Continued from page 2

“For many centuries what was considered important to be a pope was to be a great sovereign, a great politician,” Melloni said. John marked a turnabout in which the practicing life of a Christian “was again essential to being pope.”



Like Francis, John grew up in a large, devout family where the women taught the young the simple piety of poor Catholics of the era. For John it was his mother, Marianna. For Francis his grandmother, Rosa. They both hailed from hearty northern Italian stock: Francis‘ grandparents moved to Argentina from Piedmont; Roncalli’s family still hails from Bergamo.

John Paul’s background was totally different, though he too came from a devout Catholic family. In Wadowice, Poland, he lost his mother when he was a child, his older brother when he was 14. By the time he was in his 20s, he was alone in the world after his father died.

Despite their different upbringings, all three arrived at the papacy with a visceral need to be around people.

John defined his life at the Vatican as that of a “bird in a gilded cage” and took every opportunity to escape. Francis opted to live at the Vatican hotel rather than the Apostolic Palace, saying his psychiatric health was in the balance.

John Paul rarely ate alone, often using the dinner table as both a place to talk over serious business or share good times with old friends from Poland.

“People, and yes even crowds, energized him,” said Monsignor Slawomir Oder, who spearheaded John Paul’s sainthood case.

Oder also acknowledged a darker side to John Paul. He had a temper, and wasn’t afraid of showing it. He was “hot blooded and emotional,” Oder said, recalling how John Paul once berated a priest in his diocese for a misdeed and ordered him to hand over his driver’s license.

John was known as the “good pope” — affable, rotund, with big ears, warm eyes, a gentle smile and an excellent sense of humor. For those enthralled by Francis‘ papacy, it all sounds familiar though Francis himself has admitted he has an “authoritarian” streak.

The Rev. Robert Wister, a professor of church history at Seton Hall University, said the message to take home from Sunday’s canonizations — which might witness two living popes (Francis and emeritus Benedict XVI) honoring two dead ones — is that there can be different approaches to the papacy, different types of popes, different applications of church teaching depending on the signs of the times.

“We’re still one church,” he said.