That’s how Archbishop Giovanni Ricchiuti, president of Pax Christi in Italy, described the surprising move to make Pope John XXIII the patron saint of the Italian Armed Forces.
Actually, he called it “roba da matti”. Literally, that means the stuff of crazy people.
The archbishop went even further and said the decision, which was announced and effected at a public ceremony September 12 in Rome, was “disrespectful, absurd and anti-conciliar.”
Well, this was, after all, the pope who wrote Pacem in terris. In that 1963 encyclical Papa Giovanni said it was a “sign of the times” that “people nowadays are becoming more and more convinced that any disputes which may arise between nations must be resolved by negotiation and agreement, and not by recourse to arms.”
John XXII was also prophetic in convening the Second Vatican Council and when Archbishop Ricchiuti says making him patron of the military is anti-conciliar the Pax Christi leader means it is anti-Vatican II.
That’s because John’s brief period of service in the Italian army is insignificant compared to ushering in the Council and the other monumental contributions he made to the church and the world.
Even the way the sainted pope ended up being the military patron is also anti-conciliar. It was in stark contradiction to Vatican II’s principles of subsidiarity and collegiality—namely, that local bishops (or, in this case, a national episcopal conference) are the ones primarily responsible for decisions pertaining to their particular churches.
Point of fact, the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) was never consulted or informed about designs for Good Pope John’s military patronage until it was already a done deal.
Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, the CEI president, said he didn’t find out about it until the day of the official ceremony. The cardinal’s perplexity was reported by the CEI-owned daily, L’Avvenire, in an article titled, “Roncalli (named) patron yesterday at a ceremony amidst many doubts.”
Even more astonishing than that, Archbishop Ricchiuti told the Florence-based daily, La Nazione, that Pope Francis was never consulted, either.
Nor was anyone at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
“No one told us anything,” said officials there, according to Corriere della Sera’s chief “vaticanista” Gian Guido Vecchi.
So who made the necessary decision on the part of the Vatican to allow John XXIII to be named the heavenly poster-child and patron saint for Italy’s soldiers?
It was the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW). And it did so on the promptings of a small group of Italian clerics who have been pushing the case since the mid-1990s.