By contrast, this film of the early days of John XXIII's pontificate shows him visiting and spontaneously speaking to prison inmates. A passionate demonstration broke out when he asked the men to write home and tell their families that the Pope was praying for them.
Watch his very expressive hands and gestures, eye contact, ready smile, rapid speech. You quickly understand why he captured the imagination - he almost seems like your favorite grandfather.
As Fr. Michael Sweeney, my co-founder, was quick to point out, John XXIII was actually very conservative in his spirituality and theology - much more so than John Paul II. It was his personal warmth, down-to-earth simplicity, and humor that made him seem so different from Pius XII.