20 February 1959. Card. Tardini records: "An importance audience"
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20 February 1959. Card. Tardini records: "An importance audience"

Mons. Loris F. Capovilla

Three months after his election to the Chair of Peter, after praying and reflecting on his thirty years of service to the Holy See in the East and in France and on the six years of his Venetian episcopate, listening to the voices that reached him from various parts of the world, John XXIII took up the thread of the most recent tradition of the Popes of this century and joined it again to that of the most ancient tradition recalling "some forms of doctrinal affirmation and wise regulations of ecclesiastical discipline, which in the history of the Church, in an age of renewal, produced fruits of extraordinary effectiveness, for their clarity of thought, for the compactness of religious unity, for the strongest flame of Christian fervour".

This must have been the sense of John XXIII's talk with his Secretary of State, if the Cardinal on 20 January was able to write in his diary the comment that honours and does justice to the Pope: "An important audience. Yesterday afternoon His Holiness reflected on and specified the programme of his papacy. He planned three things: a Roman Synod, an ecumenical Council, a revision of the Code of Canon Law. He wants to announce these three points next Sunday to the Cardinals, after the ceremony in St. Paul's. I said to the Holy Father (who asked me): "I like beautiful new things. Now these three points are very beautiful and the way of giving the first announcement to the cardinals is new (but it is linked to the old papal traditions), and it is very appropriate". Anyone who knew Cardinal Tardini knows that he was a prelate who did not readily show enthusiasm and was not inclined to courtliness. In his 1959 diary the page of 20 January is the only one that shows any sign of ink!...

On 25 January 1959 the Pope rose at dawn starting his morning prayers with the Angelus said above the solemn embrace of Bernini's colonnade. He celebrated Mass in his private chapel and assisted at mine. He remained kneeling longer than usual. He paused at his desk for a quick glance at the newspapers and at some of the Secretariat of State's files. His question echoed in the air: "How can the Christian message be portrayed in its entirety to the people of our time? Modern man is not insensitive to the word of Christ, he is not averse to seizing the anchor of salvation that is offered to him".

Travelling towards St. Paul's he said little. He presided over the Mass celebrated by the Abbot and gave the homily. The rite lasted longer than we had expected. The Pope crossed the threshold of the capitular hall a little after midday, the hour when the embargo of the proclamation ceased. So it happened that the news of the Council was given out by the mass media before the Pope had announced it to the cardinals.