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James Martin, S.J.November 18, 2010

This morning I shared with Drew Christiansen, our editor in chief, an amazing video that someone sent me the other day.  Until then, I had thought only still photographs existed of this remarkable event, which is frequently retold in church histories of the time.  Early in his papacy, in 1958, Pope John XXIII visited the Bambin Gesu Hospital for children and, shortly afterwards, for his first Christmas, visited Regina Coeli Prison in Rome.  The newly elected pope, animated and clearly comfortable in this unusual setting, shared with the inmates the somewhat surprising tale of his own cousin, who had been imprisoned in the same jail after his conviction for poaching.  (The official Vatican reports of the papal visit would omit this part of his talk.)  After his warm words to the inmates, the pope promises to remember all of them, as well as their wives and sisters, in his nightly rosary prayers.  Upon hearing this, they burst into heartfelt applause.  But for me, the most moving part, which I had previously seen only in photos, is his visit to those who are imprisoned for life, who fall to their knees before Good Pope John.  It is an episode depicted on his tomb at St. Peter's basilica, so much of an impression did it make on the world.  How amazing it is to see it with sound in film.

Fr. Christiansen encouraged me, in turn, to post this remarkable artifact on our site.  But there are countless videos of popes and other well known Catholics available on the web if you search hard enough, or if you have eagle-eyed friends who find such things.  On Youtube alone you can hear, besides Blessed John XXIII, people like Dorothy Day; Mother Teresa; Chiara Lubich; Pope John Paul II; Pope John Paul I; Jean Vanier; Anthony De Mello, S.J.; Bishop Fulton Sheen; Sister Wendy Beckett, Cardinal Avery Dulles, Cardinal Walter Kasper, Sister Helen Prejean, Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., Richard Rohr, O.F.M., and on and on.  (Many of these I've posted on my public Facebook page, if you'd like to see them rounded up.)  YouTube, of all things, might help bring you closer to God.  Remember that the next time someone tells you how terrible is the web!

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Vince Killoran
11 years 10 months ago
Does anyone know if there is footage of Pope John's "Moonlight Adress" on the eve of Vatican II?  It's a powerful address but I've read the transcript.
Vince Killoran
11 years 10 months ago
Wonderful!  Thank you locating this and sharing with us.


The Romans called him "The Good Pope."
Thomas Piatak
11 years 10 months ago
Thanks for posting this very interesting and inspiring film, Father.
Gail Grazie
11 years 10 months ago
I was born in 1958. To think that Pope John said a decade of the Rosary for me 24 hours after I was born while meditating on the Birth of Christ is a wonderful, comforting thought. Grazia Papa Giovanni.
Gail Grazie
11 years 10 months ago
I would like to add that the English subtitles, while accurate, do not fully capture the flavor of what I hear Pope John communicating in the Italian words. He spoke simply and eloquently in the language of the contadini.

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