusted to his church. The sanctification of the clergy and of the people, the union of Christians, the world’s conversion are therefore urgent responsibilities of the Pope and of the bishops.
I had the great fortune to be born in a modest, poor Christian family that feared God, and the fortune to be called to serve. Since childhood I have thought of nothing else, or desired nothing else.
… for my own part, I do not think I have offended anyone, but if I have, I ask pardon. And you, if you know someone who has not been edified by my behaviour, ask him to tolerate me and to forgive.
In this last hour, I feel calm and certain that my Lord, through his mercy, will not reject me. Unworthy though I be, I wanted only to serve him … and bear witness to the Gospel. …
My days on earth are ending, but Christ lives, and the Church continues her task. The souls, the souls, ‘may they be one, may they be one.’