My friends tell me that the Spanish language is one of the languages used extensively by the United Nations so I will utilize this language in order to express my deepest gratitude for this truly moving event. Saint Thomas Aquinas, author of ”Summa Theologica”, considered to be one of the greatest theologians of the Catholic Church said that ”gratitude is a major component of justice”.
Right now I would like to thank all our friends here for having thought of this homage to Pope John XXIII, who has been invoked as a candidate for beatification by the Catholic Church, our protector, together with the other Heavenly Saints just last Sunday.
The Church’s declaration of beatification and eventual Sainthood of one of her children signifies that the candidate is being considered as a role model for life commendable of imitation by our faithful and I personally believe that Pope John XXIII is a prime example of showing the greatest love for your neighbor worthy of being emulated by future generations.
His profound love, whose roots lie in his unshakable Christian faith, told him that every person, every man and woman, are brethren, because they are created by God, in his figure and image.
Last Sunday, the 3rd of September, I was able to experience the emotion at Saint Peter’s Square when this great Pope was declared beatified. In the Roman newspapers I read some of the declarations by some members of Rome’s Jewish Community, specifically the statements made by the ex-Grand Rabbi of Rome’s Jewish Community, Dr. Toaff, who remembered the merits of this Pope who he had known personally and other people who recalled this Pope with profound gratitude, as you are doing here today.
I am also very pleased that together with the figure of the Apostolic Delegate, Monsignor Roncalli, you have remembered Budapest’s Nuncio, Angelo Rota. I have been to Hungary various times; the last time I was there was on August 20th for the commemoration of that nation’s 1,000th year, when King Saint Stephen received the Power of the Crown from Pope Silvester II, and I have once again seen the deep gratitude of the Hungarian people for this Nuncio, who kept persecuted Hebrew brethren safe at the Nuncio Headquarters and in other buildings of the capital city. There is great popular devotion for Nuncio Rota, I also knew him as a young priest. He later retired and went to Rome and I know that Pope John XXIII wanted to appoint him Cardinal due to the close friendship they shared, but he refused, asking that he let him pass away without too many obligations. He preferred to continue working at works of charity ”since the Lord has given me so much”, as he put it. I was always impressed by the humanity of this Bishop.
I am glad that in exalting Pope John XXIII, you have also lauded the figure of a Nuncio, of a Papal representative. This is an homage to the many anonymous representatives of the Pontiff who in difficult circumstances and in various parts of the world, have contributed to the achievement of peace.
I particularly remember one Nuncio, who I consider a martyr, Nuncio Orsenigo, who was in Germany during the terrible moments of the Nazi dictatorship. He did what he could and he wasn’t always understood. He was one of the last ambassadors to leave Berlin when the Soviet troops began arriving. One afternoon he told his secretary: ”let us take the car and see if we can escape using our diplomatic credentials”, this is how they managed to flee and set up headquarters in Bavaria. There they had to deal with the occupying forces at Eichstatlt where he passed away, tired and fatigued from all pain endured during the war. He has not been widely featured in wartime historical literature, but I have read of his interventions, of his visits to detainees, of his patient day to day work, noting any news in order to influence the authorities. He is one of the Nuncios who worked so very hard at achieving peace during those trying circumstances.
I conclude by stating that the Holy See today has 102 resident Nuncios on 5 continents, some of them accredited by certain governments because it is not always possible to have a representative in every country. I would like to assure all of you that the post of Nuncio is always a mission of peace, in order to further contribute to the ideal of universal peace and of world-wide reconciliation. In this spirit I receive the homage rendered to the Papal Representative, Monsignor Roncalli as an homage that deeply interests me, as I have been the Apostolic Nuncio in Chile for ten years and I consider this honor to be an homage to our mission, oftentimes underrepresented, not always understood. With great emotion I see that your community and the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation have recognized the deeds of a great Nuncio as was Monsignor Giuseppe Roncalli.
Thank you very much!