It’s early Friday morning 12 October here in New Zealand but still October 11th in Italy where 56 years ago at this moment Pope John XXIII was giving his “moonlight speech”, words which many have called the most famous speech of his popular pontificate.
It was the evening of the opening of the second Vatican council and the pope from his apartment noticed that St Peter’s Square was still filled with people. He spontaneously decided so make an appearance to greet the people and send them home to their families: “When you go back home, you will find your children: and give them a hug and say,“This is a hug from the Pope.”
Here is the full text, and below a brief video clip with footage from the moonlight moment.
I hear your voices. Mine is only a single voice. But what resounds here is the voice of the whole world; here all the world is represented. One might even say that the moon rushed here this evening – Look at her high up there – to behold this spectacle. This is how we close a great day of peace … of peace! “Glory to God and peace to men of good will”.
We repeat often this greeting. And when we can say that the ray, the sweetness of the peace of the Lord truly unites us and carries us, we say: here is a taste of what should be the life of all the centuries and of the life that awaits us in eternity. How about a little more. If I asked – if I could ask – each of you, “You, where do you come from?” The children of Rome who are especially represented here would respond, “Ah, we are your nearest children and you are the Bishop of Rome”. But you , Roman children, do you feel like you really represent ROMA CAPUT MUNDI (“Rome the head of the world”), for this is what in God’s Providence you have been called to be, for the spread of truth and of Christian peace?
In these words is the response to your homage. My own person counts for nothing – it is a brother who speaks to you, who has become a father by the will of the Lord … but everyone together, in paternity and fraternity, and the grace of God, everything, everything … Let us continue, therefore, to love each other, to love each other so, by looking at each other in our encounters with one another: taking up what unites us and setting aside anything that might keep us in a bit of difficulty … This morning there was a spectacle that not even the Basilica of Saint Peter’s – which has four centuries of history – could ever have contemplated. We belong, therefore, a time in which we are sensitive to the voices that come from above: and we want to be faithful and to stand according to the directions which our Blessed Christ has given us. I end by giving you the Blessing.
I love to invite to be near me the Madonna, holy and blessed, whose great mystery we remember today; I have heard that one of you has remembered [the 431 AD Council of] Ephesus and the lamps lit around the basilica, that I saw with my own eyes (not in those ancient times, mind you, but recently), and that recalls the proclamation of the dogma of the Divine Maternity of Mary.
This evening the spectacle offered to me is one that will remain in my memory as it will in yours. Let us honour the images of this evening! That our feelings might always be just as they are now as we express them before heaven and before the earth. Faith, Hope, Charity, the love of God, the love of our brothers and sisters; and then everyone together helped by the holy peace of the Lord, in doing good works. When you go back home, you will find your children: and give them a hug and say,“This is a hug from the Pope. You will find some tears that need to be dried: speak a good word:“The Pope is with us, especially in times of sadness and bitterness.” And then all together let us encourage one another: singing, breathing, weeping, but always full of faith in Christ who helps us and who listens to us, let us continue on our journey.