Loris Francesco Capovilla, personal secretary and friend of Pope John XXIII, was awarded the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Medal. The ceremony took place on June 25, 2013 in Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII, Casa del Pellegrino, Italy. Eduardo Eurnekian and Baruch Tenenbaum, president and founder of the Raoul Wallenberg, attended the ceremony.
The award to Monsignor Capovilla (97), Archbishop of Mesembria, acknowledges his contribution, for over half a century, to keep alive the memory of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, Pope John XXIII from 1958 to 1963.
In the granting speech, Eduardo Eurnekian said: “Those who know the story of Pope John XXIII are well aware of the support he received from Monsignor Capovilla, his secretary, his friend, his confidant. When our organization created the “Angelo Roncalli International Committee”, Archbishop Capovilla became one of its first members. He is a true friend and a source of inspiration. ”
Eurnekian recalled a little-known chapter of Capovilla’s life: “In December 2011, the community of Sotto il Monte bestowed upon Monsignor Capovilla the “Croce al Merito di Guerra. The reason: In 1943, when Italy signed an armistice with the Allies, she became an enemy of Germany. Loris Capovilla was then a young military chaplain in the Parma Air Base where pilots of the Italian Air Force were stationed. As enemies of the Reich they run the risk of being deported to Nazi concentration camps. However, chaplain Capovilla was not scared. His noble heart and cleverness led him to create a plan that saved the pilots. Somehow he managed to convince the Germans that he needed help to move the furniture of his office. Riding his bike and followed by two pilots on every trip, Capovilla spirited away ten Italian pilots from the base, far from the clutches of the Nazis. This beautiful story makes us shudder, but it does not surprise us because, as John XXIII, Loris Capovilla, was created with the same raw material: The raw material of the Saviors! ”
Mayor of Sotto il Monte, Eugene Bolognini and Monsignor Dolcini also addressed the packed audience. Both praised the educational work of the Wallenberg Foundation and the historical role of Loris Capovilla. Marco Roncalli, nephew of John XXIII, renowned writer and journalist, attended the ceremony.
In April 2013 Monsignor Capovilla saluted the granting of the award through a letter addressed to Eurnekian and Tenenbaum. The letter was read aloud at the International Conference: Honoring the memory of Pope John XXIII, held in Jerusalem.
“I am very pleased that, for years, you have welcomed me among the honorary members of the Angelo Roncalli International Committee and with happy surprise I read between the famous names also the name of Jorge Mario Bergolio, from 13 March successor of the Apostle Peter, and who has chosen the name of Francis. The similarities between him and his predecessor John are numerous enough to push me to say, on several occasions: Pope John has returned. “wrote Capovilla.
Upon receiving the award, Archbishop Capovilla delivered a moving acceptance speech.