...except when it saves the world from nuclear annihilation.
Ronald Rychlak on how Pope John XXIII prevented World War III:
Three days later, American spy planes discovered that the Cuban and Soviet governments had begun to build bases in Cuba for a number of medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles. They would have the ability to strike most of the continental United States. President Kennedy was furious. On October 22, he went on television to explain the situation, and he moved the defense readiness condition to Defcon 2 for only the second time in history.How humanity survived the Cold War is mysterious, perhaps even miraculous.
Kennedy insisted that the missiles had to be removed. When Khrushchev refused, the American president set a blockade around Cuba. Khrushchev, in turn, authorized his Soviet field commanders to launch tactical nuclear weapons if Cuba were invaded by the U.S. As the Russian ships approached, the blockade stood firm and ready, and the world came closer than ever to Armageddon. Millions watched the showdown on television.
Kennedy, the first (and still so far the only) Catholic president, then sent a message to Pope John XXIII. After reading the president’s note, the pope drafted a message, copies of which were delivered to both the American and Soviet embassies. The following day, John read his message on Vatican Radio. It said:
We beg all governments not to remain deaf to this cry of humanity. That they do all that is in their power to save peace. They will thus spare the world from the horrors of a war whose terrifying consequences no one can predict. That they continue discussions, as this loyal and open behaviour has great value as a witness of everyone’s conscience and before history. Promoting, favouring, accepting conversations, at all levels and in any time, is a rule of wisdom and prudence which attracts the blessings of heaven and earth.The next day, the Pope’s message appeared in newspapers all around the world, including Pravda, the official newspaper of the Soviet Communist party. The headline in that paper said: “We beg all governments not to remain deaf to this cry of humanity.”
With his plea, Pope John XXIII had given Khrushchev a way out. By withdrawing now, he would be seen as a man of peace, not a coward. Two days later, Khrushchev, an atheist who was in the middle of a propaganda war with the Vatican, agreed to withdraw the missiles. (Kennedy also secretly agreed to withdraw American missiles from Turkey.)
Pope John’s role in the resolution of the Cuban missile crisis is often overlooked, but it was very important. It also helped move the world in a positive direction, consistent with the Second Vatican Council that was then taking place. Soviet and American leaders signed a nuclear test ban on July 25, 1963. President Kennedy called that “the first step down the path of peace.” The two nations also set up a “hot line” for emergency messages between Washington and Moscow.
It was not known by the public at the time, but on September 23, 1962, just a month before he helped pull the world back from the brink of war, an X-ray revealed that Pope John XXIII was suffering from an advanced case of stomach cancer. He knew he was dying. He passed away on June 3, 1963. He was proclaimed blessed on September 3, 2002. The cause of his sainthood is still underway.